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 Blackgammon

Heather Neff

 

"A lustrous meditation on race, love, sisterhood, success, and life...I fell headlong into its exotic world from the moment I began reading it.  If you've ever lived outside of the United States—or wondered what it might be like—then Blackgammon is a must-read."

         —Tananative Due

 

A sweeping, unforgettable debut novel that traces remarkable parallel voyages of self-discovery, Blackgammon reveals the intertwined lives of two African American women: soul sisters whose vow to stay true to one another will carry them through love, loss, and triumph on the  way to finding out who they really are...and who they were meant to be.

 

After twenty-five years of self-imposed exile in Paris, legendary Black American artist Chloe Emmanuel faces a daunting prospect: the chance of a triumphant return to the United States. She came to the City of Light in search of freedom...freedom to create, freedom from a love that nearly destroyed her, freedom from the racial strife in the country she once called home. 

 

Swept into the seductive world of couture fashion and gallery intrigue, Chloe finds that Paris poses its own set of challengesthe pressures of living up to her acclaimed reputation, the difficulty of expressing her feelings without a brush, the vow to always remain strong and directed, and the hope of never again allowing a man to turn her away from her dreams.

 

Chloe's devotion to her art takes her on a sweeping journey from the heights of Montmartre to a house overlooking the sea in the sun-kissed South of France, yet her heart never finds a true home.  While Chloe reflects on her life, her relationships, and the meaning of her art, she begins to wonder: could her success be related to her "inability to love," as an enigmatic lover once suggested?  If that is true, then Chloe must somehow help her younger "sister" and closest friend, Michael Davies Northcross, who is facing a devastating personal crisis of her own.

 

A bold adventurer who fearlessly embraces her life, upon completing her doctoral degree Michael followed her "sister" and closest friend, Chloe, to Europe. Michael's intention is to spend a year on the campus of Levant Hill University before moving on to the next exciting place. She doesn't expect to meet anyone like Andrew Northcross, a white man who spent years in Zimbabwe and has built a distinguished career as a scholar of African Literature. 

 

Despite his preference for short-term, uncommitted relationships, Drew finds himself fascinated by the intellectually fierce, passionately beautiful young woman who has entered his life. As she prepares to leave he realizes he can't go on without her, and hopelessly in love, he asks Michael to become his wife. Though she is unsure whether she can be happy in Levant Hill, Michael accepts Drew's offer, and they begin a challenging, but emotionally rich life together. 

 

After a decade of writing, traveling and teaching alongside her sometimes secretive, but enduringly desirable husband, it appears that Michael and Drew's marital bliss has begun to cool. When a charismatic Black professor arrives on campus Michael is wholly unprepared for their immediate attraction to each other. Her confusion deepens when this man challenges not only the validity of her marriage, but her reasons for remaining devoted to a white man. 

 

Both Michael and Chloe embark on a mission to understand the life-altering choices, shifting truths, and self-deceptions that have charted the path of their lives. Both must fight for a new sense of direction, built on true self-understanding, to find a way back to that fragile place where real love exists. 

Unwilling to sacrifice the dreams they dared to make real, Chloe and Michael are forced to the limits of their strength and independence. They must gamble everything to recapture what they've lost in their game of...Blackgammon.

Praise for Blackgammon

 

"An impressive debut novel chronicling the lives of two fiercely independent sould sisters who break all the rules to live out their dreams."

         Essence

 

"An epic adventure...A journey that is real and mythical, joyful and soul-wrenching, classic and modern...The story is powerful enough to leave animpression long after you've put the book down to rest."

         Black Issues Book Review

Cover art by Consuelo Gamboa