-Does your sister let you touch her, Gemini?
-Barely, but, yes, more than anyone else. I remember even in preschool when the teacher would grab her hand, she’d stare at the spot where their skin connected as if it were an affront to her existence. Just stand there and glare like she wanted to hurt someone.
-Junipera suffers from a rare phobia.
-Please, what does June not suffer from?
-When did she start chasing storms?
-In third grade she started obsessing about the rain. Full blown? I’d say after hurricane Katrina she never looked back. And she didn’t just chase them, June became those wild storms.
Junipera and Gemini Jones, Irish twins born during the month of June, survive a childhood of neglect and poverty by looking out for one another. Destined for a group home, the girls are rescued by a rich aunt and uncle who move them from Northern Minnesota to Fairfield, Connecticut. One sister thrives while the other spins out of control. A violent assault leaves Gemini searching for clues, but what she finds might be questions that are better left unanswered.
If she lined her spine up perfectly with the porch railing, she could balance. One leg on the porch, the toe of her sneaker just touching, the other dangling maybe two feet above the scraggly grass and the house’s foundation. Her view when she rested her head all the way back was half of the porch roof overhang and half of a deceptively sunny blue sky that wasn’t as warm as it pretended. Still, she wore shorts and a t-shirt with a stretched-out neckline. Some other kid’s faded camp shirt, found at the Goodwill, advertising a canoe ride Gem never in her life got to go on.
Fuck them. Who cared? She didn’t want their stupid camp anyway.
It was summer and Gem wasn’t going anywhere except to the front porch, the creek, the gas station for candy and maybe to the lake to swim if she were lucky. Her sister June wouldn’t be going either. But June had Maggie and Maggie’s mom Charlene who was generous and responsible; she’d pick June up and bring her over to their house for the day, feed her, and sometimes even give her clothes.
Gem struck a mosquito on her exposed thigh. Her legs were bruised. Scabs decorated her knees like a relief map, little brown islands on a white sea of skin.
Both girls had birthdays this month. Gem would be turning ten and her little sister June, nine. They were Irish twins, born twelve months apart. They left their father when they were just babies, or maybe their father left them. The story changed every time their mother told it.
Charlene beeped the horn of her rusted Buick as she turned onto 5th Street. All the windows in the car were wide open and neither Maggie nor June wore seatbelts. Charlene blasted the radio and sang along to “Eye of the Tiger,” while smoke from her cigarette swirled through the car. Both girls slid across the long backseat as she took the corner. They were too wrapped up in their Pretty Ponies to notice. Charlene beeped again once she was in front of the house and Gem sat up on the railing. The world swung at a dangerous angle so she locked her thighs around the railing and pushed one sneakered toe between the rungs as she waited for the dizziness to subside.
“Hey pretty girl!” Charlene sang to Gem. She waved from the car but didn’t get out or turn down the radio. Gem watched her light another long skinny cigarette as soon as she extinguished the smoking one in the ashtray. Charlene smelled like cigarette smoke, Charlie perfume and Aqua Net hairspray. Charlene’s hair was naturally big and she teased it even higher.
“Hey Charlene, hey Maggie.” Gem waved back at them as June knocked open the car door with her hip and stuck one bare foot out onto the curb.
“Shoes are in her backpack,” Charlene said to Gem. Maggie was up on her knees, half of her whole body leaning out of the car window as she said goodbye to June. “I can take her all day on Saturday. You can come too if you want. You don’t have to play with the girls, just watch TV if you want?” Charlene said. Gem would love to jump at the chance. Have someone to talk to, watch her and June, feed them—it all sounded too good to be true. She always had a nagging feeling in the back of her mind that Charlene must want something from them if she was so nice.
“I’ve got stuff to do,” Gem lied. “But thanks. June can go if she wants to.” Every time she spoke to Charlene she felt like an amateur, a fraud. She was used to pretending to be nice, to be happy, two things she felt very rarely. Instinctively she knew that those were qualities adults desired from her and her sister, so she put them on like ill-fitting clothes in their presence and shrugged them off as soon as they were out of earshot. Charlene never questioned why it was always Gem taking care of June and the one to give permission. She didn’t ask questions about their mother; she’d heard it all in town. The woman was a deadbeat—too wrapped up in herself to take care of her own.
“Have fun?” Gem asked June as she marched up the steps. June stepped gingerly on the third one because it was rotten in the middle and a heavy foot on the suspect step could easily crash through it. Her dirty pink bag with the long strings was thrown over her shoulder. A stripe of sunburn swept across her nose and cheeks. Her lips were chapped and her hair was tangled.
“Did Charlene feed you lunch?” Gem asked. June was a quiet kid, not much of a talker. She nodded instead. Gem wanted to ask her what she’d eaten but she was afraid of making herself hungry. June liked kid food. Mac ‘n’ cheese, Spaghetti-Os, grilled cheese on Wonder bread, crinkle cut potato chips, even hot dogs. Luckily, those were the kinds of things Charlene usually fed her. Gem, on the other hand, had a taste for real food. She rarely got it.
Gem slid down to the floor, where June sat and emptied out her bag. She had treasures from Maggie’s house. Some marbles, a few Pretty Ponies, their hair braided and twisted in a tangle of elastic bands. There was a Jolly Rancher that looked like it had been sucked on once and then slipped back into the wrapper.
