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Say Her Name

Say Her Name Summary

Say Her Name: It’s twenty years since Eva, a biracial woman, was adopted as an eight-year-old, and Cherry and Carlton ‘Sugar’ McNeil have always been the only parents she’s wanted or needed. But when she’s dealt the double blow of Cherry’s death and her own suspension from work, Eva decides it’s time to discover who she was before she was theirs.

Against Sugar’s advice, Eva joins a DNA database, desperate for a match that will unlock her identity. And when a positive hit comes, she’s excited to learn there are relations out there who might hold the key. But the closer Eva gets to uncovering her past, the more it appears someone is trying to stop her finally finding the truth…

As she continues to dig, Eva is drawn into a dark and merciless underside to society, where black women disappear without a word. Names erased from history, no search parties, no desperate pleas for their return. Once, someone tried to save Eva from all this. Someone wanted a better life for her. But now that she’s torn down the facade of her life, has she come too far to be spared again?

About the Author

Her Majesty the Queen awarded Dreda an MBE in her New Year’s Honours’ List, 2020. She scooped the CWA’s John Creasey Dagger Award for best first-time crime novel in 2004, the first time a Black British author has received this honour.

Ryan and Dreda write across the crime and mystery genre—psychological thrillers, gritty gangland crime and fast-paced action books. Spare Room, their first psychological thriller, was a #1 UK and US Amazon Bestseller. Dreda is a passionate campaigner and speaker on social issues and the arts. She has appeared on television, including Celebrity PointlessCelebrity Eggheads, BBC 1 BreakfastSunday Morning LiveNewsnightThe Review Show and Front Row Late on BBC 2. Ryan and Dreda performed a specially commissioned monologue on the ground-breaking Sky Arts Art 50 on Sky TV.

Dreda has been a guest on many radio shows and presented BBC Radio 4’s flagship books programme, Open Book. She has written in a number of leading newspapers including the Guardian and was thrilled to be named one of Britain’s 50 Remarkable Women by Lady Geek in association with Nokia. She is a trustee of the Royal Literary Fund and an ambassador for The Reading Agency.

Some of their books are currently in development as TV and film adaptations.

Dreda’s parents are from the beautiful Caribbean island of Grenada. Her name, Dreda, is Irish and pronounced with a long-vowel ee sound in the middle.

Say Her Name Introduction

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

I stare down into the cold, cold grave. Scalding tears burn my face. Grief heavy in my heart. I’m still in a state of shock. Still can’t believe it. Mummy is dead and today we’re laying her to rest. There’s a terrible chill inside me that leaves me frozen. It has nothing to do with the icy wind dancing through the graveyard. What shivers inside me is guilt. Guilt that while I’m burying Mummy I can’t stop thinking about my other mother.

I feel a hard pride that so many people have turned out to celebrate Mummy Cherry’s life through her death. Then again, this is how things are done in London’s Caribbean community. People turn out to pay their respects when you’re living, pay their respects when you’re dead. The crowd of mourners is so dense they resemble a black scarf wound tight around me as if offering shelter so that I can bear my sorrow.

The atmosphere changes, their voices pressing in on me as they start to serenade my beloved mother on her way with song. Their voices are beautiful, uplifting, bringing fresh tears. I close my eyes for a time, letting their swaying voices soothe my pain. In the midst of the singing some members of Mummy Cherry’s church shout out, giving thanks and praise. Religion isn’t my thing, but these lyrics of hope, these shouts of redemption carried on the breeze, give me comfort. They are the balm I need to start the process of coping with my loss.

Either side of me are the emotional rocks in my life: Joe, my husband, and Sugar, the only father I’ve ever known. Carlton ‘Sugar’ McNeil stands out among the crowd of mourners, but then he would in any gathering. Even in mourning he is a magnificent man to behold. He is over six feet tall, with a well-toned physique and timeless brown skin despite the fact that his next birthday is the big six-zero.

I take his strong hand, pulling the rough flesh of his palm close to mine. For a second or two he sinks into the warmth of my support, then he gently tugs his hand away, leaving mine exposed, defenceless in the cold. I’m not offended or surprised by his action. Sugar’s a man who uses his own feet to stand. No one else’s backbone but his own to bear his burdens.

Joe clasps my other hand and squeezes. My husband is the opposite of my dad, he blends easily into a crowd. When I first met Joe he admitted, with a saucy smile, ‘I’m just an ordinary white guy from comfortable suburbia. I’m not different, I’m not special. I’m not like you.’ But when you’ve had a hellish early childhood like mine, you appreciate the attractions of a man who’ll never bring trouble to your door. Joe, having never been to a Caribbean funeral before, appears uncomfortable in the midst of this open spiritual display of emotions.

He whispers, ‘Are you OK?

I nod, but the truth is I’m not. Now my second mother is laid to rest, my first is closer than ever.

This woman has haunted my life. Sometimes I sense her, feel her, and become aware of a different scent in the air, the special scent of my wedding day or the moment I qualified as a doctor. Other times I feel a scary gulf of emptiness where she’s too far away for me to reach her, which is the case now.

