Tonawanda News

Features

August 27, 2013

Book Nook: 'Sweetest Hallelujah' a tale of racism, mother's love

Tonawanda News — Your best friend knows everything she needs to know.

She knows your secrets, and the dreams you hold. She chases away your insecurities, your sorrows are her burdens, your joy is her triumph.

Your best friend knows your heart, and loves you better for it. And in the new book “The Sweetest Hallelujah” by Elaine Hussey, a friendship that starts with a secret ends with a forever bond.

Dead Alice Watkins knew how to send a message to residents of Shakerag, Miss., on the north side of Tupelo.

When something bad was about to happen, everybody knew that Alice sent the odor of barbecue and notes from a blues harmonica around. Now, those things could be blamed on Tiny Jim’s barbecue house and juke joint, it was true, but most folks knew a warning when they smelled one.

And lately, 10-year-old Billie Hughes smelled barbecue a lot.

She tried not to think about it, however, even though she knew Mama was sick. That’s because Billie knew something Alice didn’t: if Billie could find her daddy, he’d fix everything. He was a famous musician in Memphis, and was surely rich. Billie figured he was kind of like Roy Rogers, only black.

Betty Jewel, Billie’s Mama, knew her daughter idolized the father she’d never met. Billie talked all the time about finding him, but Betty Jewel knew that Saint Hughes was no good. He ruined her life and her career. The only thing he’d ever give Billie was his last name.

Ten years after her husband, Joe, died, Cassie Malone still grieved deeply.

Not one day went by without her missing his hugs, his laughter. She couldn’t bear to get rid of his clothes, or the empty crib for the babies they never had. She regretted most of all that they never had children. Three miscarriages still made her ache.

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