In July 2004, Washington Square Press published Tananarive Due’s The Good House in paperback. You can still pick up a copy at Amazon, though I believe there are only 4 copies left. Some books, you just shouldn’t miss…
Description: The home that belonged to Angela Toussaint’s late grandmother is so beloved that townspeople in Sacajawea, Washington, call it the Good House. But that all changes one summer when an unexpected tragedy takes place behind its closed doors … and the Toussaint’s family history – and future – is dramatically transformed.
Angela has not returned to the Good House since her son, Corey, died there two years ago. But now, Angela is finally ready to return to her hometown and go beyond the grave to unearth the truth about Corey’s death. Could it be related to a terrifying entity Angela’s grandmother battled seven decades ago? And what about the other senseless calamities that Sacajawea has seen in recent years? Has Angela’s grandmother, an African American woman reputed to have “powers,” put a curse on the entire community?
A thrilling exploration of secrets, lies, and divine inspiration, The Good House will haunt readers long after its chilling conclusion.
Here’s a taste to let you know what you’re missing:
JULY 4, 2001
Seventy-two years later
Angela Toussaint’s Fourth of July party began well enough, but no one would remember that because of the way it would end. That’s what everyone would talk about later. The way it ended.
Angela didn’t want to have a party that day. Maybe it was the lawyer in her, but she was too much of a stickler to enjoy hosting parties, brooding over details. Is there enough food? What if there’s an accident with the fireworks? Will somebody have too much beer and break his neck on those steep steps outside? Angela didn’t have the hostess gene, and she couldn’t remember why she ever wanted to throw a Fourth of July party at Gramma Marie’s house. Like most of the well-intentioned plans in her life, the party had grown into something to dread.
“Shit on me.”
Angela’s digital clock said it was just after six. The first guests would be here in less than a half hour, and she wasn’t fully dressed. Still damp from the shower, Angela tore through her jumbled pile of shirts in the top drawer of her grandmother’s old mahogany dresser, searching for a T-shirt that wasn’t political enough to raise eyebrows and draw her into an argument from the start. TREATMENT, NOT PRISON. IT’S A WOMAN’S CHOICE. STRAIGHT BUT NOT NARROW. She opted for a peach-colored Juneteenth T-shirt a promoter in L.A. had given her last year, and she wiggled into it. Frankly, she’d rather be hosting a Juneteenth party anyway, commemorating the end of slavery. What had the War for Independence done for her ancestors?
Two clamplike hands encircled Angela’s bare waist from behind. She froze, alarmed, unable to see because she was trapped inside the cotton shirt, her arms snared above her head. “Tariq?”
“It’s Crispus Attucks, back from the dead to give you a brother’s perspective on the Boston Massacre,” a low-pitched voice rasped.
Angela’s heart bucked. Jesus. She poked her head through the shirt’s collar and found Tariq’s smiling face behind her. She gazed at the deeply graven lines that carved her husband’s features, at the unruliness of his bushy moustache splaying toward his cheeks as if it intended to become a beard, and it occurred to her that Tariq wasn’t handsome so much as sturdy. At U.C.L.A., watching him dart through and around bigger, stronger men with a football cradled under his arm like a bundled infant, she had felt her juices flowing on a much deeper level than her juices had flowed for any of the men she’d met at law school. Much to her surprise, Tariq Hill had scorned hoochies and loved his books, planning to get an M.B.A. one day — and her juices swept her away. Then, as her punishment for letting her juices do her thinking, time had taught her the downside: Tariq’s demeanor often mimicked his rugged look; unyielding, impatient, even unkind. He made her nervous. Not always, by any stretch, but far, far too often.
So, Angela couldn’t help it. She let out a tiny gasp, even after she saw Tariq’s face.
She hoped he hadn’t heard her gasp. He had.
“What the hell’s wrong with you? It’s just me,” Tariq said, no longer sounding playful. That was the tone, understated, nearly robotic. She hadn’t heard this tone from Tariq since he’d been here, but there was no mistaking it. The tone was Tariq’s mask, flung clumsily over his anger. Hiding everything he didn’t want her to see.
Damn. She’d pissed him off, and right before the party.
Angela forced a bright smile. “Sorry. You scared me,” she said.
Tariq’s lips curled ruefully, and Angela saw his annoyance shift from her back to himself. His eyes were suddenly soft. Angela was only five-foot-three, and this was one of the rare times the twelve inches separating her face from her husband’s did not feel like an impossible distance. She had to dial her head back more than fifteen years to remember seeing Tariq’s eyes this soft.
“My fault, babe. I should’ve knocked. That’s on me.” He kissed the top of her head, massaging her damp, short-cropped hair with one hand.
Apology accepted, she thought. But were they going to spend all of their time apologizing to each other from now on, tiptoeing around each other’s weaknesses?
