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  • Jim and Louella's Homemade Heart-Fix Remedy
  • Written by Bertice Berry
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Jim and Louella's Homemade Heart-Fix Remedy

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Written by Bertice BerryAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Bertice Berry


List Price: $11.99


On Sale: September 17, 2002
Pages: 272 | ISBN: 978-0-385-50843-8
Published by : Broadway Books Crown/Archetype
Jim and Louella's Homemade Heart-fix Remedy Cover

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A sizzling, smart, and utterly engaging novel about sex, love, folklore, and family history from the author of Redemption Song and The Haunting of Hip Hop.

With her characteristic sense of humor and a good dose of motherly wit, Bertice Berry spins the endearing tale of Jim and Louella Johnson, an elderly couple in a southern town who have settled into a marriage that has long lost its pizzazz. Louella, fed up with her lackluster love life, decides to contact her departed ancestors for some advice. Conjuring up her mother, grandmother, and aunt in a dream, she receives a delightful lesson in the art of reigniting the fires of love.
Even more startling, the Johnsons discover they can help others rejuvenate their passions, heal their hearts, and mend their souls

Written in language that is folksy yet eloquent, Jim and Louella's Homemade Heart-Fix Remedy is an uplifting and flat-out funny celebration of the connections between past and present, the importance of family, and the pleasures of the body and the heart.




"Possibilities are like promises: they only work if you work them."

It all started when Jim couldn't get it up. I guess I should find another way to say it, but we just country folks, so that's how we put it. That was two months ago, and he been 'fraid to try ever since. Anyway, we'd been married for twenty-six years and have had more than our share of it in the love department. We youngish still, me somewhere at the end of my fifties and Jim starting in his sixties. We got a lot of love left. I told Jim just that, but it didn't help none. In all our years of marriage and the three before, I've never seen him so upset. Jim has lots of pride and he don't like the idea of not being able to do his business, so I stopped trying to talk sense into him and did the next best thing.

Now, I've learned years before not to take stock in none of those women's magazines. Their sex tips usually include food or Saran Wrap, and Jim didn't like nothing too messy. He say the only thing he wants wet is me. Anyway, whenever things were tough with me and Jim, I pray that God will give me strength, make me humble, and show me where I'm wrong. Then, I talk to the ancestors. I talk to them like they still alive too, but I do it in my sleep and they always know the answers. This time I call on the women: my mama, Aunt T, and Grandma Sadie. They a hoot.

Mama say, "Hey, girl, don't say a word. We know just why we here."

"Uh-huh," Aunt T say. "Jim can't do the do."

Grandma Sadie tell her to hush. She say, "Your man weren't too good no time." She say it's better to have a man who have it but lose it all the way once, than to have one who never lose it, but only halfway does it the rest of the time.

Now, I laugh. Grandma Sadie tell me that our problem is that Jim and me done got way too comfortable with each other. She notice we hit it every Wednesday and sometimes on Sunday (depending on how good my fried chicken is). Until then, I didn't know about that connection, but I vow to take more time with Sunday dinner from that point on.

Mama say, "Girl, you need to spice things up a bit. Fix your hair and put on a little makeup."

Mama know that I ain't into nothing too fancy, but I remind her anyway. Aunt T say I need to learn some other positions. She say I got the wife and the mother part down pat, but I need to be a bit more whorish in the bedroom.

Grandma Sadie say, "Hush up, good loving ain't in no makeup, and it certainly ain't in no slutty ways. If the man want a whore, he'd pay one."

Grandma Sadie say the loving in the bedroom is in all the things you do before you get there. She also say me and Jim are real good to each other, better than most, but we need to find one another all over again.

I ask her what she mean, and she say, "Girl, when the last time you rubbed that man's behind?" Before I can act shocked or tell her "never," she say, "Uh-huh, that's what I'm talking about. Jim knows what he got, and he thinks he knows how he likes it. What makes a man hot is making his woman hot. He thinks he knows just what to touch and how to touch it. In all the years you've been married and all the time you were sneaking around before, Jim ain't had to figure out too much. He made you happy in bed because he made you happy in life, but girl, there's a lot more you should be doing."

At that point I want to ask what, but I hear Jim getting up so I do too. I roll over and see Jim lying on his stomach. I can tell that he's feeling badly because it's Wednesday, and in the morning he's usually feeling like he want it. Most times, but not always, he gets it too. Usually, I wait for him to come to me, but this time I go to him. I rub Jim's behind slow and soft at first. I hear him moaning real low.

"Mmm baby, that feels good," he say.

I rub it some more, and he turn over. And I see what I hadn't seen in a long time. Mr. Jim, that's what I call him, is standing at full attention. Jim so excited he can't wait to say hello to Miss Lou. That's what he call me down there, on account of my name is Louella. Jim open my legs quicker than he usually do. He ain't wait to see if I'm ready, but I didn't care, seeing his joy make me too happy to say anything. As soon as Jim try to get in Miss Lou, he loses himself.

