The Page 69 Test for A Gift for My Sister
A Gift for My Sister arrived by UPS today and, after admiring the spectacular job my publisher has done, (galleys and digital images can’t prepare for the beauty of suede matt cover juxtaposed with shiny foil print) I opened to page 69 with the held breath of excitement and trepidation wondering what I would find.
And it’s one of my favorite scenes in the book. Partly because it’s set in Venice Beach, partly because it is a vignette between a mother and young children, partly because it reveals the loving, responsible side of impetuous rap star, Tara, partly because it hints at the unpredictability and fragility of life, and partly because it sets the stage, through the children, for these two antagonistic sisters to finally come together.
The set up: Tara looks after her son, Levy, and her niece, Rachel while Rachel’s mom, Sky, is with her ill husband. Cautious and conservative Sky has always railed against her sister, who got pregnant in high school and ran away to be with Aaron, a black rapper with a juvenile record. Tara and Aaron, now on the brink of stardom, are in LA for a concert. Life is about to make a astonishing shift for both these sisters. The short beach scene has harbingers of the future for all of them and is told in Tara’s voice. Levy is walking in the sand for the first time when he notices Tara’s footprints:
“Look,” he says, “You’re leaving marks.”
“Yep, you are, too,” I point to his small imprints, his toes rounded like Aaron’s.
“How’s it do that?”
“You squash the sand down,” I tell him.
He presses a foot down and carefully lifts it. Rachel follows suit. Then he walks looking backward watching the pattern our steps make, evidence of the three of us, marching across the beach. He turns, “Look what’s in my foot, Mommy.” A stone is imbedded in the sand at the ball of his imprint. He reaches down, picks it up, and hands it to me.
“Oh, it’s shaped just like a heart and it’s deep red, too.”
He grins at me.
I hand it back to him.
“For you, Mommy. My foot found it for you.”
When we walk back the tide has washed our footprints away. “Where’d they go?” Levy asks.
Rachel points to the sea, “Gone there.”
“A wave made the sand new again,” I tell him.
Levy’s lips turn down and then he smiles, “I’m walking in water,” he laughs.
We keep making new footprints.
This blog first appeared on The Page 69 Test, part of Campaign for the American Reader.