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Excerpt from The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Revisioners

by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton X
The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
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  • First Published:
    Nov 2019, 288 pages

    Aug 2020, 288 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
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Print Excerpt

"I told you the house was big," I say.

"Too big," he says back. "Too nice. I don't even feel comfortable touching anything."

I almost tell him he's right, that he shouldn't touch a thing, but I want him to feel at home here.

"You're careful enough," I say. I hear a voice behind me.

"You don't need to worry about this old stuff." Grandma Martha. I turn to greet her. And she is how she always is: bracelets clanging and perfume wafting and ironed white button-down shirt and colored pants and smart sandals with her toes painted a mild shade of pink. She is seventy-eight and her wrinkles are fine; her hair clings to her scalp before it's clipped at the base of her head into a winding bun. But I can still glimpse who she was when I graduated from college, when she wore a cream St. John suit with a matching hat, and even when I was four and she fed me squares of baker's chocolate on the balcony, not too sweet because I wouldn't want to lose my waistline.

"Oh," I say, and a shot of relief flows through me because she has that way of putting me at ease. We didn't see each other much growing up. My daddy went on to have a gang of blond-haired children and I'd only know their ages through the Christmas cards each year. Still Grandma Martha sought me out every summer, offered to pay for tennis and math and science camps. She'd arrange for my mother to drop me at her house, and there'd be a frilly Janie and Jack dress in my size waiting on the daybed in the guest room. I'd change into it, then we'd drive her olive-green Mercedes to lunch at Mr. B's in the Quarter. For holidays, she'd mail me envelopes addressed to Miss Ava Jackson with a crisp $100 bill and pink barrettes enclosed. Anytime I'd meet her, my mother would preach on the way over, remind me of what I already knew: not to put my elbows on the table, to take slow, small bites, to say Yes ma'am, to never force my grandmother's hand, and I obliged even though I knew Grandma didn't care about that stuff. I told my mother that, but she never responded.

Once Grandma's husband passed, the attention ramped up—Grandma bought prom dresses and makeup tutorials at Lakeside's Stila counter. And when I had King, and my own husband started to drift, she'd watch the baby for me while I slept or got my nails done. She'd sit on the sofa in my modest two-bedroom and fold his onesies like she hadn't had a housekeeper her entire life. Now she has more, a chef named Binh, a part-time nurse named Juanita, who even walks her up and down the streetcar tracks when the weather permits. Still, she'd called me one Saturday crying. She was lonely. I'd settled her down, then I'd confessed I wasn't faring much better, laid off from my paralegal job, and she'd proposed I move in. A win-win, she'd said. A win-win, though at seventy-eight, she is not who she has been. She walks with a limp; she wears Depends and not just at night, but she's always seemed mentally sound. She dresses and feeds herself, and she still has that softness to her that makes me want to tell her my secrets. She still makes me feel welcome here, and finally, like I made the right decision.

She reaches for King.

"It's so good to have you," she says, and she pulls him into her. I can see him still clenched up in his back, but he is polite like I've taught him and he thanks her.

"No, thank you," she says. "I haven't had children with me for I don't know how long. It's welcome, I can tell you. It will lighten up the place."

"And you, my granddaughter," she reaches out for me next. It is nice to hear her call me that, granddaughter. Growing up, I don't think I ever heard her acknowledge the bloodline. The omission didn't occur to me until I was older, but once I noticed it, I started offering her subtle chances to say aloud what we were to each other, but she wouldn't.

"I can't tell you how much it means to me that you would uproot your life like this," she says now.

Excerpted from The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton. Copyright © 2019 by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton. Excerpted by permission of Counterpoint Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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