Red September by Marita Berry

Contemporary Romance Novel

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Red September, is a contemporary, fiction, romance novel. It's a coming-of-age narrative that tells the story of Constance (Connie) Brown. Set amidst the poverty of the 1950's on an island in the Caribbean. After their father dies, Connie and her siblings live in fear of their alcoholic and abusive mother. Connie life changes when Nathaniel (Nathan) Hart, a charismatic twenty-one-year-old man arrives from New York City on family business. When they meet it is love at first sight for both.

However, Connie is forced to marry Mr. Henry, a wealthy landowner, for financial gain. He moves her into his home on the hill overlooking the town. Though this may seem like a fairy tale ending, events begin to unfold and secrets are revealed that subsequently fractured the center of angst that all of Connie's conflict revolve around. Her life is riddled with lies, masquerades, and broken dreams.

Connie is left with the task of coming to terms with strong, ambivalent feelings towards her mother, staying in a loveless marriage, or risk everything for her independence and ultimately find her place in the world with Nathan.

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars. By Rico
One of the best books I have read lately
I have always felt that the most compelling gift that a writer possesses is the ability to describe places and characters in such authentic detail that the reader sees himself/herself there in the flesh watching the story unfold. This was my experience as I read Marita Berry's "Red September" and being transported to a small fictional Caribbean island,Taino, that featured the same people, culture, beauty and poverty familiar to my own upbringing. On one hand it is the story of a mother who was dealt a cruel hand, losing her father at an early age, living with an abusive alcoholic mother and having the responsibilities of adulthood thrust upon her at much too early an age. Among those responsibilities was having to care for her siblings. Thirty years later with a family of her own she tries to understand the mother who had caused her so much pain and discomfort in her early years and she finds solace retroactively in telling the stories of her upbringing to her daughter, Brenda and at the same time finding room to forgive her abusive mother.

"Red September" is much more than a story of struggle and survival. It is also a love story with its own twists and turns of the heart. This is one of the best books I have read lately. My advice to you, the reader, is to get a copy and lose yourself in a great story of love, forgiveness and a mother's triumphant survival in the end.

4.0 out of 5 stars. By S. Stone
I really enjoyed this heartwarming debut novel by Marita Berry. The story travels from the West Indies in the 1940's to New York City in the 70's. It's the story of a young girl has to endure the harshness that her mother's drinking evokes. Forced to marry their landlord in exchange for a place for her mother and younger siblings to live, raped, and becoming a mother herself at the young age of 16, it is a story of survival, of hopelessness, and of a love seemingly destined not to survive. Recounting her past to her daughter, Connie relives that love and what it has meant through the years. I will definitely look for more works by this author.
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Excerpt: Red September

Taino, West Indies (1944)

I awoke with the sun that morning, as I've done so many times before. I sat up on my bed, put my feet on the cold cement floor, walked over to the window and looked out. I gazed at the beautiful skyline of orange rays coming up above the mountains, while the candlelight's flickered in the windows of the framed pastel homes that lined the side of the road. It was another tranquil morning on the small island we called Taino. The trade wind blew softly and the air laden with the rich aroma of freshly cut grass and the soil after a rain was invigorating. Lizards skittered, and a rooster crowing nearby signified a new day.

The grandfather clock in the parlor struck the hour, and my ears perked up at the familiar sounds of the screen door slamming shut as my brother Kevin strolled out to the hen house to collect the eggs. Then there was the pitter-patter of my sister's feet and the clatter of pots and pans in the kitchen as my mother prepared breakfast. We would have oatmeal porridge, scrambled eggs, fresh baked bread with homemade fruit jam and chocolate milk most mornings, and whenever we heard Mother stirring the cocoa mix into the tin cups; it signaled to all four children that it was time to eat.

By the time I appeared in the cozy kitchen and sat down at the table, my siblings were already there playing amongst themselves.

"Where's daddy?" I asked, turning to face my mother.

"He still taking he bath," she said. "We can't eat just yet."

When it came time to eat we knew that we'd have to wait until father was seated and served first. As an eight year old, I realized how important a father was in a young girl's life. I loved my father, and he loved me too, so much, that he named me Constance after his mother. And as the eldest child, he was very protective of me. In fact, I was daddy's girl.

My father was the essence of tall, dark, handsome and slightly built. He was adventurous, a great provider, and possessed a gentle, loving and understanding nature. With a chronically ill wife and four children to raise my father was devoted to his home and family. He never ran away from his obligations by escaping to the local rum shop like so many of the other men did. He regularly found the time to spend with each one of us.

My fondest childhood memories was of this little colored girl wearing a pink cotton dress tiptoeing out of the house with my father on a peaceful morning, just as the sun came up, to pick mangoes and sugar apples from the trees growing in an orchard beyond our house.

Our adventure began with us climbing over the fence in the yard and taking a shortcut through the cow pasture, until we reached the tree line. And then father held a long stick with a nail attached on the end as a hook, and bent the tree branches just low enough for me to reach.