“Mom home?” June asked her.
“Nope,” Gem answered. Their mother Anne was out most of the time. She worked a lot, she got lost, she met men and forgot she had kids at home, or at least that’s what Gem and June deduced from her behavior. They sat on the porch brushing through the pony’s hair, stretching their legs out to the railing, both of their backs up against the house.
“Want to jump rope?” June asked. She pulled a wound-up jump rope out of her backpack. The girls stood and stretched their arms and backs, sauntered down the steps to the sidewalk. The apartment building across the street was filled with “lowlifes” as they’d heard their mother call them. Young people, poor people, who got drunk and rowdy more often than not. They were coming out now, sitting on the steps or the folding chairs on the lawn. A boom box attached to an orange extension cord ran back in through the front door like a snake’s tongue.
June jumped to the beat of the music instead of the rhymes they usually chanted. Her blond hair bounced all over her face; she needed a bath. Gem could see that the bottoms of her feet were covered in dirt and it was thick under her nails. She probably hadn’t brushed her teeth last night either, fallen asleep sucking on a Jolly Rancher in the middle of her tongue. Gem was too tired to care. She counted to fourteen and June stumbled.
Mara White is a contemporary romance and erotica writer who laces forbidden love stories with hard issues, such as race, gender and inequality. She holds an Ivy League degree but has also worked in more strip clubs than even she can remember. She is not a former Mexican telenovela star contrary to what the tabloids might say, but she is a former ballerina and will always remain one in her heart. She lives in NYC with her husband and two children and yes, when she’s not writing you can find her on the playground.
BY LAURA LEE
Well my goodness, where to start with this fantastic story!! Mara White has become an author that I expect a great story from. One that is so unlike any other books out there. This one is no exception!
It is a story that from the very beginning till the very last page will have you so enthralled in it, your real life will suffer.
This book is broken down into 2 parts. Part 1 is June and Gem growing up and the life these two girls were brought up in. Part 2 is the adult lives of June and Gem. No description I could give could do this book justice. It’s a book that needs to be read, to give this book all the credit it deserves. I will say though, this is not a romance book, this is a wonderful story that everyone needs to read!
A couple things I want to mention, the layout of this book is a bit confusing to begin with. The jumping back and forth in years, places, make sure to read the chapter titles to keep up with where you are. It helps tremendously. Took me a couple chapters to get this down pat. While the story is a beautiful story, I felt as though situations were over descriptive. Finding myself having to go back and re-read what I was reading just to back up and grasp what I was reading. Sometimes, in my opinion too much takes away from the beautiful story that is trying to be told. For this alone, I am taking a .5 star off my rating. Otherwise, this fantastic book would have been a Solid 5-star book. Just my opinion.
BY SHABBY SHABNAMARORA
The book reminds me of the movie Insidious. The more you step into the chapters, the deeper it gets. There's so much depth into the characters and their environment is so dismal that their personalities develop phobias to protect themselves.
Junipera Jones and Gemini are Irish Twin sisters to a junkie , depressed Mother -Anne. She's on a deliberate suicide mission, withering away into oblivion, leaving the girls to fend for themselves , barely surviving on scraps . Junipera and Gemini find a surprisingly "normal" companion -Alaric . They form a dysfunctional love triad and just string along together
"Alaric was connected to Gemini and Junipera in a tenacious bond. Their friendship was a pact. He became the third sibling and alongside them, suffered through their woes. Gem was ripe. June, green and prickly. Alaric was smooth. He was solid and sturdy. He could carry them both. Be it through snow, cold and poverty, or even death if it came to that.They were a three-person link. He felt plugged in, like the energy could finally circulate.
Alaric had told her, “You’re the captain, I’m the ship and June is the storm .”
And they fall in love.....
It's a wonderment to see how Mara has written Junipera. She's the most unique character with storm in her eyes. She chases danger, wants to taste the adventure, she controls the air around her. Her persona one with the nature. Hepephobic June is of virginal body and soul yet her heart is full to the brim with compassion and love .
A most wonderful person is Cheron . His entry into the story comes at a very complexed moment. June stumbles upon him and a weird ,but unbreakable , soul connection develops over soul food .
Trust means more to Junipera than anything else, second only after food, And Cheron delivers both !
"Junipera was his untouched, very real Lover"
There's so much crystal clear purity and perfection in their union, I was in awe.
From hunger to poverty to Hepephobia to her unquenching thirst for storms to her connection with supreme being, Juniepra endures and evolves though all
"She herself was like the weather. Temperamental , unpredictable, capable of both destruction and unexpected symbiotic perfection."
The only point of contention I had was the huge White Elephant - Metaphor.
Like The Naked Chef , Jamie Oliver says, if you have fresh , exquisite ingredients, no need to over flavour it. It spoils the freshness and taste.
The story is so fresh and raw, it doesn't need embellishments of any kinds and Mara has the most fantastic stories in her Pandora's Box .
Very sensitive , yet tough .
Very stark , yet full of soul.
Very dismal, yet full of hope
An immensely engrossing read which redefines the parameters and definition of Love & Acceptance.
You will not remain untouched by this story of Soul Mates - Untouched and Real Loves
"The good Lord made us the way he intended us to be. There are no mistakes in His divine hands."
4.5 Soul Food stars