NAACP nominee and bestselling author Beverly Jenkins returns to Henry Adams, Kansas-an unforgettable place that anyone would want to call home-with a story of family, friends, and the powerful forces from our past that can irrevocably shape our future.
Mayor Trent July and his wife Lily are enjoying life as newlyweds and embracing the challenges and joys that come with being adoptive parents to two wonderful boys. But being a father has inevitably forced him to think about his own birth mother. Raised by his grandmother Tamar—and in many ways the good people of Henry Adams—Trent was blessed with a childhood full of love.
But now he can’t help wondering what happened to the scared teenage girl who gave birth to him. And questions that he’s never voiced are now begging to be answered: Who was she? Is she still alive? Why didn’t she want him?
Trent has always believed no good comes from dwelling on the past, especially when you have a loving family, a strong community, and folks who depend on him. But when the past comes to Henry Adams, Trent has no choice but to face it—and the woman who left him behind. The truth will shake his very being and everything he thought he knew about life, love, and the bonds that hold families together…yet can also tear them apart.
It was the first week of December. Four inches of snow had fallen overnight and according to the dashboard gauge on Trent’s truck, the temperature outside was a balmy fifteen degrees. Driving down Henry Adams’ main street to the Dog, not even the winter weather kept him from marveling at the changes to the landscape brought about by the largesse of town owner, Bernadine Brown. The open stretches of land that were once strewn with the crumbling remains of Henry Adams’ 19th century past now held a new recreation center, school and church. The old dirt roads were paved. Asphalt parking lots had been added along with cement sidewalks and towering solar street lights. Other improvements were in the planning stages and he couldn’t be more pleased by the towns rebirth. His family had been residents since the 19th century and over the years had seen it rise to become a model for African American communities nationwide, but by the 21st century due, it fell so low, he as mayor was forced to offer it for sale on eBay. That’s when Bernadine Brown, armed with a multi-million dollar divorce settlement, rode to the rescue like a one woman battalion of the famed Tenth Cavalry. She’d even footed the bill for re-habbing the Dog, turning what was once a well-loved but dilapidated eyesore into a glistening eatery complete with brand new red leather booths, smooth topped tables, a state of the art kitchen, and wi-fi.
Inside, old school music played on the fancy red jukebox, as always. The mounted flat screens TVs were tuned to the day’s football games, and the interior was filled with the familiar faces of those he’d grown up with: Rochelle “Rocky” Dancer, the diner’s manager and Henry Adams’ resident bombshell; Clay Dobbs, his god father and his dad’s best friend, and Bing Shepard the crusty old WW2 vet, now living with Clay after the death of his wife. Both men played a significant role in Trent’s life growing up.
His dad, Malachi walked over to greet them. “Well if it isn’t my favorite son and grandsons.”
“We’re your only son and grandsons,” Trent countered, which made the boys grin. Father and son ribbed each other constantly, a testament to their strong bond.
“You over educated engineers always have to point out the obvious,” Mal groused. “Go on and get a seat. Your booth in the back’s waiting on you.”
After pausing a few times to speak to friends, Trent and his sons took seats in their favorite booth. Crystal Chambers Brown, Bernadine’s seventeen year old daughter and the resident big sister of the town’s kids came over to take their order. “Hey, guys. Your usual burgers and fries?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Trent told her. While she wrote down the order he asked, “When are your friends coming from Dallas?”
“Tomorrow morning. Mom’s going to let me miss school so I can ride with her to the airport. I’m so excited.”
“I’m looking forward to meeting them. Hope they’ll like living here.”
“What’s not to like?” she asked. “We live in the middle of nowhere – no fast food – no clubs, no real music on the radio. It’s paradise.” She left them to go and put their orders in.
Trent looked to Amari. “Was she being sarcastic?”
The boy shrugged. “Who knows? With her it’s hard to tell but I do know that after running away and having to come back to paradise after only a few days with her tail between her legs, she figured out Dorothy got it right: There’s no place like home.”
Trent concurred. After earning his Master’s degree in Engineering from Stanford, he’d taken a job with a multi-national architectural firm in LA and for ten years immersed himself in big city living.
Eventually, wearied by the break neck pace, the sometimes cut throat nature of the people, and two failed marriages, he’d returned, never to leave again. He glanced Devon’s way and saw him staring across the room at his former best friend Zoey sitting with her dad, town pediatrician Reginald Garland and eleven year old Wyatt Dahl. Wyatt and his grandmother Gemma were the town’s newest residents and he and Zoey had become inseparable in the short time since the Dahl’s arrival. Everyone in town was well aware of Devon’s long running feud with Miss Miami as Zoey was affectionately called, and although Devon wouldn’t admit it, Trent knew he missed calling her friend. “You want to go over and say hi to Zoey and Wyatt?”
“No,” Devon replied as if Trent had just asked him to drink motor oil.
Amari shook his head but kept his opinion on the matter to himself.
Trent didn’t press, but the irritation in Devon’s eye was mixed with unspoken longing and a deep sadness. Later in the week, they’d be meeting as a family with Reverend Paula. He hoped the rift with Zoey would be one of the subjects on the agenda.
A short while later, Crystal returned with their meals. Devon said grace and hey dug in.