Growing up dirt poor, Charlie Lam worked his ass off to make something of himself, no thanks to his deadbeat father or his long-suffering mother. And now a lot of people depend on Charlie: by his last count, sixty-eight employees at his Atlanta auto dealership, eleven shiftless brothers and sisters, an ungrateful wife, a spoiled daughter, a shameless girlfriend. Who could really blame him for wanting a little extra? The arrangement is simple: Charlie picks up a suit from the dry cleaner’s. In the suit pocket is the name of a very important man. The next day, that man walks into the dealership, drives out in a new car, and Charlie gets a fat envelope full of cash. Everyone’s happy. No one gets hurt. So long as Charlie doesn’t cross his business partner. But with one twist of a knife, the unthinkable happens. And suddenly Charlie is in deeper trouble than he could have possibly imagined.
In a border town between Georgia and Alabama, in a three-room house made of cement block, a fourteen-year-old girl watches her mother die. Her father is a long-haul trucker, away for weeks, sometimes months, at a time. Her mother, with two menial jobs cleaning restrooms and working nights at the laundry, had been just thirty years old. A week before she died, noticing her daughter getting attention from a boy, the girl’s mother warned her not to make the same mistakes she did. Now, her father tells her, she’s the woman of the house, and she must do all the necessary things the woman must do: the cleaning, the cooking, the laundry. But there’s a lot more to being a woman than fixing dinner and doing the wash. Her mother was right: She won’t end up like her—and she’ll do anything to prove it.
REMMY ROTHSTEIN TOES THE LINE
As an intrepid adjudicator of World Records, Mindy Patel has met lots of strange people in lots of strange places. But they’re no match for the Swampers of the Georgia bayou. Mindy has braved the oppressive August heat in search of Remmy Rothstein, who they call “The Cajun Jew.” If the photos are indeed accurate, she might be about to certify Remmy as the World Record Holder for Longest Tongue in the World . . . and maybe even the Widest! First Mindy meets Remmy’s half-brother, Buell Rabinowitz, surely the world’s only one-legged, albino, Jewish African American. Then she makes the acquaintance of Remmy’s mother, a foul-mouthed old woman with an impressive beard. None of which prepares her for an eyeful of Remmy: a man who measures up to his singular reputation in ways that will change the course of Mindy’s life