Excerpt from Blackbird by Jennifer Lauck, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Blackbird

A Childhood Lost and Found

by Jennifer Lauck

Blackbird by Jennifer Lauck X
Blackbird by Jennifer Lauck
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2000, 410 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2001, 432 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


Momma takes the tube of eyeliner, shakes it like a thermometer, and pulls out the long wand. Her hand is steady and she makes a thin line to the outside of one eye and then the other. After the eyeliner is dry, Momma looks me dead on and her eyes are even darker, which doesn't seem possible.

"Nice?" Momma says.

"Perfect," I say.

The finishing touch is lipstick and I always get to put it on. Momma gives me the tube of lipstick and I take a deep breath, hold my hand steady, and fill in her lips with the red color.

When I'm done, I let out my breath again and hand back the tube of lipstick. Momma pulls two tissues from the box on the nightstand, folds the tissues in half and then half again. She presses her mouth around the tissues and some of the red comes off in the shape of her mouth.

"Nice?" Momma says.

"Perfect," I say.

If it's a bad day, Momma puts her cosmetics away and stays in bed.

If it's a good day, she pushes her covers back and puts her feet on the floor.

Today is a good day.

"Can you get my robe, Sunshine?" Momma says.

Momma wears matching nightgowns and robes called peignoir sets and they are all different colors of yellow, pink, and peach. Today it's a creamy yellow lemon meringue and I hold her robe in my hands, the silk like water in my fingers.

One arm, the other arm, twist, shrug, and then Momma stands up so she can pull the robe around her legs. Momma shimmies a little under her own weight and I move close, help tug the silk so the robe falls right around her feet. She sits down heavy on the end of the bed and takes a deep breath.

When something's wrong, really wrong, my skin knows first. It's a prickly feeling at the back of my neck, over the top of my head, down my forehead, and into my nose. Feels like a nosebleed coming on.

"You okay?" I say.

Momma sits up tall, shoulders straight, chin tucked. She calls sitting that way the posture of a lady.

"I'm fine," she says, "just a little dizzy."

I look past her words and into her truth and I know it's not such a good day after all.

Momma clears her throat and blinks the truth away. She crosses her legs at the knee, adjusts her robe.

"Okay now," Momma says, "take a few steps back and see the big picture."

Momma sits on the edge of the California King and she's silky lemon meringue, Mrs. Kennedy, dark eyes wide open, with that special look she gets when I'm around.

"Good?" Momma says.

"Perfect!"

"Pretty?"

"You're bursting with style."

Momma laughs when I say "bursting with style" and it's music in her room.


There is no special time for taking pills, Momma opens and closes bottles all day. Mostly aspirin, but there are others too, yellow pills, red pills. Her pills are in brown bottles with white lids and there are labels on the front. Momma lifts the bottles and reads the labels, squinting and moving her lips without speaking out loud.

Next to her pills is a water glass and it's my job to keep her glass rinsed and full of fresh water.

Momma opens bottles, tips out pills, closes bottles. She holds all the pills in her palm, makes a fist around them, but I make her open her hand so I can see. I point to the five matching pills, each one with a red A in the middle of white.

"What are those pills for?" I say.

"For the pain in my back," she says.

"What kind of pain?"

"An aching kind of pain."

"What's the pain from?"

"The operation."

"The operation for B.J.?" I say, "the one for him being born?"

"The one after," she says, "for the cancer that's not a cancer. You know, I told you before."

Copyright © 2000 by Jennifer Lauck.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Grace
    by Paul Lynch
    Harrowing. Gorgeous. Epic. Grace, Paul Lynch's coming of age novel about a young woman, is set ...
  • Book Jacket: The Perfectionists
    The Perfectionists
    by Simon Winchester
    We seek precision in our lives every day. We want to drive from home to work and work to home safely...
  • Book Jacket: Beauty in the Broken Places
    Beauty in the Broken Places
    by Allison Pataki
    Ernest Hemingway wrote that we are "strong at the broken places," and Allison Pataki found that to ...
  • Book Jacket
    Love and Other Consolation Prizes
    by Jamie Ford
    Love and Other Consolation Prizes was read and reviewed by 22 BookBrowse members for First ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Twelve-Mile Straight by Eleanor Henderson

An audacious American epic set in rural Georgia during the years of the Depression and Prohibition.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Family Tabor
    by Cherise Wolas

    Wolas's gorgeously rendered sophomore novel reckons with the nature of the stories we tell ourselves.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Summer Wives
    by Beatriz Williams

    An electrifying postwar fable of love, class, power and redemption set on an island off the New England coast.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win A Place for Us

A Place For Us

A deeply moving story of love, identity and belonging--the first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker's new imprint.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

H, W H A Problem

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.