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Rhythms [Hardcover]

Donna Hill
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

27 Mar 2002
For seventy-five years, one tragic event has shaped the lives of three generations of women. Now a granddaughter must uncover decades-old secrets and betrayals, and force her family to face painful truths so that healing can begin. The story begins in 1927 in Mississippi, where Cora Harvey has decided to pursue her dream of being a singer. Naive and trusting, she heads to Chicago, where she is quickly and violently stripped of her innocence by her new employer. Fleeing back to Mississippi, she marries her local sweetheart, never revealing to him the horrible truth about her time away. When she delivers baby Emma, whose features are unmistakably white, the marriage ends under a cloud of hurt and shame. Emma grows up lonely and bitter, shunned by members of the close-knit town. Plotting her own escape - in her case to New York - she decides to try for a better life by passing for white. It will be up to her own daughter, Parris, to look beyond the fragile facade of Emma's life and discover the truths that ripped the family apart - and which may ultimately bind them together once more.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: St Martin's Press (27 Mar 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312272995
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312272999
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 16.5 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,376,448 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Donna Hill has fifteen published novels to her credit and has been featured in "Essence, The Daily News, USA Today, Today's Black Woman, " and "Black Enterprise" among many others. She has appeared on numerous radio and television station across the country and her work has appeared on several bestseller lists. She works full time as a Public Relations Associate for the Queens Borough Public Library system, and organizes author-centered events and workshops through her promotions and management company ImageNOIR.org. Donna lives with her family in Brooklyn, NY.

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First Sentence
Down in the Delta, somewhere just beyond Alligator, Mississippi, rests the colored section of Rudell, a community of less than five hundred, divided unequally by race, wealth, and religion by the Left Hand River. Read the first page
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is one beautiful book 3 July 2007
Format:Paperback
I truly enjoyed this saga of the three generations in this family. Cora, Emma and Parris were all strong women in their era of time. In this novel, the reader learns of the saga of 3 generations of women who dream of getting out of the small town of Rudell, Mississippi and realizing their dreams in the Big City.

Cora has a beautiful voice and wants to get to the city to sing. After the untimely death of her parents, Cora finally is able to realize her dreams. She leaves behind the love of her life and goes to Chicago. Only Cora finds that making her dreams a reality is at best difficult. She returns to Rudell, disillusioned and broken.

Emma, Cora's daughter has never been happy in Rudell. At the first opportunity, she flees and goes to New York. Everything seems to be going her way until she marries and has a baby. A midnight visit to Rudell makes things okay.

Parris, Emma's daughter inherits her grandmother's voice and her desire to sing in the Big City. With her grandparents blessings she moves to New York, meets Nick and begins to sing in his nightclub and the sparks fly. Parris has the means and the opportunity to do what the others could not.

