There is already a buzz about brand new author Nicole A. Seitz. A South Carolina Lowcountry native, humor and authenticity abound in her writing. Join Essie Mae as she sits beside the highway weaving and selling sweetgrass baskets and talking to her long-dead husband in his pink plastic chair. Her down-home charm and unique take on life will have you laughing and crying through her exploits at prayer-filled matchmaking, saving her home from commercial development, and managing an uppity daughter who is determined to run what remains of Essie Mae's life.
Essie Mae Laveau Jenkins is a 78-year-old sweetgrass basket weaver who sits on the side of Hwy. 17 in the company of her dead husband, Daddy Jim. Inspired by her Auntie Leona, Essie Mae finally discovers her calling in life and weaves powerful "love baskets," praying fervently over them to affect the lives of those who visit her roadside stand. When she's faced with losing her home and her stand and being put in a nursing home, Daddy Jim talks her into coming on up to Heaven to meet sweet Jesus-something she's always wanted to do. Once there, she reunites with Gullahs and African ancestors; but soon, her heavenly peace is disrupted, for she still has work to do. Now Essie Mae, who once felt powerless and invisible, must find the strength within her to keep her South Carolina family from falling apart.
In an enjoyable debut novel, Seitz offers an interesting first-person narrative about the life (and seemingly, the afterlife) of an elderly Gullah-Creole basket weaver. By the side of Highway 17 in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina sits 78-year-old Essie Mae Laveau Jenkins, crafting baskets of sweetgrass and talking to her dead husband Daddy Jim. Relations are strained with her daughter Henrietta, who thinks Essie belongs in a retirement center. If Essie can't pay $10,000 in back taxes to save her home, she may have no choice. More tensions: her grandson EJ wants to marry a white girl, Essie discovers that a handsome man she's trying to find a girl for is gay, and her daughter carries a hidden secret. When Essie hopes she'll die and go to heaven, the book shifts less successfully to the afterlife, where her Gullah-Creole ancestors surround her and she's reunited with Daddy Jim. Together, they team up to return to Earth and battle two spirits conjured up by Henrietta's voodoo that threatens to ruin an attempt to save the sweetgrass basket weaving culture. Although uneven after a strong start, the first-person narrative in heavy dialect is engaging and readers will enjoy the bits of Gullah culture and history salted throughout. Copyright 2007 Publishers Weekly
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