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4.2 out of 5 stars
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4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 5 June 2002
This book did not really appeal to me but as it had been passed over by everyone in our book club I thought I'd give it a chance.
I was pleasantly surprised. I found the book to be a frank but gentle tale written with great charm and much humour. My only criticism (and the reason I wouldn't give it five stars)is that I felt it ended prematurely. I was just getting into this community and wanted to read so much more. Perhaps a sequel will be forthcoming!
Well done Ms Cleage, I love your style and will recommend this to my friends.
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VINE VOICEon 30 January 2003
I was drawn to this book by its intriguing title.

It has some dark and difficult subject matter. After she's diagnosed HIV positive, Ava returns to her Michigan hometown to stay with her sister. She's only passing through as her plan is to head to San Francisco. But she gets drawn into Joyce's concerns against her better judgement - a group for the young women of the town, the care of a "crack baby" whose mum is only interested in drugs. She even meets a lovely man - but how to tell him? And can she take on a new life and face her fear?

In spite of all that, it turns out to be a surprisingly feelgood read, with lots of warmth and humour. Pearl Cleage's writing style is engaging and confiding. The characterisation and dialogue are good, and Ava learns things about herself she didn't know before.
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on 6 January 1999
I kept looking at the eye catching cover of the novel on the shelves of various bookstore. I read the jacket cover and decided the topic would be too depressing to read. As with many people, we know of relatives and friends that have contracted this horrible disease. But the cover and imput from friends convinced to read the book. The title fits the contents of the book. I found the main characters Ava, Joyce and Eddie very believable. The story included valuable information about AIDS, the reaction of Ava upon learning she was HIV positive and the reality of learning to really live with this disease. Joyce and her ablity to cope with the lost of beloved husband, Mitch,and her two children. And Eddie dealing with his past and his ability to create a new lifestyle for himself. I found myself rooting for each of these characters. I know I wished for a happy everafter life for each of the main characters but I knew that the real world does not operate in the fashion. I am very thankful for Pearl Cleage writing style. It allowed me to deal with the realities of the various societal problems facing any town in this country. I am glad she choose an all black town,Idlewild as the setting of the novel. I applaud Pearl Cleage for telling the story in a straight forward manner and her efforts in dealing with serious topics on a very human level. I will recommend this book to my book club and to anyone who has an interest in good literature with a mesaage we all can use and appreciate. I am looking forward to reading more of literary efforts in the future.
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on 29 January 1999
'What Looks Like Crazy...', was suggested to me and I'm glad I read it. This book covered almost all of todays issues, which didn't allow for complete development of some issues and characters. But the main character(Ava) and the predominant issue(her being HIV+) were touched on in a surprisinly candid way. The story is about how she learned to deal with the consequence of her mis-directed living. She regretted never having experienced love, and her disbelief and fear when she found it was poignant. This story made you realize everything has a purpose and that timing is everything. The finality of HIV, is what took her home to just live out her life, but it ultimately gave her her first look at caring for other people and the reality of love and loving. I loved the line about Ava and Eddie growing up. An extremely good read.
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on 25 February 2005
I found this book rather disappointing particularly after reading some very promising reviews. I was expecting a read with some depth - insightful perhaps. Instead, I think I would have to place it in the 'chick lit' category. It's a great read for the beach, but when the main character's romance kicked in, I'm afraid it all got a bit much for me! The author attempts some gritty realism, but seemed to plump for hearts and flowers in the end. A good choice if you want to feel all 'lovely' afterwards, but beware if you prefer a meatier read.
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on 20 October 1998
Oprah needs to take her fingers out of publishing and find some other industry to invade. Her judgement of books is poor, at best. This book is processed sugar. Avoid it.
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on 27 May 1999
In the 22 years I have been alive I have spent at least half of my life being aware of HIV. I know every way it is contracted, the ways to protect myself, and the drugs available to help HIV positive people live longer. What I didn't have any idea about was how someone lives with HIV. Once you find out you still live for a long time HIV. What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day is a book about Ava Johnson living with HIV. You won't find much information about the disease in this book. There are not long descriptions of what doctors told her or the medication she is suppose to take. It is simply about one person trying to maintain a life while being HIV positive. I loved this book. Pearl Cleage's writing is amazing. She completely transported me into this woman's and her family's lives. The characters were rich and whole characters. I felt like I could know any one of the them. I didn't realize that even smaller country communities are full of the same problems that cities have as far as drugs and violence. The advantage to the smaller community, however, is that you have a much better chance of reaching people and trying to change the way of life. Joyce, Ava sister, was a wonderful character. Her loving heart and drive to make a change was inspiring. These young women wanted to make a good life for themselves and their children. Joyce was an excellent person to show them love and educate them. I loved her and Ava's list of 10 things every free woman should know. And last let me mention Eddie. Wow... if I could find a man like Eddie. This was an excellent love story. This man had a very bad history. He had made bad choices but he learned and changed himself around into the person he always knew he could be. Ava thinks that she no longer deserves to be loved in a sexual way because of HIV. She learns a lot from Eddie about love and her sexuality. One of my favorite lines from this book is when Ava is learning mediation from Eddie. "One of the good things about meditating is that it helps you spot your own bullshit much faster. The bad this is, sometimes a little harmless bullshit is quite a pleasant diversion from what are invariably the much harsher realities of a bullshit-free existence."
