by Rita Ewing
Category: Fiction / General
282 pages; ISBN: 0060570555
Rating: 9/10 (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Harriet Klausner
Avon, May 2005, $12.95, 282 pp.
After striking out for the third time to get the New York Fitness Club to open a facility in Harlem, Nona Simms decided her boss Marilyn cannot get past the image of a black slum to grasp the demographics she calculated; instead Marilyn implies she cooked the numbers. Nona sees an opportunity to better herself and do something positive for her community where she lives with her daughter Kelly. She quits to open up BRICKHOUSE gym in Harlem, which becomes very popular leading to best selling books and videos and TV appearances by Nona, a celebrity who still remembers her roots.
Her flagship soon comes under assault to when Downtown gives authority to Reverend Watkins and his Harlem Empowerment Office to tear down Brickhouse to make room for Harlem East Mall in spite of the community desire for both. Nona quixotically fights back, but her best friend Leila Lomax and her partner Allen Wade have personal problems; she thinks her spouse New York Knicks star Shawn is cheating while he has returned to steroid use. Only Derrick Carter, whom she hates, seems to be there for her and a troubled Kelly.
BRICKHOUSE focuses on an optimistic Harlem where dreams can occur. Though some readers like Marilyn will insist this is a fantasy because a middle class venture cannot work in a community like Harlem, my spouse always talks fondly of working in the Gold Coast section. The story line contains several characters fully developed whose woes can happen to anyone anywhere, but clearly unsinkable Nona is the center that keeps the tale together. Paying homage to Harlem, Rita Ewing hits the winning shot with this delightful contemporary tale.
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