Chapters 3–4

Set during the Harlem Renaissance, this follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize-winning Beloved explores a love triangle that ends violently.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. condescend
    do something that one considers to be below one's dignity
    It was where salesmen touched her and only her as though she were part of the goods they had condescended to sell her; it was the tissue required if the management was generous enough to let you try on a blouse (but no hat) in a store.
  2. solicit
    request urgently or persistently
    When Alice Manfred collected the little girl from the Miller sisters, on those evenings following the days her fine stitching was solicited, the three women sat down in the kitchen to hum and sigh over cups of Postum at the signs of Imminent Demise...
  3. imminent
    close in time; about to occur
    When Alice Manfred collected the little girl from the Miller sisters, on those evenings following the days her fine stitching was solicited, the three women sat down in the kitchen to hum and sigh over cups of Postum at the signs of Imminent Demise...
  4. chenille
    a heavy fabric woven from soft tufted cord
    While her aunt worried about how to keep the heart ignorant of the hips and the head in charge of both, Dorcas lay on a chenille bedspread, tickled and happy...
  5. transcendence
    a state of being beyond the limits of material experience
    For her the drums were not an all-embracing rope of fellowship, discipline and transcendence. She remembered them as a beginning, a start of something she looked to complete.
  6. deplore
    express strong disapproval of
    Her stories, however, of the goodness of good behavior collapsed before the thrill of the sin they deplored.
  7. poignant
    keenly distressing to the mind or feelings
    But the stories she told them of moral decay, of the wicked who preyed on the good, were made more poignant by this clutch of arm to breast.
  8. dissolute
    unrestrained by convention or morality
    She told them how a very young girl, no more than fourteen, had left family and friends to traipse four hundred miles after a boy who joined the army only to be left behind and turn to a completely dissolute life in a camptown.
  9. escapade
    any carefree episode
    But both girls have expectations made higher by the trouble they’d had planning outfits for the escapade.
  10. elocution
    an expert manner of speaking involving control of voice
    Dorcas recognizes her partner as Martin, who had been in her elocution class for a hot minute—which was as long as it took for the teacher to realize he would never relinquish “ax” for “ask.”
  11. relinquish
    turn away from; give up
    Dorcas recognizes her partner as Martin, who had been in her elocution class for a hot minute—which was as long as it took for the teacher to realize he would never relinquish “ax” for “ask.”
  12. vestibule
    a large entrance or reception room or area
    It is after two more dances that she notices the brothers commanding the attention of a crowd in the dining room. On the street, in vestibules as well as house parties, they are spectacular, moving like taut silk or loose metal.
  13. culmination
    a final climactic stage
    The unbelievable agility, the split-second timing the brothers are putting on display announces the culmination of the fast-dancing segment of the party.
  14. floe
    a flat mass of ice drifting at sea
    The stomach-jump of possible love is nothing compared to the ice floes that block up her veins now.
  15. berate
    censure severely or angrily
    They laughed, tapped the tablecloth with their fingertips and began to tease, berate and adore him all at once.
  16. muse
    reflect deeply on a subject
    But the women touched his hair and looked right at him, musing over his two-color eyes and ordered him: “Come on over here, man, and sit yourself down. Fix you a plate? Let me fix you a plate.”
  17. impunity
    exemption from punishment or loss
    In a group such as this one, they could do with impunity what they were cautious about alone with any man, stranger or friend, who rang the doorbell with a sample case in his hand, no matter how tall he was, how country his smile or however much sadness was in his eyes.
  18. ware
    commodities offered for sale
    Joe Trace counted on flirty laughing women to buy his wares, and he knew better than to take up with any of them.
  19. subdued
    quieted and brought under control
    Read carefully the news accounts revealed that most of these women, subdued and broken, had not been defenseless.
  20. stark
    devoid of any qualifications or disguise or adornment
    Later, and little by little, feelings, like sea trash expelled on a beach—strange and recognizable, stark and murky—returned.
  21. murky
    cloudy, dirty, and difficult to see through
    Later, and little by little, feelings, like sea trash expelled on a beach—strange and recognizable, stark and murky—returned.
  22. reprobate
    a person without moral scruples
    “Those old reprobates, they live in my building, you know...”
  23. hinder
    prevent the progress or accomplishment of
    Dust cloths, monthly cloths, rags tied around pipe joints to hinder freezing; pot holders and pieces to test hot irons and wrap their handles.
  24. frugal
    avoiding waste
    The thing was how Alice felt and talked in her company. Not like she did with other people. With Violet she was impolite. Sudden. Frugal. No apology or courtesy seemed required or necessary between them.
  25. mortician
    one whose business is the management of funerals
    The suit, the tie, the shirt he liked best. They suggested she not waste the shoes. No one would see them. But socks? Surely he has to have socks? Of course, said the mortician.
  26. rendition
    a performance of a musical composition or a dramatic role
    And when “Wings Over Jordan” came on he probably turned the volume down so he could hear her when she sang along with the choir, instead of up so as to drown out her rendition of “Lay my body down.”
  27. defiant
    boldly resisting authority or an opposing force
    For who could keep him down, this defiant birthday-every-day man who dispensed gifts and stories that kept them so rapt they forgot for the while a bone-clean cupboard and exhausted soil; or believed a child’s leg would straighten itself out by and by.
  28. rapt
    feeling great delight and interest
    For who could keep him down, this defiant birthday-every-day man who dispensed gifts and stories that kept them so rapt they forgot for the while a bone-clean cupboard and exhausted soil; or believed a child’s leg would straighten itself out by and by.
  29. bounty
    the property of copious abundance
    In the midst of the joyful resurrection of this phantom father, taking pleasure in the distribution of his bounty both genuine and fake, Violet never forgot Rose Dear or the place she had thrown herself into—a place so narrow, so dark it was pure, breathing relief to see her stretched in a wooden box.
  30. spellbinding
    attracting and holding interest
    Pouring mustard tea on the girls’ cuts and bruises, and keeping them at their tasks with spellbinding tales of her Baltimore days and the child she had cared for there.
  31. valise
    a small overnight bag for short trips
    When they arrived, carrying all of their belongings in one valise, they both knew right away that perfect was not the word.
  32. forgo
    lose or lose the right to by some error, offense, or crime
    The customer flinched and the skin discolored right away. Violet moaned her apologies and the woman was satisfied until she discovered that the whole curl was singed clean off. Skin healed, but an empty spot in her hairline...Violet had to forgo payment to shut her up.
  33. thrall
    the state of being under the control of another person
    She was limp in its thrall or rigid in an effort to dismiss it.
  34. wean
    gradually deprive of mother's milk
    After weaning time, Violet would blow her breath on the babygirl’s food, cooling it down for the tender mouth.
  35. nettled
    aroused to impatience or anger
    ...Alice nettled; Violet indifferent. Then silence while Violet drank tea and listened to the hissing iron.
Created on April 30, 2018 (updated September 10, 2018)

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