ReShonda Tate Billingsley has come a long way since publishing her first book 13 years ago. The manuscript of that novel, “My Brother’s Keeper,” had gotten rejections from several publishers.
Billingsley believed deeply in that story so she published it herself.
It went on to elicit a positive response from readers. She ended up scoring a book deal with a major publisher. During this period Billingsley was employed as a journalist.
Six years ago she took a mighty plunge, making a life changing transition, becoming a full-time writer. She left her job at the FOX TV station in Houston and has not looked back since. Billingsley just published “A Family Affair,” her 28th book.
“A Family Affair” opens with a scene of scalding rage. The author sets the tone with the unleashing of massive friction that propels this work of fiction forward. Adele Wells just realized that her nanny of nine years, Lorraine Dawson, has been having an affair with her husband, Bernard.
Adele’s discovery of her nanny’s betrayal and her husband’s unfaithfulness coincided with her realization that Lorraine’s three-year-old daughter, Olivia, had been the apparent result of her husband’s tryst.
Adele was livid. She wrote Lorraine a hefty severance check. Then Adele banished them forever. As this eviction was being enacted, the nanny begged to see her young charge, their son, Kendall, one last time. Adele refuses. As they were departing Kendall appeared. Hearts were breaking all over these pages as this scene transpired.
We flash forward quickly to 17 years later. Olivia has become a lovely young woman: “many of the guys were attracted to her, not only for her all-American-girl looks but for her toned dancer’s body.” Unfortunately Olivia and her mother Lorraine are now residing in a down-at-the-heels neighborhood in Houston.
Just how bad is it? “Olivia hated this filthy place. Everything about it — from the dilapidated units to the graffiti-laden walls … made her stomach turn. But sadly, this had been home since she was 12 years old. Before that, they’d lived in several apartments not much better than this, but at least she didn’t have to worry about the riffraff or getting shot by a stray bullet. No, this had been a step down, even in a life already sunk by poverty.”
Olivia had her aspirations to “become a famous dancer with a ballet company or on Broadway — a profession that would garner her a lot of money.” She had been accepted at a prestigious school to study dance.
For now her fierce loyalty to her mother seems to have derailed these ambitions.
Readers will anticipate that Olivia will eventually discern the true identity of her mysterious father. He’s rich and successful and hasn’t seen his daughter for all those years. His embittered wife, Adele, thought that she had bought this permanent estrangement. You can make your plans. You can pay bribes. Life rarely works out the way that you plan it.
Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Friday at 1:30p.m. and on Sundays at 11 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit www.wyso.org/programs/book-nook. Contact him at email@example.com.
This week’s book
“A Family Affair” by ReShonda Tate Billingsley (Gallery Books, 314 pages, $16)
How to go
What: A book-signing with ReShonda Tate Billingsley
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Books & Co. at The Greene, 4453 Walnut St., Beavercreek
More info: www.booksandco.com
ReShondra Tate Billingsley will be at Books & Co. at The Greene to read from A Family Affair on Tuesday, Aug. 13, at 7 p.m.