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A Novel

Written by E. Lynn HarrisAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by E. Lynn Harris



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List Price: $9.99

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On Sale: November 28, 2012
Pages: 368 | ISBN: 978-0-307-83176-7
Published by : Anchor Knopf

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Read by Mirron Willis
On Sale: March 15, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-307-91394-4
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Read by Michael Boatman
On Sale: July 05, 2000
ISBN: 978-0-553-75101-7
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READER'S GUIDE READER'S GUIDE
Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Dare to dream--

Since the publication of E. Lynn Harris's stunning debut novel, Invisible Life, millions of readers have laughed, cried, and anguished along with his unforgettable cast of characters.  Now, his growing legions of fans will finally find out what happens in this delicious conclusion to the "Invisible Life" trilogy.

In Abide with Me, Harris returns with the utmost finesse to his signature themes of love, friendship, and family, and craftily guides his irresistible characters through new challenges and heartbreaks, and ultimately to redemption through love.

At the end of Just As I Am, Raymond Tyler, Jr., was beginning a relationship with Trent, a fraternity brother from his college days, while Nicole had found love with Jared, Raymond's buddy from Atlanta.  As Abide with Me opens, Raymond and Trent are settled in Seattle, where Trent's career as an architect has blossomed and Raymond's law practice is booming.  All seems well.  Then, late one night, Raymond gets a call from a United States Senator that threatens everything he's built.

Raymond, facing a crisis of faith, travels to New York hoping for the support of his best friend, Jared, who's moved North after five years in Atlanta.  His wife, Nicole, is performing in a revival of Dreamgirls, her lifelong fantasy at last coming true.  Nicole is thrilled to return to the stage, but when things start to go wrong, her young and beautiful understudy, Yancey Harrington Braxton, steps into the spotlight a little too smoothly.  And Nicole, far from achieving her dream, is suddenly forced to reevaluate her life and her marriage.

Back, too, are the other beloved inhabitants of Harris's world: Raymond's family; the sexy and dangerous gray-eyed sportscaster and ex-football player, John Basil Henderson; and Peaches, the spirited owner of the Harlem shop Cuts 'n' Cobblers and the mother of Raymond's late friend Kyle.

In Abide with Me, Harris once again encourages his readers to live, love, and dream.  His masterful storytelling, wit, and sensitivity permeate this enormously satisfying novel, which is both a tribute to his loyal following and an invitation to a new audience to enter his irresistible world.  His "unique spin on the ever-fascinating topics of identity, class, intimacy, sexuality, and friendship" (Vibe) will once more put E. Lynn Harris at the top of the bestseller lists.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

Raymond removed his suit coat and began reviewing the mail when he suddenly noticed a large brown package with a note from Trent. Hey babe! Hope you had a great day. This package just came for you. I'm at the gym, then off to do some work. See ya. Love, Trent. As Raymond picked up the package he thought he should be at the gym with Trent.

The package was heavy and Raymond could tell from the handwriting that it was from his mother. But it didn't feel like cookies, brownies, or any type of food he had been expecting. Raymond tore open the package and out spilled a black leather photo binder. Taped to the front of it was a note on frilly paper from his mother. My Dearest Son, I hope this helps with the confirmation. I've been looking forward to the day when you might need this. I love you and I'm so proud of you. Your mother.

The house was quiet and the evening sun bathed the den in a golden glow. The room was large, with hardwood floors, a beautiful Persian rug, black leather furniture, forty-six-inch television, and an antique rolltop mahogany desk. This was the room where Raymond and Trent spent many quiet evenings enjoying each other, watching sporting events or reading while snuggled on the couch. Raymond leaned against the desk and opened the binder.

On the first page was a copy of his birth certificate and his footprints. He looked at the date, June 20, the time, 4:56 A.M., and his weight, 8 pounds 6 ounces. He read his father's name and "student" listed as his occupation and his mother's maiden name of Gaines and her occupation of "teacher." Raymond couldn't recall the last time he'd seen his birth certificate and the black-and-white photograph of him as a newborn. Curly hair, eyes closed tight. Only three days old.

As Raymond slowly turned page after page, he realized the treasure he was holding: a memoir of his life from his mother's eyes. A magical binder that included photographs, report cards, teachers' names, school names and addresses from kindergarten to high school.