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on 12 May 1999
This is a very educational, exciting novel. Not only did it teach its readers about living with AIDS, it also taught about life's lessons, falling in love late in life, and overcoming prejudice. Ava Johnson led an extravagant life until she was overcome with the news that hse had somehow contracted the HIV virus. She goes to stay with her long-time friend, joyce, who is also dealing with a life-changing event - the death of her husband Mitch. Ava decides to spend the summer with Joyce in her hometown. Her plans, however, change when she meets and falls in love with Eddie, a spiritual man that has as much to share with the world as Ava does. Eddie is a Vietnam vet who has been convicted of a heinous crime, so now he is living life after being given a second chance.
Joyce is one of those people who work so hard to help others even if there is no reward. Currently she is working with young mothers and their children in a group called the Sewing Circus. the group has set up a nursery at their church so that the women need not worry of their children while n services. However, Joyce is teach ing these women the hard truths of life and the reverend's wife doesn't approve. In one scene, Joyce is teahcing the girls the correct way to apply a condom, using hot dogs and latex. The reverend mrs. walks in and misinterprets the exercise. She manages to cut off all funding for Joyce's group. Now because of loss of funding, Joyce must find a new location for the Sewing Circle to meet. So Ava decides to take all of her maoney she has saved up to buy Joyce a house to use as a meeting place.
Another obstacle for the girls is raising a young baby. Joyce takes in a crack baby after it is abandoned by its mother. they care for the child from the time it gets out of the hospital until the custody battle for it begins between Joyce and none other than the reverend mrs. Nearing the end of the novel, after Joyce loses custody, the baby (named Imani) is severly injured while in teh care of its new family and Joyce is granted permanent custody.
During te whole custody battle, the town is in an uproar b/c many of the elderly citizens are being robbed and their houses are being vandalized. Joyce and Ava make it their job, along with Eddie's help to solve these crimes, and they are successful. they figure out it is the reverends grandson and his crack pheen friends. and to add to the soap opera, Ava uncovers a serious problem in their reverends past. It turns out that he is a raging alcoholic and a child molester. He has even been touching his grandson in unappropriate ways. Onece this info is uncovered and revealed to the reverend mrs., the war is over.
This novel is extremely descriptive in telling of Ava discovering masturbation b/c of AIDS. But it is also enlightening b/c it tells of the spiritual steps she takes with Eddie (yoga, health foods, long walks) to be completely made over into a person she can finally live to respect and love, and fall in love again after spendin gmany years hating the men who put her in the predicament she is in. I hope there is a sequel to this novel, telling about Ava's life after September. I'd like to know if and when she gets AIDS, how Imani turns out, and what happends to many of the girls in the Circus. A second novel would be greatly appreciated.
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on 12 May 1999
This is a very educational, exciting novel. Not only did it teach its readers about living with AIDS, it also taught about life's lessons, falling in love late in life, and overcoming prejudice. Ava Johnson led an extravagant life until she was overcome with the news that hse had somehow contracted the HIV virus. She goes to stay with her long-time friend, joyce, who is also dealing with a life-changing event - the death of her husband Mitch. Ava decides to spend the summer with Joyce in her hometown. Her plans, however, change when she meets and falls in love with Eddie, a spiritual man that has as much to share with the world as Ava does. Eddie is a Vietnam vet who has been convicted of a heinous crime, so now he is living life after being given a second chance.
Joyce is one of those people who work so hard to help others even if there is no reward. Currently she is working with young mothers and their children in a group called the Sewing Circus. the group has set up a nursery at their church so that the women need not worry of their children while n services. However, Joyce is teach ing these women the hard truths of life and the reverend's wife doesn't approve. In one scene, Joyce is teahcing the girls the correct way to apply a condom, using hot dogs and latex. The reverend mrs. walks in and misinterprets the exercise. She manages to cut off all funding for Joyce's group. Now because of loss of funding, Joyce must find a new location for the Sewing Circle to meet. So Ava decides to take all of her maoney she has saved up to buy Joyce a house to use as a meeting place.