The sad thing about their stories were that their lives were all sheltered from truths. Cora was not aware of the ways of the world because of her mother, Emma was not aware of what unconditional love felt like because of her mother, and Parris didn't know why she felt incomplete in her life's trials because of her mother. The one great thing about their stories is that they all met and loved strong men. The ending was very touching and very good. I couldn't put this book down and finished it in one setting. The romance in this novel was warming and just right, the drama was perfect and characters were totally developed. Donna Hill's writing in this story was well done, a reader could just picture the scenes, the action and the scenery. But, I will say this is not a book to be missed.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  47 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Three generations of rhythm 5 Feb 2002
By Candace - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Three generations of dreamers face struggles in the rhythms of the Delta and the city.
Cora.. gifted singer raised in church and encouraged to dream by her father, the preacher. She sets off to realize these dreams and is confronted with ugliness and her darkest hour.
Emma.. she's labeled an outsider. Her disdain for her mother and her differences cause her to see an unusual way out of the Delta. She is confronted by her past and her true self.
Parris.. the "last chance to make it right." A musical prodigy and strong woman, made so by the morals engrained in her while growing up in the Delta. She is confronted by the ghosts of her predecessors.
Donna Hill has put together a fine novel, her growth as a writer apparent and almost blinding.
Have you ever read a book that reached out and told you...
"This is the book I've been waiting for" ...?
In a nutshell, this is what Rhythms told me.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What a rhythmic journey 20 Nov 2001
By Zelda Oliver Miles - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Cora Harvey is one of those women. I found myself wanting to slap some sense into her `country bumpkin behind' for many a thing - how she treated her daughter, lied to her husband and kept so harsh secrets.
Rhythms is a skillfully written sonata of three women - Cora, her biracial daughter, Emma, and granddaughter, Parris by romance diva Donna Hill. Hill writes of these women's troubled lives and dark secrets: secrets common to most of our Southern heritages.
It made me wonder just how many women are living the Imitation of Life lie. (If you haven't seen that movie, you need to. It is a classic!) Emma is the incarnation of Sarah Jane in Imitation of Life. Sarah Jane is so light she can "pass for white" and that's the life she chooses despite warnings from her mother and getting beat up by her "white boyfriend." The difference between Sarah Jane and Emma is that Emma's father really is white; Sarah Jane's father was a fair-skinned Black man.
Emma was Cora's heartache; reminder of her damaged person and unfulfilled life. She'd gone to Chicago to make it big singing. What she found was fun and frivolity, number running and gangsters. Cora hangs her head and goes back to Rudell, Mississippi pregnant by the one man she'd grown to respect and whom she thought respected her.
Emma's childhood isn't a pleasant one because of the shame Cora must endure after her birth. Emma discovers a key to some unanswered questions when she intercepts a letter from the woman Cora lived with in Chicago. Emma sets out to right the wrong she'd faced all her life - having her mother look at her with emptiness. After the confrontation, Emma chooses to live life as a white woman and seeks healing in the arms of her Italian husband. Then came along her "little brown baby girl" and more lies.
Parris's arrival helps Cora regain the strength and fire she exhibits early in the book. She devotes her life to the child and is able to reclaim her first love via telling him the truth about Emma. Parris, unlike her mother, is able to live a wholesome life filled with Cora's love and devotion. She goes off to college and finds work in New York; she finds a little more when she decides to work her gift - the voice she inherited from Cora in a nightclub. The rest is of the story is hair raising and tearful.
Speaking of beautiful voices. There is a CD compilation that accompanies Rhythms featuring Hill's daughter. Fab-u-lous!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Visual array of emotions 30 Sep 2001
By Tina - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Donna Hill has done an outstanding job with this novel. She takes you though three generations of women, all striving to obtain their dreams. The story begins in Rudell, MS then branches out to Chicago and NY. Secrets form and the characters try desperately to hold their lives together. You are reminded that not all that glitters is gold, the grass isn't always greener on the other side, and you can't judge a book by it's cover.
The characters experience love, loss, disappointment, betrayal, and love refound. Donna Hill has a special talent which allows her to write in such a way that transports you into the story along with the characters. While reading Rhythms, I laughed and cried - felt joy and sorrow.
I applaud Donna Hill for bringing this liteary work of art to the reading world!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Feel the Rhythms 13 Jan 2002
By Gayle Jackson Sloan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Picture it: Rudell, Mississippi, 1927. Cora Harvey, blessed with an incredible voice, that has only been used to give praise to God, has no home and no parents after they are tragically killed. She is left with nothing but a dream. A dream to see something more in the world than the narrow, segregated confines of Rudell. Nothing that is, except a man who loves her more than life itself. A man who loves her enough to let her go to pursue her dreams of making it big in Chicago.
Cora, however, is like a fish out of water on the mean streets of Chi-town. After a vicious and horrific encounter with her white employer, Cora returns to Rudell, and David, wanting to do nothing more than to put the horrible past behind her. Fate, however, decides to play a cruel trick on not only Cora, but her daughter Emma as well.
Emma, who has been blessed or cursed, depending on how you choose to look at it, to look nothing like her mother or her people. Deciding to 'cross-over' Emma leaves everything she has ever known in too-small, too narrow-minded Rudell to make it in New York, hoping to never been scorned for looking 'different.' There, after meeting the man of HER dreams, she also fights to forget her painful past. That is, until it also rears its head, in the form of her daughter, whom she practically drops on her mother's doorstep. Emma's been to the other side of the mountain and is determined to stay there, even at her daughter's expense. She doesn't even stick around long enough to give her child a name.
Parris, so named by her grandmother Cora, heals many wounds for Cora and David. Parris has also been blessed with her grandmother's incredible voice and restless feet, and unknowingly follows her mother's footstep by moving to New York. There she meets the man who could be her one and only, except he's got some skeltons of his own rattlin' 'round the closet. However, just when she is poised to fulfill those dreams not only for herself but also for her grandmother, events call her back home to Rudell. What she learns there could change her life forever.
Donna Hill has written a wonderful book with richly drawn characters. Her descriptions of Rudell will have you almost tasting the dust in the air, swatting the gnats away from your face and smelling some of that great down home cooking! It will make you smile and wish for a small community that knows everybody (and their business) but when needed, they are there for one another. I enjoyed this book from cover to cover, and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a book that shows strength, wisdom and courage!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating Story of Pride 24 Oct 2001
By The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The three books of Cora, Emma and Parris make up the novel Rhythms where you have four distinct stories of love. Stories that include the elements of pride, racial identity, class, forgiveness and dreams that unfold for better and for worse.
During the 1920's along the Delta in Mississippi, Pearl and Reverend Joshua Harvey raise their daughter Cora with a staunch Christian upbringing. Cora, a gifted singer, has a desire of moving up north to pursue a career as a singer. Growing up, Cora is influenced by the likes of Bessie Smith and other infamous rhythm and blues singers of the time. Cora follows her dream, never having it materialize and returns to Rudell, Mississippi with a secret.
Emma is the daughter that Cora bores. While not gifted with the voice of her mother, Emma too has dreams to move to the big city. Her dreams are in the form of living with freedom. Freedoms that are not afforded to "coloreds" at the time. Emma passes and lives a life of privilege after marrying a rich Italian military officer.
Parris is the offspring of Emma who is blessed with the voice of her grandmother. Cora raises Parris in Rudell and she too has aspirations of leaving for the big city to pursue a singing career. Cora offers Parris the one thing that she did not give Emma as a child-a mother's love. Parris is the one that provides the strength and the destiny for the women and the men.
Joshua, David, Michael, and Nick are the men portrayed in Rhythms. Each man is strong in his own way while providing the women in their lives unconditional love and support.
The descriptions of Cora and Parris singing spirituals, blues, jazz and Nick playing the saxophone adds a natural vitality to the story. The historical elements and the descriptive prose of Rhythms offers the reader a chance to visualize Rudell and bright lights of Chicago and New York. Having family that originated along the Delta and visiting that area as a child made for an interesting and memorable read. Rhythms is a 5 RAW style!
Reviewed by Dawn R. Reeves
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