Title Page, Series Page, Copyright

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1

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p. 3

Lila—her life had been like a small vial that she’d been clutching awkwardly in both hands for a long time. As if she hadn’t known what to do with it, until she began to shake it up. At first just to see the yellow sands settled at the bottom ripple and...

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2

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pp. 4-13

It was the month of December 1993, just before Christmas.
Lila’s funeral.
Hands gripped shovels and threw earth onto her wooden coffin.
Lila, my old white mama, who had confided the underside of her life to me and then left me here alone. Everything she had...

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3

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pp. 14-34

Aside from being a soldier, the only other thing that Henry was good at was cooking. He grew up beside his mother Jenny’s pots and pans, amid the steam and smell of cakes and fried food in the MacDowell kitchen. They were one of the richest British...

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4

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pp. 35-44

Long ago, in Guadeloupe, I had another mother.
Black.
As black as Lila was white.
When both of them were on my mind, they were always bumping up against one another. Two enemy marbles that you wished would shatter into a thousand pieces. Black against...

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5

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pp. 45-61

The story of Néhémie’s funeral had often been related to Clothilde, her great-great-grandniece . . .
Clothilde, who was found lifeless beside Robert in 1961 in that room in Basse-Terre, had not known an ordinary childhood for very long. When her mother Gérémise noticed that her child...

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6

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pp. 62-71

Sometimes Lila would stop what she was getting ready to do or say. Suddenly, she could no longer hear the sounds of reality. Would open the curtains and look out the window leaning on her elbow as if, on the roof of the building across the street...

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7

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pp. 72-78

It’s true, Lila had taken Marcello into her arms immediately, had pressed him close against her breast. She’d rubbed her powdered cheeks against Marcello’s cold and pudgy ones, had stroked his hair and hands. He’d watched her without laughing...

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8

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pp. 79-95

On June 5, two days before leaving for the United States, I dozed off on Lila’s couch and dreamt of Marcello, over there in Guadeloupe, following in Gino’s footsteps. Judes and Coraline were also there. And so were Clothilde and my papa Robert...

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9

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pp. 96-104

“Marriage!” Lila had been startled at first, then burst out laughing.
“Think it over for a couple of days, okay? You can give me your answer later,” Henry said stroking her dark curls with the tips of his fingers...

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10

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pp. 105-108

The plane had just taken off. It was Lila’s maiden flight, but she didn’t show any signs of apprehension.
“At last, we’re on our way! America, here we come, my little Billy!”
We exchanged a smile. Our hands met. Lila was pretty . . . I...

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11

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pp. 109-126

“Sing hallelujah! Glory be to God! The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”
“Rejoice! Do not cry, child! For death is life and life is death!”
Those were the words that had been most vividly etched into Sybille’s mind at her father Robert and her little brother’s...

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12

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pp. 127-132

At the John Fitzgerald Kennedy airport, Henry was waiting for us in the company of James-Lee.
For seventy-four years of age, Henry was definitely attractive. A strong upright man like a tree full of sap, old and green at the same time. Lila hadn’t exaggerated; he did look like Harry...

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13

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pp. 133-147

Marcello!
Sybille had named him after her brother.
Her sadly missed younger brother.
Marcello . . . to get even with fate for having robbed her of the brother that Noémie’s belly had promised...

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14

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pp. 148-156

In the inner courtyard, surrounded by the blind walls of the neighboring buildings, there were three ficus, two stone benches, a fountain, and perches. The birds searched for their doubles in small dangling mirrors. Preened their feathers. Flew from the...

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15

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pp. 157-161

That October it was rainy in Paris. In the tree branches, the leaves were still hesitating between red and green. It was mild. The open window let in the din of honking horns. New York was far away, but since we’d come back, Lila had found a means of...