"Dammit, God dammit," he say.

"Take your time, baby," I tell him. My man ain't big on cussing, so I know he upset.

I start rubbing his behind some more, but Jim too shamed to try again. He mumble "sorry" and get dressed and go off to the job he had for as long we been married. I pray that he don't lose that too.

After he left, I went back to sleep so I can ask Grandma Sadie what I need to do. They were waiting for me.

"Girl, I told you. You need to be more seductive," Aunt T was saying.

"Hush up, girl," my mama told her. "Can't you see she feels badly enough?"

"Look like to me she ain't feeling nothing at all," Aunt T said, laughing.

"Be quiet, y'all," Grandma Sadie told them. "Baby, listen, and listen good. I'm gonna give you the magic you need, but you got to add the spice to it. Like I said before, you've been doing the same thing the same way for years. You need to get to know every inch of that man's body and what really makes him feel good."

I tell her I thought I did. She say Jim and me don't know what we like. I figure she on the other side, so she got to know more than I do.

She say, "Baby, what I'm gonna tell you take patience and your 'bility to follow through. You got to do just what I tell you. How you do it is up to you, though."

"Tonight," she say, looking me right in the eyes, "you and Jim sit on this bed and talk about everything you think you want to do, or have done to you. It's gonna be hard, but all you can do is talk. Don't touch him no matter how hard he get. Tomorrow night you can touch each other, but you can't touch it. Then, the next night you can touch it, but don't taste. The night after, taste but don't enter. Then, on the last night, get ready to go on in."

That night, Jim came home tired as always. I cooked him his Sunday chicken dinner, and it ain't even Sunday. Jim smile at me real sweet, but say, "Baby, I don't want to try . . . let's give it some time."

I tell him, "Fine. I don't want to, but I do want to talk."

I take Jim into the bedroom, which I had cleaned real good. I had changed the bed linens and even sprinkled my best perfume on it.

"Sit down, baby. Now, Jim," I say, "for years we've been doing things the same, but we gonna try something new."

Jim start to tell me how tired he is, but I tell him to listen. He ain't really seen me act like that, but I know he like it. I sit him on the bed and undress him real slow. I never did that before either. When I take off his pants, I let my fingers touch him real light, but then I remember what my grandma say so I stop myself. Then I undress. Now, you got to believe me when I say this . . . I don't remember the last time I got naked in front of my man with the lights on, so all this is making him crazy. I'm not as fine as I used to be, but I still look pretty good. I sit down slowly on the other side of the bed, and Jim thinks I'm asking for some.

I tell him, "Tonight, baby, we just gonna talk. Tell me what you like, and then I'll tell you. Tomorrow, you get to touch me, but you can't touch me tonight. Friday you can touch and Saturday you can touch it and taste it. Sunday, after church, if you still want to, I'll let you in."

With that, Mr. Jim came right to attention, and I was so wet I could have slid right off my bed. Just that little bit of talk done got us hot and ready, but I know that I gotta do just what Grandma Sadie say. So I start.

"Jim," I tell him, "I love the way you moan. It's telling me that it's good. I love the way you pull my knees apart, but I wish you would stroke my thighs and play with my breasts more and my nipples. I know they ain't like they used to be, but I still got feelings. I love your kisses too, but I wish . . ."

This takes me a while to say, but Jim jump up and say, "What, baby? Just tell me."

Finally, I get to it. "I wish you would kiss Miss Lou. I want you to put those big lips of yours right down there. I want you to kiss it and put your tongue on it."

I was shamed to say all that, but Jim say, "Alright baby." He was about to do it right then, but I tell him it gotta wait.

Then, I say, "Jim, I need you to touch me more. I want you to put your hand on my head like you used to, and Jim years ago, you used to smack me on the behind a little. I won't mind if you do that too."

Jim sure enough was grinning now. So was I. Talking about it made me want to climb on top of him and ride him to kingdom come.

"Jim," I say, "it's your turn."

Jim ain't say nothing, but I open my eyes to see his hand is holding Mr. Jim and giving himself some good love.

"Jim!" I say. "You gotta wait." I declare. I had to call him three times before he came to.

"Oh yeah. Okay. Sorry, babe. Seem like I kind of got lost."

"It's your turn," I say.

Jim say okay and tell me things that make me want to lose my mind. "Baby," he say in his deep voice, "I want you to act like you can't wait to get it."

"I can't," I almost yell.

"Well, sometimes it seems like you just doing your duty."

I don't say nothing 'cause I know I got something to learn.

"I want you to talk back too," he say. "Tell me what you want. Say it right in my ear. I want you to tell me it's good, that it's always good. I want you to put your mouth all over me."

I'm blushing now, but I try not to show it.

"Everywhere, my chest. I got nipples too, and I want your mouth on them. Baby, I want you to put Mr. Jim in your mouth too. I want you to suck him and lick him good. I been scared to ask you for it, but we talking, ain't we?"

