Laelia by Ruth-Miriam Garnett
A Novel

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Laelia is the story of the Cates sisters, vibrant and prosperous African American matrons who decide to free themselves from ailing husbands and lackluster marriages. Led by the eldest sister, Rebecca, the three women embark upon a plan to discreetly but systematically place their men in care facilities.

Rebecca commandeers her two younger sisters, Claudia and Gracelyn -- assigning each a role in distracting their community from their real intent -- to live life unencumbered by rarely sober Timothy, confused Jake, and terminally ill Bernard. Rebecca's skillful strategizing ensures that the women will emerge from their plan smelling like roses, 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 Rebecca to be more outgoing, enchants her parochial neighbors with her refined bearing and urbane chic. Gracelyn corrals the Sunday school children and stages a play about Harriet Tubman, equipped with Greek chorus. When Hillary Clinton appears at a tea the sisters host at their mansion for the churchwomen, the Cates women achieve a veritable coup, establishing themselves as the indisputable leaders of their newly empowered female neighbors.

These unforgettable women, united in their purpose, transcend the unkind hand fate dealt them as younger women. They find themselves anew and introduce the possibility of midlife romance. Laelia tells a tale of sisterly devotion and love, and the ties that bind as well as liberate.


About Ruth-Miriam Garnett

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Ruth-Miriam Garnett is a graduate of Harvard University. She is the author of a collection of poetry, "A Move Further South, " and the recipient of many grants and awards for writing, including a creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. A native of Webster Groves, Missouri, she divides her time between New York City and St. Louis, Missouri.
Published December 30, 2003 by Atria. 224 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Rebecca, Claudia, and Gracelyn Cates, the dutiful middle-aged daughters of the formidable Reuben Cates, share the huge house he left to them with their husbands—but they look forward to the day when they are free at last from these triflin’ men.

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Publishers Weekly

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Much of the book chronicles the sisters' efforts to "put their men away without scandal" in a nursing home, while the major subplot revolves around Rebecca's scheme to oust the corrupt, misogynistic preacher of First Baptist, Reverend Wilson, and become deaconess.

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