There were pictures and awards from football, basketball, and tennis camps that Raymond had attended during his youth. Photos taken with Santa and other special activities like the Cubs and Boy Scouts. His first NAACP membership card, certificates from Sunday school, vacation Bible school, and articles that appeared in school and local newspapers. A tattered picture of Raymond in his high school football uniform, holding his younger brother, Kirby. Memories that had slipped from Raymond's mind.

There were letters and cards Raymond had sent his parents and even letters his mother had discovered from his first love, Sela, the young lady he had fallen in love with on sight at a high school basketball game. Numerous pictures of Raymond and Sela at their high school prom, parties, and sporting events, and fraternity and sorority mementos from their days at the University of Alabama. Every important person and event that occurred up until his graduation from law school was lovingly placed in this special book.

During his parents' weekend visit Raymond had mentioned how much he was dreading tracking down all the information required for his confirmation. The financial stuff would be easy. All Raymond had to do was call his accountant and the reports would be ready. But the FBI wanted more. Organizations in which he held memberships, papers he had written, and a random sampling of cases he'd handled as a lawyer, not just in Seattle, but throughout his career.

They also requested information on the schools he attended, including the names of teachers and friends who might vouch for his good character, and evidence that he had always been a good citizen. His mother appeared pleased when she said she might have something that would help him out. When Raymond and his father asked what, she had said, "That's my little secret and I don't know if I'm ready to let go. What did I always tell you? Save some secrets for yourself."

Some of the secrets Raymond had saved for himself didn't make the book. There were no pictures of Kelvin, the handsome University of Alabama football player who had seduced Raymond on a beautiful fall Friday during his senior year. But how would Raymond's mother know about that life-changing experience? He wondered where Kelvin might be at this exact moment, whether he was dead or alive, if he had remarried or was spending his life with a man. There was one picture of Kyle, Raymond's first openly gay friend, in a group photo his mother had taken on a visit to New York, but no pictures of Kyle during his last months on earth, before he succumbed to AIDS. Raymond's smile disappeared as he thought about Kelvin and Kyle, but it returned quickly when he thought of the great times he had shared with each of them. The romantic snowy night when Raymond and Kelvin came oh so close to making love with only a winter sky covering them. Raymond could hear Whitney Houston singing "You Give Good Love," even though no music was playing. He thought of a warm spring night in New York's Greenwich Village, standing outside of Keller's, where he and Kyle would comment on the good-looking men going in and out of the bar, waging bets on who would take home the best-looking guy. Moments like these were missing from the book. Moments in his life he'd never shared with his mother or any member of his immediate family, simply because he thought they just wouldn't understand.

But there were other memories of his New York tenure in the binder. A newspaper article about Nicole Springer, the Broadway actress Raymond had fallen in love with harder than ever before, harder even than with Kelvin. He'd always known in his heart of hearts that Kelvin and he wouldn't last. Nicole was now an official part of his family after she married his best friend and play brother, Jared. There were no photographs of the hospital hallway where Raymond confessed to a stunned Nicole his sexual desires for men. Yet, like hearing the silent music, Raymond could still see Nicole's horrified face.

There was a picture of his mother, himself, and Sela on her wedding day--to someone else. For a moment, it looked like the picture everybody in Birmingham thought possible. Raymond and Sela married. There they were, Raymond's mother looking like the mother of the groom, Sela in a beautiful wedding gown, and Raymond smiling in a handsome black suit. He was not the groom but only a guest, at a wedding that occurred a few weeks after his confession to Nicole. The day he realized there would be no wedding day for him.

Raymond smiled to himself, and his eyes became moist as he reviewed the melancholy milestones of his life. And then a tear escaped from his left eye and rolled down his cheek. He felt overcome with emotion from the gift his mother had given him. He wanted to call her and thank her and share some of the moments she'd left out simply because he hadn't shared them with her before. But Raymond didn't pick up the phone, only inches away. He wanted to share this moment with Trent, and yet a part of him relished being able to review his life in solitude. It was a special feeling, a special moment. And even though the house was still silent, he could hear Trent's voice after the first time they made love in their new home, quiet like now. Trent had whispered in his lover's ear, "Some of the best moments in life are when we don't have a clue of what to say or do."