Jim stood up and started fondling himself again.

"We gotta wait, baby," I say.

"I know. I just want to show you how I want it. Is that okay?" Jim ask. He hold Mr. Jim up with one hand and start stroking slowly with the other. "Take your mouth up and down like this, baby," he say. "Start slow and the suck harder and faster. You can touch my balls too."

That make me want to laugh, but something tell me not to. Jim tell me to suck it 'til he say he want to come. Then he want me to stand up and bend over. He say he loves taking me from behind, but he don't do it too often because it seem like I don't like it. Now I know my grandma was right because I only remember Jim doing it twice, and both times it was so good I commence to crying. Jim must've thought I was sad, and I was too old-fashioned to tell him otherwise. I'm thinking all of this and look over to find Jim done come all over himself.

"Jim, we s'posed to wait," I say. Jim kiss me like he ain't never kiss me before and went to sleep right there in my arms.

The next day Jim wake up singing, and so do I. He called me three times from work, something he used to do back when we just got married.

"Can't wait to touch you," he say.

"Me neither," I whisper.

That night, I undress Jim again, but this time I lay him on his stomach. I open up some of one of my grand's baby oil I found in the back of my cupboard and pour it all over his back.

"Mmm, that's nice," he say.

I rub his shoulders and back and down to his waist. I knead his strong back like I'm making bread.

"Yes, woman," he say between strokes.

Then, I pour baby oil on his behind and down between his legs. I rubbed his behind and slip my oily fingers between his cheeks. It must feel good because he snatched my hands and tried to take me right then.

"Not yet," I whisper in his ear.

"Oh, woman, you driving me crazy," he say.

"You don't know the half," I whisper back.

"Who are you, and what have you done with my wife?" he say, laughing.

"Lay down, man, and let me finish my business."

I oil his legs and rub them hard, front and back. I touch everything but Mr. Jim. Jim trying to get me to, but he know we gotta wait.

"Alright, woman," he say, "your turn."

He lay me down and pour oil right in the crack of my behind. He rubbed my behind until I thought I could see Jesus. I moaned, and Jim moaned with me. He rubbed everything but Miss Lou. I gotta tell the truth and shame the devil, Jim rubbed my feet so good, I thought I would die. I didn't know feet could get you so wet. He start at my feet and worked his way back up. When he got to my breasts, he could have asked me to run down the street buck-naked, and I might have done it! He rubbed my breasts in a way that let me know he had done it before, but not with me. I forgave him right when the thought came to me. I know that he wasn't getting this from me, and part of that is my fault. Besides, we been too far not to know how to forgive. Jim must've somehow felt my thoughts because he started to cry. I told him it was okay and held him. We rocked each other 'til we fell asleep, oily and wet.
Bertice Berry

About Bertice Berry

Bertice Berry - Jim and Louella's Homemade Heart-Fix Remedy
Bertice Berry is the author of the novel Redemption Song and four works of nonfiction. An inspirational speaker, doctor of sociology, and former stand-up comedian, she lives in southern California, where she is raising her sister's three children.
Reader's Guide|Discussion Questions

About the Book

The questions that follow are designed to enhance your discussion and personal reading of Jim and Louella’s Homemade Heart-Fix Remedy. We hope these questions will also lead you to further topics of inquiry about this rich tale and these vibrant characters.

Discussion Guides

1. Louella’s first encounter with her extraordinary ability to see and hear the thoughts of those around her is at the farmer’s market with Mr. Stan and Mr. Blue. Louella approaches the two men and their issues very differently. Is her insight into how to approach the two men part of her ability to see into their minds, or did she possess this kind of sensitivity before getting the “gift”?

2. Early in the book, Jim observes that their ability to read minds and solve problems is “surely as good as it is hard.” What are some of the positive aspects for Jim and Louella? What are some of the negatives?

3. Jim and Louella have very different yet complementary personalities. How does Jim handle the “gift”? How does Jim’s approach to the people seeking his advice differ from Louella’s approach?

4. Why do Jim and Louella go so far out of their way to help Mae? Is it because of her past? Is it because she has never known real love, just a series of meaningless sexual encounters? Is it her ailing health?

5. Louella is at once proud and perplexed by her son Neal/Naim. In what ways does Louella admire him? How do his beliefs reflect her own? How do they differ?

6. What does the return of Jim’s brother John mean to Jim and Louella? What is the significance of his character? How does the story change when he comes into the picture?

7. How do Jim and Louella’s neighbors’ problems in love differ? How are they similar? What common threads run through some of the stories?

8. Of the people who seek out Jim and Louella’s help, who are the most sympathetic characters, and why? Who are the least sympathetic?

9. What role does forgiveness play in the lives of all the characters, including Jim and Louella?

10. How much of what happens to Jim and Louella and their friends is predestined and how much do they control through their own actions? How much of your life do you think is predetermined?

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