Afterwards, we'd find a shady spot under a tree to talk as we ate some of the succulent fruits, before taking the rest home for mother to turn into jams in preparation for the rainy season.

My father taught me important things about life and the world that I could not acquire from any school. He often talked to me about God and how he made boys and girls different and if I did not give of myself too freely, when I grew up, some man would be lucky to have me. I didn't realize until I was much older that my father was teaching his frightened little girl how to expect to be treated by boys, which later had a great influence in my matrimonial relationship.

I listened very carefully and deeply valued my father's advice. Those were the times that I felt secure and the closest to him. It was a warm, comfortable bond.

But I knew only too well the consequences of being brought up feeling as though I lived in two worlds.

My mother a woman of average size and appearance, although semi-illiterate, her greatest ability was her firm, determined and strong-willed personality. She was the force around which our entire family existed. As a strict disciplinarian, she strongly believed in the saying, 'spare the rod, and spoil the child.' And if I so much as sucked my teeth or frowned when I was told to do something, I would be punished with a beating from my mother.

On the day my father suddenly died from a brain aneurysm, I never felt so empty, so lost and heartbroken. It was the saddest day of my life. My whole world shattered into a million pieces and life as I knew it changed forever.

Purchase Red September by Marita Berry

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Intimate Conversation with Marita Berry

Marita Berry, a New Yorker, retired after a thirty-year career in telecommunications. She cherishes her spiritual relationship with God; her strong, loving family; and close sister-friendships. She is proud of her two sons, daughters-in-law, and grandsons, as well as her master's degree in social work from Fordham University.

BPM: Tell us about your most recent work. Is this book available on Nook and Kindle?
My first novel, Red September, is a self-published, contemporary, fiction, romance novel. A coming-of-age narrative that tells the story of Constance (Connie) Brown, set amidst the poverty of the 1950's on a small island in the Caribbean. After their father dies, Connie, the eldest of four, and her siblings are left to live in fear of their alcoholic, and abusive mother. Connie life changes when Nathaniel (Nathan) Hart, a charismatic twenty-one-year-old man arrives from New York City on family business. When they meet it is love at first sight for both.

However, Connie is forced by her mother to marry Mr. Henry, a wealthy landowner, for financial gain. He moves her into his home on the hill overlooking the town. Though this may seem like a fairy tale ending, events begin to unfold and secrets are revealed that subsequently fractured the center of angst that all of Connie's conflict revolve around. Her life is riddled with lies, masquerades, and broken dreams.

For Connie, life is filled with hard choices. Will Connie bow down with the task of coming to terms with strong, ambivalent feelings towards her mother, staying in a loveless marriage, or risk everything for her independence, and ultimately find her place in the world with her one true love, Nathan? Can time truly heal all wounds? Also available on Kindle.

BPM: Give us some insight into your main characters or speakers. What makes each one so special?
Connie is shy and naïve, but she has genuine inner qualities of being a good daughter, helpful, respectful, smart, self-sufficient, nurturing, sensitive to other's welfare, and she has a strong obligation to her family. The kind of daughter that any mother would be proud of, but she's never received any affection or compliments from her mother. It's only through her relationship with her aunt that her self-esteem can be nourished, and she can feel treasured as children need to feel.

Nathan's strengths are divided into his core values: having traveled the world in the Navy as a young man, he is brave, courageous, knowledgeable, open-minded, perceptive, and persistent. But as he falls heads-over-heels in love with Connie, Nathan is harboring a deep, dark, secret.

BPM: What inspired you to sit down and actually start writing this book?
Red September began as a concept after listening to my mother's countless stories about growing up on a small island in the Caribbean. It was where she lived without running water, nor electricity, and only the dirt roads on which she traveled. The passing away of my mother served as a catalyst that forced me to get down in accomplishing what I set out to do. She was my muse, and her fearless life anecdotes sparked my interest to loosely base this story about a dysfunctional family where the sorrows and afflictions experienced by the family are at the hands of the alcoholic, abusive, mother. It's a story of hopelessness, survival, and of seemingly destined love.

BPM: Where do your book ideas come from? Are your books plot-driven or character-driven?
My book ideas for writing comes from personal experiences and memories, and they are character driven. So far, my characters have been about sheroes, and I try to focus on their inner conflict. I want my characters attitudes, decisions, and personal evolution to change the shape of the plot by having the women encounter life through empowerment, and I want their confidence and strength to be admired without them having to feel ashamed or apologetic about it.

BPM: Is writing easy for you? Do you feel lonely being a writer?
No, writing isn't easy for me, because I find myself spending quite a bit of time just trying to come up with the right words to put on paper, and to have the clarity to know what I want to say in the first place. I do, however, find writing to be certainly challenging. Like any creative activity, I have my good days where I can come up with a great scene or dialog, and my bad days when my mind goes completely blank. I often wondered why people call writers lonely people. I know it can be a lonely activity. If sitting at a desk for six hours once or twice a week, not talking to anyone, or not having any social interactions with other people, while listening to smooth jazz music, lonely Then I may very well be lonely, but what I feel is inner peace.

