River Jordan

River Jordan
Augusta Trobaugh

February 2012 $13.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-094-7

Sometimes a family grows from the most unlikely of friends


 
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Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt

"[The] South blooms again in Augusta Trobaugh’s River Jordan.” —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Sometimes a family grows from the most unlikely of friends.

A lonely little girl living with a strict stepfather and mother. A woman just released from prison, seeking a job and a new purpose for her life. An aging matriarch with a sense of humor and a compassionate heart. Sit a spell by the gentle river of their merged lives.

By the acclaimed author of Sophie and the Rising Sun (available in unabridged audiobook narrated by the late Rue McClanahan) and other Southern novels. Her next novel is Music From Beyond The Moon.

Augusta Trobaugh has been nominated for Georgia Author of the Year, among many other honors.

Reviews

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Excerpt

Peony was a large woman who wore a starched, white uniform that contrasted starkly with her black velvet skin, and she was slicing fresh tomatoes onto a platter. But her nose was running and her eyes were filled with tears, as if she were slicing pungent onions instead of mild tomatoes. On several occasions, she stopped, pulled a towel rag from the waist of her dress, and wiped her eyes.

Peony had sent Jordan, to feed the fish in the pool out in front of the house, because she knew that Jordan would be sure to notice and ask about her tears.

Nothing gets past that one! Peony thought. That strange, quiet little girl with the darting eyes that see everything, maybe even what folks are thinking! Something always going on behind those eyes!

Likewise, Peony knew that neither Miss Alice nor Mr. Franklin would notice at all—because to them both, Peony was an invisible presence in the house—a nonperson who did the cooking and the serving and the cleaning up, but who was not supposed to cause any unfortunate ripples in the mirror-calm surface of the family home. So Peony went back to slicing the tomatoes and wiping her eyes, and all because of what she had in her apron pocket—a letter from her big sister, Pansy. From her sister in prison.

AND PEONY HAD BEEN RIGHT about Jordan, because Jordan already knew that something was wrong—in that uncanny way some children have of knowing things like that. She thought that maybe it was because of Peony sending her to feed the fish in the pool. But maybe it was more—a thing she hadn’t quite figured out yet, so that she simply felt a vague uneasiness that deepened the shadows near the front porch and put something lonely in the perfume of the fresh-turned earth in the kitchen garden out back.

Late spring—and the azalea bushes in the yard were showing slits of too-bright crimson and purple and fuchsia through the first cracks in the swollen green casings. Her mama said that the flowers were going to be absolutely beautiful, but Jordan knew better. Because to her, the dwarf azaleas were always far more beautiful than the big ones, and they were already in full bloom. Tiny, softest-pink flowers on little bushes planted all around the fish pool below the driveway. The flowers reflecting themselves in the dark, still water, and mirror clouds moving across a blue sky behind them, and deeper down, the fish sparkling their gold and red and pearl sequin-scales against the old black leaves at the very bottom of the pool.

Because the flowers were one thing and the satin surface of the water another thing and the clouds looking like they were below the surface, not on it, and finally, at the bottom, all the soggy brown ones that used to be red and yellow and orange. The ones Miss Amylee liked so much last fall.

That’s what Jordan was thinking about that spring morning when once again, she knew that something was getting ready to happen. But there was nothing to do but wait for it to come out of the dark corners of the garden at twilight, ready to burst out like crimson and purple and fuchsia too-big flowers. Wait for the images of her father and taste the bittersweet memories of sitting in his lap, opening her mouth like a baby bird as he fed her choice bits of tender chicken from his own plate. Breathe the aroma memory of him, the sunshine smell of the warm earth he worked every day and the fresh wind and the warm perfume of his flesh.

 

It all seemed so long ago and far away, living with her mother and her father on the small farm set out from town, enjoying a free childhood that she hadn’t even known how to appreciate, until it was gone. Until her father sickened and finally died, and her mother wringing her hands and crying. But her crying stopped the day she went to the bank, to settle up any debts and to change the existing accounts into her own name. For at the bank, the young and pretty widow was waited upon by none other than the president of the bank himself—Mr. Franklin. Alice stopped crying and started smiling more, and after only a few months, she agreed to marry him. So she traded the front porch of the old farmhouse for the wide, polished veranda of Mr. Franklin’s house in town, towing a silent Jordan behind her like a forgotten appendage. And as far as Jordan was concerned, only two good things had come from her mother’s marriage to Mr. Franklin: Miss Amylee—Mr. Franklin’s elderly mother—and Peony.

Outside of the reverie, the reflection of Peony’s wide, black face appeared on the surface of the pool, her gold hoop earrings undulating like little halos in the ripples left by one of the fish.

"Miss Alice says for you to come on back inside now and have your lunch,” Peony said. The voice came from above the reflection of her face in the water, and that fact alone added something else to the layers of things Jordan was thinking about. And Peony’s black, white-stockinged legs like gauze-wrapped trees growing out of the dark rock wall on the far side of the pool, and the clean, white shoes that were there too, but that she couldn’t see because of the low wall.

"You’re not having a spell, are you?” Peony asked, putting her big fists on her hips in such a way that meant Jordan had better not be having one, and so Jordan said no, which wasn’t exactly true. Because her thinking hard about things like she was doing was what they all called having a spell, and so, of course, that’s exactly what was happening. But if she said yes, Peony would tell her mama, and Alice would get Peony to give her a big dose of castor oil. Because everybody knew that having spells happens to children whenever they aren’t regular.

 


 


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