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A Novel

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Each of the Cates sisters had felt for a time that her husband should be put away where others could take care of him....

So begins the powerful, empowering journey of three women who decide to get a fresh start on life -- and embark upon a plan to place their men in care facilities.

Daughters of a prominent African American family, Rebecca, Claudia, and Gracelyn Cates are ready to leave their ailing husbands -- no match for their wives in their unusual vigor, strong constitutions, and mental energy -- behind. And if they play their cards right, the Cates sisters will keep their good names intact, despite the Old Testament rantings of their Baptist pastor and relentlessly gossiping neighbors in their small-town world of Peoria, Illinois.

Claudia, instructed by eldest sister Rebecca to be more outgoing, enchants her parochial neighbors with her urbane chic. Gracelyn stages a Sunday school play about Harriet Tubman. And when Hillary Clinton appears at a churchwomen's tea party they're hosting, the Cates sisters establish themselves as indisputable leaders of their community. United in their purpose, the Cates women transcend the hand fate dealt them and find themselves anew...with the possibility of midlife romance. An unforgettable story of love, loss, and sisterly devotion, Laelia is a tale about the ties that bind and liberate us all.
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  • Washington Square Press | 
  • 240 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743466318 | 
  • October 2004
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One:

It was technically still spring, the end of May, and the residents of Peoria, Illinois, were experiencing the first hint of what was usually a stiflingly hot summer. The three Cates sisters walked the mile and back to Sunday church services for as long as the weather was mild and the spring flowers remained in bloom. This morning, as usual, they did not walk exactly abreast. Rebecca, the eldest, led by a few paces. A large, light-skinned woman, she strode vigorously enough for her legs to make a swishing sound against the stiff fabric of her skirt, strands of gray-streaked hair escaping from the bun wound loosely under her... see more



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