BPM: What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I enjoyed the freedom to write this book with no pressure or expectations. I wrote it "for fun," and I didn't have to worry about any deadlines, or what I wanted to do with the book once it was finished. It was a given that it would be self-published.

BPM: How long does it take to complete one of your books?
It took me almost four years to write my first novel, Red September. I was determined it had to be the best I could write, quality was more important to me. Besides, being an indie author, it was a very challenging learning process as you go. My next book, I'm working on, I expect to take a year.

BPM: Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer?
I would suggest for anyone to become a better writer, to read a variety of books in different genres. Write a lot. Figure out your own style of writing, because everyone writes differently. Share your work with others, and be willing to accept the good as well as the bad critiques without taking it too personal, so that you can grow.

BPM: What period of life do you find you write about most often?
I like writing under the genre of coming-of-age stories, young adult, and contemporary women.

BPM: How do you feel when someone disagrees with something you have written?
Honestly, if someone gives me negative feedback, it does dampen things momentarily. I'm lucky to have been in a writing group for five years, and we trust each other feedback by giving constructive criticism to improve on our writing. If there is someone in the group that differs with me considerably, first, I thank them for taking the time to read my work, then I take what I want from them, and leave what I don't, and keep it moving.

BPM: Are there under-represented groups or ideas featured in your book?
Yes, the under-represented group or ideas that I have featured in my book(s) thus far have been revolved around African-American women. Moreover, because I feel that female characters are less likely than males to have identifiable goals, or to be portrayed as resilient leaders of any kind. I have been surrounded by strong black women all my life. I am moved by the strength of my late grandmother who single-handedly raised thirteen children, or by my late mother who only went as far as the fifth grade, but raised six children, some of whom went on to receive college degrees, or became a pastor or a deacon of their church's. My sisters, aunts, and sister- friendships have all given me examples of the embodiment of what a strong black woman can be. And so, it's from them that I pull my stories.

BPM: Share one specific point in your book that resonated with your present situation or journey.
My answer would have to be the romantic love that developed between the two main characters, Connie, and Nathan. Three years ago, I fell in love with a guy. At first, I thought it was just lust, but it evolved with time. As I've matured on my journey through life, I found out love is not only about the phone calls, the text messages, the I love you's, the candlelight dinners or the gifts. Love is about understanding each other. It's feeling that someone is always going to be there for you no matter what the situation. It's about trust. It's about growing old into a graceful couple.

BPM: Did you learn anything personal from writing your book?
I learned that I'm passionate, optimistic, and dedicated with the utmost belief in myself.

BPM: Can you share some stories about people you met while researching this book?
To make my book come to life, I had several pre-recorded tape messages of my mother's words. The tape recordings that included questions and answers of my mother and I conversations were carefully translated so that I could capture the inflection of her voice, and the remembrance of her reactions. I also interviewed several of her friends, and family members who were born and/or raised in the Caribbean to ensure their interpretation of island living, and to dig deeper into the culture. What I've learned from my research is that although some people think living island life is a dream or fantasy, island life in not always paradise. With limited job opportunities, lack of good medical care, everyday power outages, few, or often no developed roads, between the mosquitoes, heat, humidity, hurricanes, and a limited supply of food and goods, it can be the reasons why so many migrate statewide.

BPM: How has writing this book impacted your life as a published author?
I've always been a bookworm. Reading has helped me through a lot of crisis in my life because there is no better way of getting drama out of your mind than through the pages of a good book. However, I didn't set out to write this book as a formula for someone else's life, or as a get-rich quick scheme. I've had several Aha's moments in my life listening to stories that touched my soul or spirit in some way, and it impacted me so significantly that I found myself on this journey of writing I never intended to go on. A journey on which I found myself. Writing gave me confidence, taught me how to take risks, forced me to ask questions about life, and most of all, it has helped me to meet new people, friends, that are on the same journey as me.

BPM: What does literary success look like to you?
I look around on a daily basis and say with a very big smile, "Thank you" to the Universe. I set my goals, and I work tirelessly in achieving them. However, I do like to dream big. What literary success look like to me is self-publishing to great acclaim, getting an agent, publication offers, book tours, selling to film rights, and acquiring financial stability through writing. But in the meantime, I feel blessed to know that success is more of being on the right path, rather than a destination. It's less about the doing and having, and more about the being.

BPM: What are the 3 most effective tools for sharing your book with the world?
Social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and my personal website make it easy to share my book with the world.

BPM: What projects are you working on at the present?
I'm presently working on my second book, "Soulfully Yours." It's about three single women who met in college, and together they established a public relations firm. But due to their busy schedule, the reality of dating in the new millennium isn't what it used to be. Meeting a guy at the local bar has been replaced by encountering them on the Internet on a popular dating website named, "Soulfully Yours." As the story unfolds, the lives of the women become entwined as they search for that special someone that will make each one of them happy. What these three women soon discover is a web of secrets and lies that surrounds the world around them.

BPM: How can readers discover more about you and your work?
My readers can follow me on:
Author's Webpage:

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Black Pearls Magazine for the time to interview me, and in learning more about my work.