Later that evening, Raymond got a call from Trent saying he was working late and asked if he wanted him to stop and pick up something to eat.

"Naw, that's okay. I'm not that hungry," Raymond said softly.

"Are you all right?"

"I'm fine. Just enjoying the evening and life," Raymond said.

"What was in the package?" Trent asked.

"A really special gift from my mother. It's hard to describe it, but I'll show it to you after I've enjoyed it," Raymond said.

"Okay. I'll see you later on."

"Trent?"

"Yes, Raymond?"

"Thanks for being such a gift to me," Raymond said.

"What a nice thing to say. Are you sure everything is okay?"

"Never been more certain," Raymond said.

After hanging up, Raymond picked up the phone and called Jared. Nicole answered the phone. He still loved the sound of her voice.

"Nicole, how you doing?"

"Raymond? Of course it's Raymond. I'm doing fine, sweetheart. Is everything okay?" Raymond was thinking people close to him didn't understand the sweet sadness he was enjoying. But how could they?

"I'm doing just great. I know you're happy to be back in the Big Apple," Raymond said.

"I sure am. Matter of fact, I'm on my way out the door. Going to a party one of the members of the cast is giving. Want to speak to your boy?"

"Is he there?"

"Sure, let me get him. It's nice talking to you, Raymond. I hope we'll see you and Trent real soon," Nicole said.

"Same here. It's always nice hearing your voice," Raymond said.

After a few seconds Jared came on the phone.

"Whassup, whassup, my niggah?"

"You, my brother. How is everything?"

"Everything's cool, couldn't be cooler if I was sitting in a tub of ice," Jared joked.

"You sound happy."

"Why wouldn't I be? Life is sweet."

"I'm not keeping you from nuthing, am I?"

"You know I always got time for you. Besides, Nicole's gone to her party and I'm getting ready to look over some work and hit the sack," Jared said.

Raymond and Jared spent the next hour talking like they hadn't talked for months. In reality they spoke briefly at least once a week, sometimes two or three times.

Raymond, knowing Jared was really a small-city type of guy, asked him how he was dealing with New York. When Jared said he was loving it, Raymond teased him about how he used to say he could never see himself living in New York.

Jared asked how things were going with Trent and the confirmation and if he had any dates for the hearings.

"You know, I know people in D.C., so when you go down there for the hearing, I want to be in the front row. In case any of them congressmen wanna act stupid. I got yo' back," Jared said.

"And you know it," Raymond said.

"Are you sure you're all right?" Jared asked as the conversation neared an end. Before answering the question, Raymond told Jared about the gift his mother had sent and how it had got him to thinking about his life and everything.

"Your moms and pops are some special people," Jared said. "What a wonderful gift."

"So you see, my brother, I'm fine. I just wanted you to know what a gift you are to me. And I love ya, man," Raymond said.

"And I love you back," Jared said.
E. Lynn Harris

About E. Lynn Harris

E. Lynn Harris - Abide With Me

Photo © Matthew Jordan Smith

E. Lynn Harris was a ten-time New York Times bestselling author. His work included the memoir What Becomes of the Brokenhearted and the novels, A Love of My Own, Just as I Am, Any Way the Wind Blows (all three of which were named Novel of the Year by the Blackboard African American Bestsellers), I Say a Little Prayer, If This World Were Mine (which won the James Baldwin Award for Literary Excellence), the classic Invisible Life, Just Too Good to Be True, and Basketball Jones. He passed away at the age of 54 in 2009.
Praise

Praise

"Harris populates his novel with marvelously written, complex characters who engage readers on many levels."  --Orlando Sentinel

"[E. Lynn Harris] rounds out his blockbuster series with this inventive book...filled with sensuality, deception, friendship and love."  --Ebony


"What's got audiences hooked: Harris's unique spin on the everfascinating topics of identity, class, intimacy, sexuality, and friendship."  --Vibe

"Harris's books are hot, in more ways than one."  -The Philadelphia Enquirer

"Breezy, bighearted entertainment."  -Entertainment Weekly

"Harris's talent as a writer has increased with each of his books.  His stories have become the toast of bookstores, reading groups, men, women, and gay and straight people."  -Atlanta Journal and Constitution