Angela wasn’t used to having Tariq here. Summers belonged to Corey. She’d come to Sacajawea expecting nothing more than summer visitation with her son, when she took a two-and-a-half-month leave from her law firm to become a full-time parent, rediscovering the person her son was turning into since he’d moved to Oakland with his dad. This trip was their third year running, a tradition. More like a reunion.
But two weeks ago, Tariq had shown up in his faded old VW van, the one he had driven when they eloped to Vegas when she was pregnant, and his presence created a reunion of an entirely different kind. The three of them were spending the warm months here at Gramma Marie’s house, in the folds of this quiet logging and fishing town on the banks of the Columbia River in southwestern Washington state, with ninety minutes isolating them from Portland, the nearest major city. Peace and seclusion, no distractions, no excuses. And if they could live together, just for a summer, Angela believed there was still hope they could dig up something warm and living from the ice that had settled over their marriage long ago. Their last chance.
The shredded, soulful moan in Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long to Stop Now” playing on Angela’s bedroom CD player was barely audible beneath the Will Smith bassline shaking the walls from Corey’s room across the hall, but Redding’s vocal caresses filled the room in their silence. Tariq’s eyes turned glazed and wolfish. “I love this song,” he said.
Angela’s thighs squirmed. Last night, once again, Tariq had tapped on her bedroom door and asked for an invitation into her room wearing nothing but his boxers. She and Tariq had made love five times since his arrival, and she felt their sexual play creeping back toward the much-anticipated ritual it had been in the old days, dueling appetites. Last night, she’d dismounted him after her sweet, sudden orgasm and enveloped him within the hot moisture of her mouth and tongue.
“What are you thinking about, Mr. Hill?” Angela said, knowing full well. She hadn’t given him oral sex since a year before he moved to Oakland. Today, she guessed, Tariq was one happy man.
“I’m thinking about what’s in those Levi’s,” Tariq said, his eyes boldly assessing the modest spread of her hips. “And a certain debt I can’t wait to repay.”
She wanted to say, I can’t wait either, but she only smiled. There was still an artifice to this, occasional puppet strings flitting into her vision that kept her from sinking into the fantasy. For one thing, they had separate rooms and were still hiding from Corey like two boarding-school students ducking from their dormitory monitor. And neither of them had dared utter the terrifying words “I love you,” for fear of the silence that might follow.
But God, this felt good. Not quite right, but maybe it was getting there.
“Baby, please hold that thought, okay? It’s after six. I need to go downstairs…”
“Yeah, I think I need to go on down, too.” He teased her with his fingertip, drawing his index finger across her breast until her nipple sprang to attention. His voice was a breath in her ear. “I’d like to go down right now.”
Somehow, despite her fluttering chest and a persistent smoldering where her thighs met, Angela pulled herself away, leading Tariq out of the room by the hand, toward the stairs. Tariq walked behind her, rubbing just close enough that she could feel the solidness of his erection beneath his grilling apron. It was a tempting invitation. More than tempting. Until a week and a half ago, Angela hadn’t had sex in exactly five hundred days. With Tariq behind her on the stairs, Angela’s body went to war with her reason, and almost won. She squirmed against him, then found her resolve. “You better quit following me around with that thing and go put the ribs on.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Tariq said. And he stepped back.
No argument. No sarcasm. That was good. There hadn’t been much sarcasm from him all summer. Mostly smiles, and easy cooperation. Tariq had cut down to one or two cigarettes a day, smoking on the deck outside without being asked, a ritual more than an addiction. This was not the same Tariq who left four years ago. She’d hardly met this Tariq. She had a lot to learn about him.
He kissed the top of her head again. “I’m gonna check on those ribs.”
Maybe Gramma Marie’s house would cast some sort of cleansing spell on their family, Angela thought. Gramma Marie would have loved the idea of her coming back to the house she’d called “that ugly old house” when she’d been too young to see it for what it was, before she knew about the magic it could work. She tried to work the same magic every summer with Corey, and up until exactly two weeks ago, she’d begun to think the magic wouldn’t happen. She’d begun to think that maybe Gramma Marie wasn’t preserved in this house after all, that maybe she should take Corey away to New York instead, or somewhere mind-blowing like Egypt. She’d been mourning the loss of the magic until the moment Tariq’s van had driven up and Corey had looked out of the living room’s picture window and said, Dad’s here, his tone dazed, his face emblazoned with an expression of pure joy Angela would never forget.
At last, it was happening, after all this time. Gramma Marie’s magic was back.
In the living room, Angela surveyed her grandmother’s 1920s-era quartered white oak furniture, relics from another time. She rested a warm gaze on the old Starr upright player piano against the wall, remembering how she’d hated that scarred piano once, not merely because of Gramma Marie’s mandatory one-hour daily practice sessions – Angela could play decent blues and gospel piano to this day for no other reason than her grandmother’s stubbornness – but because of the way the keys moved by themselves when Gramma Marie put on her music rolls, as if an invisible man, a ghost of some kin…
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