The author of the hit Redemption Song returns with a sparkling new novel about looking for love in all the wrong places—and with all the wrong people.
Full of spirit and wisdom, the novels of Bertice Berry bring to life a rich tapestry of human experience. Now she turns her eye to matters of the heart, with an endearing main character who can’t seem to keep bad men out of her life.
Bernita Brown is a quick-thinking, tireless social worker who is good at practically everything—except love. Her first marriage ends in divorce, a painful experience Bernita refuses to think about. Instead, she dives into a series of sad relationships and overwhelming commitments to community and church. But not even church can keep her from being courted by dogs; Bernita’s married pastor begins making passes at her, then blames her for his backsliding. Along the way, the ghost of Bernita’s aunt Babe weighs in with plenty of advice (after all, Aunt Babe says, “You don’t need to be alive to tell folks how to live”). When a marvelous man finally enters Bernita’s life, only time can tell whether she will be able to trust him.
Written with Berry’s signature warmth and reliance on African-American ancestors who deliver homespun healing, When Love Calls, You Better Answer addresses a host of powerful topics, from abusive relationships to corrupt church leaders. Ultimately, Bernita’s story will inspire readers to find the love they need, especially the love that can only come from within.
Bertice Berry is the author of the novel Redemption Song and four works of nonfiction. An inspirational speaker, doctor of sociology, and former stand-up comedian, she lives in southern California, where she is raising her sister’s three children.
Ebook | $9.99
Published by Broadway Books Dec 18, 2007| 208 Pages| ISBN 9780307419576
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PRAISE FOR JIM AND LOUELLA’S HOMEMADE HEART-FIX REMEDY:
“An entertaining narrative and a parable of love.” —Publisher’s Weekly
“Berry has written another thought-provoking and entertaining novel about love and the power of the heart.” —Booklist
“Hot, hot, hot! That’s the quickest way to describe JIM AND LOUELLA’S HOMEMADE HEART-FIX REMEDY, a bawdy, romantic comic novel that breaks all the rules of the typical love story.” —The Dallas Morning News
“Berry’s breakthrough? Could be.” —Kirkus
PRAISE FOR THE HAUNTING OF HIP-HOP:
“A nimble social commentator, Berry wisely eschews clichés and delivers a powerful story with a message that should not be lost.” —Essence“In this poignant and educational ‘ghost’ story, Berry drives home the importance of making sure the richness of ancient Africa’s drums lives in the music today.” —Heart & Soul PRAISE FOR REDEMPTION SONG:
“A simple love story to drive home the importance of understanding one’s history . . . entertaining but also enlightening.”—USA Today“A TENDER LOVE STORY THAT SPANS GENERATIONS . . . REDEMPTION SONG leaves you wanting more.” —The Orlando Sentinel“COMPELLING . . . THOUGHT-PROVOKING . . . Filled with life lessons wrapped in mother wit and family lore.” —The Dallas Morning News
“Comedian and inspirational speaker Berry makes a tear-tugging fiction debut with this slim romantic fable about connections across generations.” —Publisher’s Weekly
Who would believe that a book narrated by a woman’s dead aunt could be so lively, fun, and engaging? That’s the secret behind novelist Bertice Berry’s new novel, WHEN LOVE CALLS, YOU BETTER ANSWER
Aunt Babe is back to guide her niece Bernita, who is looking for love in all the wrong places–and with all the wrong people. But before she can find a mate, Bernita will have to learn about loving and accepting herself. With her consummate wit and wisdom, the incomparable Bertice Berry addresses a host of powerful topics in this sparkling new novel.
Bertice recently took some time to talk with BLACK INK about her new book.
Black Ink: Tell us about the narrator of WHEN LOVE CALLS–Aunt Babe is a fun, lively character, and most surprising of all, she’s dead! What inspired this surprising approach?
Bertice Berry: I love Aunt Babe. I was working on something else, and up came Aunt Babe. She was rather annoying. I was trying to be my sociologist self, doing research, and here comes this crazy dead woman. Writing is an amazing gift. It enables you to work through memories that have long been forgotten.
When I finished the book, I told my mother about these great characters. She said, “My Lord! How do you know about Aunt Babe? She was dead long before you were born.” When I described the Aunt Babe from the book, my mother told me that I was “dead on.” I loved her choice of words. So I said a prayer of thanks and realized just how true Aunt Babe was when she said that life comes back around and hugs itself.
BI: Your fans have come to love the wit and wisdom you infuse into all of your novels. Are there things you learn about your characters, and yourself, as you explore the topics of love and family that are at the heart of every one of your novels, including this one?
BB: Okay, I really didn’t want to deal with this out loud, but when I started writing this book, I was just about to get married; by the time I finished, I was divorced. The book lasted longer than the marriage. In the midst of all of those things, my mother was seriously ill, and life was rough. For the first time in my writing career, I needed an extension. I didn’t want to take one but the folks at Broadway are so good, they insisted that I take the time I needed to do what had to be done. Had it not been for Janet Hill, my editor, and my manager and sister, Jeanine Chambers, I would not have been able to complete a book about love when my own life was so full of pain.
Much of what Aunt Babe said was the wisdom that I needed. Okay, so much for the outpouring of my own soul. I got through it, and so did the book. I know that others will heal when they read Aunt Babe’s truth.
BI: Another theme of WHEN LOVE CALLS is the importance of African American ancestors. Could you tell us about this idea and how connecting with family history is an important part of your work?
BB: So important. This idea has led me to research for my next project. I feel that we have to make family wherever we are. Much of our present-day pain can be found in our ancestry. What you don’t know is already hurting you.
BI: Tell us a little about Bernita Brown, the subject of WHEN LOVE CALLS, and why she’s so unlucky in love. Is she based on anyone you know?
BB: Bernita Brown is all of my girlfriends and me. I took the first name from my grad school buddy, Bernita Berry–I often do that with names and spirits that I like. Bernita has a hard time seeing the truth because her past has clouded her vision. Aunt Babe would say that when your life is low, you can’t help but to hook up with a low life. Bernita’s feelings about herself lead her to make choices that are in accordance with the way she feels.
BI: While there are many humorous moments in this book, you also address more serious topics. How do you find a balance?
BB: Life needs the balance. Whenever I encounter pain, I find a way to laugh. I must. Balance is the key to a whole life. Humor is my way to getting and staying there.
BI: You have such a varied background: stand-up comedian, sociologist, motivational speaker, and of course, writer. How do you find a balance, and how do your past experiences inform your novels?
BB: I’m also a gallery owner (it’s really a front; we use the proceeds from the gallery to help others), and a mother. I balance all of this by living one day at a time. I get so annoyed when other people ask me where I am going to be in a day or two. I am where I am right now. I will soak up the life and spirit of that moment, use my late nights for long-term planning, my early mornings to feed my spirit, and my day to live. There are plenty more hours in the day than we actually use. If we remove the negative things, we will have double the time for the positive.
BI: What’s next for you? Will Aunt Babe and Bernita make future appearances in your books?
BB: I sure hope so. I am working on several other book ideas, a documentary, and a few other projects. From time to time, my manager Jeanine and I use the voice of Aunt Babe to describe something or someone who has plucked our last and final nerve. “He’s like a toothache on a toothless man, really ain’t no point in having pain for something that no longer exist.”