"With a signature style that has thrilled and satisfied millions of readers, E. Lynn Harris again deftly explores the intertwined topics of sexuality, friendship and family."  -Seattle Gay News

"This book grabs you from the first page and nags at you until you finish reading it.  You will go on an emotional roller-coaster ride."  -Spokesman
Reader's Guide|About the Book|Author Biography|Discussion Questions

About the Book

The Invisible Life Trilogy

In three linked novels—Invisible Life, Just As I Am, and Abide With Me—E. Lynn Harris opens the door to a world rarely depicted in popular literature, the gay and bisexual black community. Written with sensitivity and sass, the novels have all appeared on the Blackboard bestseller list and have won enthusiastic acclaim from critics and a broad range of readers. The questions, discussion topics, and suggested reading list that follow are designed to enhance your reading group's discussion of the books and the insights they offer into the lives of men and women, gay and straight, as they face such universal problems as finding and keeping love, making the right career choices, and dealing with sometimes difficult parents, co-workers, and friends.

At the center of the Invisible Life trilogy is Raymond Tyler, a man struggling to do the right thing without betraying his past or sacrificing his dreams. The son of a successful lawyer in Birmingham, Alabama, Raymond always assumed he would follow in his father's footsteps. His life takes an unexpected turn, however, when he finds himself attracted to a handsome fraternity brother at college. Their carefully cloaked relationship—at once confusing, exhilarating, and frightening—marks the first step in Raymond's journey toward self-discovery and self-acceptance. It is a journey that takes him from the tradition-bound South to the uninhibited world of gay Manhattan, to a thriving Seattle, where his legal career and his love-life seem destined for lasting success. Along the way, Raymond encounters a rich and diverse array of people, including the flamboyant, openly gay Kyle; the beautiful, loving Nicole, an aspiring actress; and Basil, a dashing and dangerous football player. Their stories join with Raymond's in a fast-paced chronicle that proves that love, friendship, and sexual desire frequently defy conventional expectations and explanations.

Harris's novels not only recount the changes and choices the individual characters confront, they evoke in telling detail the society in which those choices are made. From the importance of church and family to the consequences of biases based on skin color, sexual orientation, and gender, Harris uncovers the ties that bind and the issues that divide the African American community today.

About the Guide

The life Raymond long dreamed about has become a reality. He is living openly and happily with Trent, a successful architect, in Seattle, and his high-powered legal career has earned him a nomination for a federal judgeship. On the other side of the country, Nicole is married to Raymond's best friend, Jared, and enjoying lots of attention as a hot new singer and actress. But demons, both old and new, suddenly disrupt the happiness they've worked so hard to achieve. Unsettling rumors about Trent and the reappearance of Basil Henderson, his irresistible and volatile ex-lover, send Raymond into a tailspin. For Nicole, trouble comes in the form of an ambitious colleague, whose wily schemes threaten more than Nicole's career.

About the Author

E. Lynn Harris is a former computer sales executive with IBM and a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. He self-published Invisible Life, with great success. It went on to become a Blackboard bestseller and a 1996 ABA Blackboard List Outstanding African American Novel Nominee. In 1996, Just As I Am was awarded the Novel of the Year Prize by Blackboard African-American Bestsellers, Inc. If This World Were Mine was a finalist for the 1997 NAACP Image Award and winner of the James Baldwin Award for Literary Excellence. His other novels include Not A Day Goes By and Any Way the Wind Blows. His new novel, A Love of My Own, will be published by Doubleday in summer 2002. Harris currently divides his time between Chicago and New York.

Discussion Guides

1. What does Basil hope to prove by stripping in front of his therapist [p.16]? Why does he brag about leaving his date sitting in a restaurant? How are these two acts related? Are Basil's opinions about women and sex unusual or warped [pp. 30-31]? Do other men feel the same way, even if they hesitate to talk about it as openly as Basil does? Do you agree or disagree with Basil when he says, "I understand the power of sex. And once you understand something completely, you can control it" [p. 32]?