Another obstacle for the girls is raising a young baby. Joyce takes in a crack baby after it is abandoned by its mother. they care for the child from the time it gets out of the hospital until the custody battle for it begins between Joyce and none other than the reverend mrs. Nearing the end of the novel, after Joyce loses custody, the baby (named Imani) is severly injured while in teh care of its new family and Joyce is granted permanent custody.
During te whole custody battle, the town is in an uproar b/c many of the elderly citizens are being robbed and their houses are being vandalized. Joyce and Ava make it their job, along with Eddie's help to solve these crimes, and they are successful. they figure out it is the reverends grandson and his crack pheen friends. and to add to the soap opera, Ava uncovers a serious problem in their reverends past. It turns out that he is a raging alcoholic and a child molester. He has even been touching his grandson in unappropriate ways. Onece this info is uncovered and revealed to the reverend mrs., the war is over. Joyce gets her funding back, the young boys are convicted for their crimes, Ava and Eddie get married, the Sewing Circus becomes more successful than ever, and the reverend and his wife are driven out of town - all peace is restored.
This novel is extremely descriptive in telling of Ava discovering masturbation b/c of AIDS. But it is also enlightening b/c it tells of the spiritual steps she takes with Eddie (yoga, health foods, long walks) to be completely made over into a person she can finally live to respect and love, and fall in love again after spendin gmany years hating the men who put her in the predicament she is in. I hope there is a sequel to this novel, telling about Ava's life after September. I'd like to know if and when she gets AIDS, how Imani turns out, and what happends to many of the girls in the Circus. A second novel would be greatly appreciated.
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on 30 January 1999
"Sometimes you have to meet yourself on the road before you have a chance to learn the appropriate greeting. . . All you have to do is say yes." Pearl Cleage's debut novel, What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day, introduces the reader to the world of the 90's filled with abuse, teen pregnancy, and even HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Cleage's main character Ava Johnson must accomplish many of her own goals before she will find out who she is and what she wants out of life. She must overcome many fears while living in Michigan, including the fear of falling in love. What Ava believes is the end of living in Michigan is only the beginning of her life there. Pearl Cleage's background plays an important role in the setting of her novel. When she was two years old, her family moved to Detroit, Michigan where she grew up. She graduated from high school and left Michigan to pursue a degree in playwrighting. Three years later she moved to Atlanta, Georgia to finish her studies. Cleage's main character Ava Johnson has a similar background in the novel. Many things in her personal life inspired her to write such a moving novel as this. For example, her recent marriage inspired her to write a love story. Also, she felt that many of her heterosexual friends are in denial about the reality of AIDS and the danger that it presents. By writing a novel dealing with AIDS, she thought she could better inform the African American population and support those who are infected. Her novel portrays a main character with AIDS who develops ways to adapt to changes in her life. Pearl Cleage uses various elements of style to create an entertaining, well-written novel about the problems of a modern African American society. For example, Cleage uses the main character with common narration to tell the story. All of the characters speak with a common dialogue, too. Cleage writes to make the novel understandable to any reader. Cleage's novel also flows fluently from one though to the next thought. The author also includes colorful images and details. For example, Cleage writes "He was standing on the dock in a pair of pajama pants and no shirt, moving slowly from one position to another. . ." These images create a mental picture in the mind of the reader. The author also uses average length, simple sentences to convey the thoughts and actions of the characters. Cleage's realistic view in the subject of AIDS and its effects on others completely transforms this work from a story to a masterpiece. Cleage captures the feelings of Ava on AIDS and how scary it can seem to the person infected with the virus. Ava feels as if she has no one to turn to and that she can be of little help to anyone else. Also this situation has a large effect on Eddie and their relationship. He doesn't know how he can help her and if he wants to risk his liffe to get close to someone that is unsure of her life. Something tells him to reach out and help her yet he doesn't to offend her sense of capability. This work excells because of the realistic setting and storyline. The plot makes the reader aware of the effects of such a devastating illness, yet keeps the reader entertained throught Cleage's witty humor. On the other hand, the greatest weakness of this novels is the constant reminder that unless and until there is a cure for AIDS, the novel won't contain a truly happy ending. Pearl Cleage's novel has made me aware of the effects of AIDS and that no one is safe unless he or she is aware of the specifics of the virus. Pearl Cleage's novel What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day excellently displays the trials and tribulations of an HIV-infected woman in today's society. She has to adapt to many changes in her life including learning how to love. Even with her own personal problems she assists young teenage mothers with the facts of life and many other questionable problems. This true heroine creates an entertaining yet heart-warming story for any adult reader.
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