Ava Johnson was living out her dream in Atlanta: fabulous career, high living, and the promise that things could only get bigger and better. Then Ava's future crumbled -- she tested positive for HIV. Believing her life to be over, she returns to Idlewild, Michigan, the small town of her childhood. But home is not what it used to be, and Ava's homecoming is anything but the sorrowful end she expected. Big-city problems have made their way to Idlewild, and Ava finds a new beginning in working with the town's troubled black youths. Oh, and then there's Wild Eddie -- nothing gives a gal a new lease on life like falling in love!
It takes talent to make a love story between an AIDS victim and a convicted murderer work, but playwright/essayist Cleage (Deals with the Devil) more than meets the challenge in this gutsy, very likable fiction debut.
As a teenager, Ava Johnson couldn't wait to move away from tiny Idlewild, Michigan, a lakefront village originally conceivedand enjoyed for decadesas a resort town for people of color. Now just a half-abandoned dot on the map like any other (except that still, most of its residents are black), Idlewild offers the only safe haven when Ava, now nearly 30, learns she's contracted the HIV virus and is forced to close down her hair salon in Atlanta. Telling herself she's just visiting her older sister, Joyce, for a few weeks before she moves on to San Francisco, sophisticated Ava (whose voice is always feisty and humorous, even when the subject is death) is nevertheless impressed by bighearted Joyce's efforts to help the teenaged girls in her small community. She's also intrigued by handsome, sexily 'together' Eddie Jefferson, a once-wild childhood acquaintance who's returned to Idlewild to raise vegetables, grow dreadlocks, and practice t'ai chi. While giving support to Joyce as she fights her conservative church for the right to teach parenting to adolescents, and assisting (a bit skeptically) when Joyce takes in an addict's abandoned baby, Ava finds herself falling hard for sensitive, nurturing Eddie. Obviously, he's interested, toobut won't he run once he learns she's carrying the virus? Ava hardly dares hope for a final chance at love, even when Eddie reveals his own terribleand, finally, forgivablepast. Lively, topical, and fantasy-filled. Watch out, Terry McMillan. Cleage is on your tail.