The Upper Room

by Mary Monroe

Mama Ruby may not be all crazy, but she's at least halfway there. She's known for taking things that aren't rightfully hers, like her best friend's stillborn baby — a tiny brown girl that she brought back to life with her legendary healing hands and christened Maureen. She's also rumored to have done away with her husband (True, he deserved it, but still.) Some fear her. Others try their best to avoid her. But most everyone agrees the devil has got hold of Mama Ruby's soul.

With her God-fearing neighbors watching her every step, it's all Mama Ruby can do to stay ahead of the law. One desperate night, she flees to Goons, a dirt-poor migrant settlement in the Florida Everglades — and, strange to say — it feels something like home. There's folks she likes (the low-down, wild-eyed Fast Black), folks she mostly loves (like Big Red, her law enforcement “connection”), and more than a few folks she just plain can't stand. Through it all, she remains downright nuts about the one gift God gave her — her precious daughter Maureen.

But growing up with a mama like Ruby is enough to make any half-sane girl wish for something — anything — else. And when Maureen gets the chance to explore the “real” world, you can bet she's going to take it… and run like hell.