2. What techniques does Yancey use to ingratiate herself with Nicole? Is Nicole naïve in accepting Yancey's friendship so readily? Yancey declares that after Albert, her high-school boyfriend, betrayed her "Every brother I meet is paying for what Albert did" [p. 54]. Do you think that Albert's marriage to a white woman made the situation more painful for Yancey than it would have been had he chosen a black wife? How do her opinions of men compare to Basil's views of women?

3. Trent is concerned that he won't get an assignment he wants because the project leader is a black woman. Are his fears understandable? Why does he say "you know how we can sometimes be our worst critics" [p. 63]? Are there examples of this tendency in the book? Have you encountered situations in which blacks are overly critical of other blacks? Do other groups exhibit the same behavior? Why do you think this happens?

4. Raymond and Trent briefly discuss getting married. Do you think that gay marriages should be legal? Why or why not?

5. After they meet an old friend of Nicole's at a restaurant, Nicole and Yancey talk about the way women compete with one another [p. 84]. How do their reactions to the "bad seeds" they've encountered differ? Is Nicole too forgiving of the actress the rest of the cast called "Evilene"? Was Yancey's "trick" for defeating her rival justifiable or unethical? How important is it for black women to stick together, particularly when it might entail sacrificing their own goals?

6. The NAACP withdraws its support of Raymond's nomination to back a candidate who "understands the needs of our community, especially on issues regarding the survival of the African-American family" [p. 95]. Is a gay candidate like Raymond incapable of understanding and supporting the basic values of the community? Can his partnership with Trent be defined as a "family"?

7. In what ways does Raymond Sr.'s objection to Kirby's involvement with an Asian woman parallel his discomfort with Raymond and Trent's relationship? Do members of minority groups have a moral obligation to date and/or marry within the group? Do interracial or interreligious marriages necessarily undermine individual cultures?

8. Why is Raymond so reluctant to confront Trent when he learns of his arrest? By betraying his promise to Trent to be open and honest, is Raymond betraying himself as well? What is the significance of the fight he has with his father about the situation? Is his father only concerned with Raymond's political future? Why does Raymond Sr. say "Stop letting people fuck you over, especially black folks"[p. 161]? What does this indicate about his own biases and beliefs?

9. When Raymond and Trent finally discuss Trent's infidelities, whose side are you on? Does Trent take their relationship too casually or is Raymond demanding a level of perfection that is impossible to achieve? Are the conflicts between Nicole and Jared more clear cut [pp. 284-285]? Do they handle them better than Raymond and Trent? Why is Nicole so ambivalent about starting a family? In addition to her reluctance to give up her career, what other factors contribute to her hesitations?

10. When she tells Raymond about his father's affair early in their marriage, Raymond's mother says "People sometimes do hurtful things just to get the other person's attention" [p. 291]. How does this relate to the events in the book? Are Basil's and Yancey's schemes, for example, mean-spirited and evil? Or are they desperate attempts to generate the attention and love that is missing from their lives?

For discussion of the Invisible Life Trilogy:

1. The title Harris chose for his first book--and eventually for the entire trilogy--echoes Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, a seminal work in African-American literature. How does the world Ellison describes compare to Harris's description of the African-American community today? Are the protagonists similar in any way? Does "Invisible Life" only refer to the lives of the gay and bisexual men, or does it encompass aspects of the women's lives as well?

2. Discuss the views of homosexuality you have encountered in your own life. Are most people more willing to accept racial and religious differences than sexual differences? Do gay black men and women suffer greater doubts and more guilt than gay whites? Why or why not? What cultural factors influence the way people feel and talk about sexuality? Did the novels change your own feelings about the gay community?

3. The characters' relationships with their parents is an important theme in the trilogy. What impact does her mother's criticism have on the choices Nicole makes and her image of herself? Is Basil's hostility toward women a result of being raised by his father? Do you think his father genuinely loved him? Why didn't his father succeed in teaching Basil "to be a man and to try and do what's right"? Is Peaches a believable character or is Harris's portrait of her too idealistic? Are you more sympathetic to Yancey when you find out how her mother treated her as a child?

4. Discuss the differences between the views on race, religion, and gender expressed by the two generations. How do they reflect the society in which each generation grew up? Do you think Americans are becoming more tolerant or that age-old prejudices still thrive?


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