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From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Cleage again depicts the lives and times of Idlewild, Michigan, once a resort community frequented by well-to-do blacks, now decaying and subject to the same social ills that afflict Detroit. Joyce Mitchell is the social-worker founder of the Sewing Circus and Community Truth Center, dedicated to guiding young women from teenage pregnancies and violent relationships with the "babydaddies" to free and independent adulthood. Joyce herself, five years a widow, longs for enough safety and assurance to wear a red dress, an ultimate symbol of freedom and abandon. When she meets former Detroit cop Nate Anderson, the new counselor at the high school, long-repressed feelings are awakened. She must now negotiate the same relationship terrain as her young friends. Nate is decent, though, trying not to be tarred with the brush used on the ne'er-do-well boyfriends of the Sewing Circus members. A particularly violent boyfriend stalks and threatens the Circus members, however, and that endangers the peace between Joyce and Nate as they struggle with how women can manage their fears and men can protect them from other men. Cleage captures the mores, culture, and rhythm of black urban youth and the romantic tensions between mature black adults as she weaves contemporary issues into a love story. She portrays young people often dismissed by broader society unsentimentally but respectfully, revealing the undercurrents of their strivings to find some security. --Vanessa Bush


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

In her first novel, the New York Times best seller and Oprah's Book Club selection What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day, Cleage treated her audience to the life-affirming story of Ava, an African American woman diagnosed with AIDS and still finding new beginnings. In this work, she shifts her focus to Ava's widowed sister, Joyce, a social worker who counsels young black women in a community center affectionately dubbed "The Circus." When the story begins, Joyce has just lost any hope of government funding for the Circus and is looking forward to a comforting dinner with her friends, Bill and Sister. Sister, however, in typical matchmaking mode, has invited another man. An unsuspecting high school counselor, Nate proves to be the tallest, sexiest man Joyce has ever met. He also happens to be sensitive and supportive and he values her autonomy. With humor and sparkling dialog, Cleage balances the dark, abusive relationships of Joyce's clients with the delightfully healthy love between Joyce and Nate and the strength of women's friendships. These three plot lines are successfully carried to a satisfying conclusion. Recommended for public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/01.] Jennifer Baker, Seattle P.L. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Promised last spring, this second novel features the same characters as Cleage's What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day, an Oprah Book Club pick that sold nearly 750,000 copies. Here, though, Ava's big sister Joyce gets the spotlight. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

How do you follow up a debut that's a New York Times bestseller, an Oprah Book Club Selection that's still in the Amazon top 100 two years after publication? If you're canny like Cleage, author of What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day, you write a sequel, of course. Returning to Idlewild, Mich., the setting of her first book, Cleage takes up the story of Joyce, big sister to Ava, who was the focus of the original and who is absent from this one, traveling the country with her husband, Eddie. Fortysomething Joyce, a dedicated social worker, has always tended to be an optimist, despite her overwhelmingly tragic life. Her mother committed suicide on her wedding night, her two children died young and her beloved husband drowned five years ago. She's since taken to wearing black, but now she feels ready to wear red again, hence the title. The opportunity to do so comes in the form of Nate Anderson, a new student counselor in town who sees in Joyce the romantic woman who's still beneath the surface. Meanwhile, there's a lot going on at the Sewing Circus, the space Joyce uses for social work. Inspirational, idealistic and spiritual, the book is also sometimes judgmental, and a decidedly "women good, men bad" tone occasionally creeps in; some readers may find this unappealing. The bulk of the book is more about .problem solving specifically, Joyce's efforts at helping young African-American women become "free women" than it is about romance. (July) Forecast: As with many of the follow-ups penned by the Oprah-anointed, this effort will disappoint more than please the acolytes who made the first novel such a huge success, perhaps affecting Cleage's sales down the road. Major ad/promo; 7-city author tour; audio from Harper Audio. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved