Skip to main content

Leaving Cecil Street: A Novel

About the Book

Leaving Cecil Street: A Novel

It is 1969 and Cecil Street is "feeling some kind of way" so the residents decide to have two block parties. Joe, a long-ago sax player has turned his eye across the street to a newly-arrived young southern beauty even as he is suddenly haunted by memories of his horn-playing nights and his affection for a shy, soft hooker from years ago. Joe's wife Louise, a licensed practical nurse, is losing her teeth to gum disease and losing her happiness because of Joe's wandering attention. Their teenaged daughter Shay is consumed with helping her best friend and next-door neighbor Neet who has gotten pregnant by a corner boy. And Neet's mother Alberta is shunned by the block because of her immersion in a religion that has no name. As the novel opens the first block party has ended and a naked woman has secretly taken up residence in Joe and Louise's cellar.

McKinney-Whetstone's superb gift for language and storytelling, for crafting scenes that leave the reader breathless, for distilling a complex of human emotion in a well-turned phrase are on full display here. She portrays the community, the times with precision and compassion in an unforgettable story that gets under the skin. As the novel builds to the second block party, the past becomes as immediate as the present, condemnable acts become righteous, and what is tragic is also filled with hope.

Leaving Cecil Street: A Novel
by Diane McKinney-Whetstone

  • Publication Date: March 1, 2005
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial
  • ISBN-10: 0060722894
  • ISBN-13: 9780060722890