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Lita    by Jervey Tervalon order for
by Jervey Tervalon
Order:  USA  Can
Washington Square, 2004 (2003)
Hardcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Jervey Tervalon returns with gutsy Lita Du Champ in Lita, a sequel to Dead Above Ground. It has been ten years since Lita moved from New Orleans to Los Angeles with her husband Winston, sons Jude and Winston Jr., her twin sisters Ana and Ava, and cousin Richie. Lita says about LA, 'you smell jasmine, peaches, and lemons, or you're at the beach and see waves burst up onto the shore, I love that about this Los Angeles. It's the people I can't stand.'

Ava at seventeen has physically 'blossomed overnight' and acquired a 'know-it-all attitude', with Ana still a girl, changing the relationship between the twins. Ava loses no time flaunting her early development, while guardian Sis Lita needs to continually monitor her activities and the men showing up at the door. Aunt Odie arrives in LA to collect Ana, who had phoned her aunt to come and get her. Ava runs off to Las Vegas to get married, and Richie disappears. A phone call from Aunt Dot advising that Dad is on his deathbed floods Lita with unpleasant New Orleans memories (she recalls her Dad's physical abuse of her beloved mother). The ornery and menacing Aunt Dot claims supernatural appearances of Lita's Mom, and is hell-bent on inheriting the family property on Gravier. Lita's ambivalence about returning to New Orleans reluctantly gives way to a bus trip to see her sisters, dying father, and to face Aunt Dot. Time moves on. Ana is now married to George, with four children, and studying for her bachelor's degree. Ava is in her third marriage with three children. New Orleans police officer Joe La Piccolo re-enters Lita's life. The three sisters are ordered by Aunt Odie to return to the troubled house on Gravier to set their mother's restless spirit free, and to destroy the curse that has plagued the family for years.

This is my first exposure to Jervey Tervalon, and in the beginning I found the novel so different that I was unsure the plot was headed anywhere. The story surprised me by becoming more logical and lovable as it progressed. The author's style of presentation (narrated by Lita) has all the flavor of a one-woman stand-up comedy routine which turns to drama filled with trepidation. Reading is like skipping from thought-to-thought uncontrollably at a rapid pace. This is a quick-paced novel full of mirth, madness, and sadness drawing a dysfunctional family closer together without their consciously realizing it is happening. Even with the absence of information from Dead Above Ground, the essence of Tervalon's feisty, hot-headed Lita Du Champ is conveyed intact. I recommend Lita to curious readers craving an unusual, entertaining novel.

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