Sometimes . . . Sometimes I freeze in public, thinking I’ve caught a fleeting glimpse of her, a shadow with no face on a crowded street or in a lonely place. Sometimes I wake in the hush of the night, one hand tangled in my hair, my other outstretched. She’s there. I feel that we, mother and daughter, are only inches away from touching fingertips in the darkness.

I can’t go on like this any more. As Mummy Cherry’s coffin is lowered into her grave, as the voices that were filled with song now shatter the air with uncontrollable sobs, I make a life-changing decision. It’s time for me to find my first mother.

I sag against the closed door of Sugar’s upstairs bathroom. Finally, a moment of peace away from the mourners who have come back to Sugar’s home. It’s a semi-detached house in the North London suburbs not far from where Joe and I live. I don’t need the mirror above the sink to tell me what a wreck I must look. The richness of my brown skin faded, bleached by cold. My eyes sunken and bloodshot from days of heaving with grief. And my hair. Always straight, never curly. Even after all these years sometimes I can barely touch it.

Quickly, I wash my face. Touch-up my lipstick. I want to do Mummy Cherry proud. I won’t ever forget what she and Sugar did for me. They saved young me. ‘I was like a brand plucked from the burning’ is no doubt how members of Mummy Cherry’s church would put it. If they hadn’t rescued that broken and shattered child, I’d probably be six feet under in another grave in the cemetery where Mummy Cherry is now laid to rest.

Before heading off into the multitude of ‘How are you bearing up?’ enquiries waiting for me downstairs I need to clear my head, feed my lungs fresh air. I open the window. I think I hear Sugar’s voice directly below at the front of the house. My ears prick up. Remorse takes its toll on me again; I hope that’s not Sugar dealing with his grief on his own. I begin to worry that my tough guy might have broken down and left the house to be on his own. Then I realise that he’s talking to someone. The other voice is unfamiliar. Their voices are quiet, intense, as if they’re discussing business rather than exchanging funeral small talk.

Tipping up on my toes I peer out. Sugar’s talking with a man. I think I recognise him. He’s an old acquaintance of my father’s, but I don’t know him well. He’s tall like Sugar, packing the same authority in his stature. If he wasn’t white, you’d suspect he was related to Sugar in some way. He was at the burial, standing on the fringes of the congregation, a curious bystander more than a friend of the family. Such a contrast to the image I see now; there’s a familiarity about the way their bodies lean into each other like that of very close friends. Their voices are hushed and rushed:

It’s been nearly thirty years,’ the man informs Sugar, an urgency in his voice.

Years mean nothing.’ Sugar’s response is low, gritted through his teeth. ‘You of all people should know that.

Thirty years? That’s two years older than me. What can they be talking about?

You can’t keep spending your life doing this. Cherry wouldn’t want it.

Sugar turns so I can’t see his face any more. I’m left with a view of the muscles in his back bunching with the pull of the harsh, erratic breath I hear coming out of his mouth. I don’t need to see his expression to know that he’s in distress.

The other man continues with a persuasive softness. ‘It’s time you put the past behind you. Enjoy your life.

Sugar’s head rises slightly as he looks off into the distance. ‘But if I could prove it, John.

John. John. My mind skips through the names of Sugar’s friends trying to locate a John. I find none. Who is this man?

How?’ John’s in there quick and breathless.

I’m breathless too waiting for Sugar’s response.

Sugar slowly turns. The shadows of swaying branches of the large trees that line the street stripe across his face. ‘If I had proof,’ he says, ‘you’d have no choice but to investigate? That’s right, isn’t it? You’ve got plenty of resources when it comes to the Poppy Munro case.’

John sighs with irritation. ‘Let’s not go down that road again.

Investigation? Sugar was a policeman years and years back before the time I came to live with him and Mummy Cherry. He had resigned and I still don’t know why.

The ensuing silence is heavy and thick until John says in an undertone, ‘And can you prove it?

I need a few weeks, maybe a couple of months.’ Steely determination rings loud in Sugar’s answer.

‘Do you mind if I ask how you can prove it? Now, after all these years?’

‘You’ll see.’

Sugar touches John’s arm, maybe he senses someone listening, and their voices lower to the soft, rushing quiet of stones skipping across water. I pull back into the bathroom. Something disturbs me about their exchange. Why are they talking business at Mummy Cherry’s wake? What is this issue from the past that Sugar must prove? I hurry downstairs, let myself out of the front door. The men stop talking when they see me. Sugar paints on a smile for me, the brush strokes of which can’t disguise the coiled tension from his encounter with John.

My hand stretches out to John. ‘Thank you for coming. I recognize you, but I don’t believe we’ve ever actually been introduced?

His handshake is firm and confident, as though he performs this gesture many times in a day. ‘I’m John Dixon. I’m so sorry that we’re finally meeting at such a sad time. Condolences for your loss.’ He respectfully nods to Sugar. ‘I’ve got to go. I’m sure we’ll speak again soon.

Thanks for coming.’

John Dixon turns but then hesitates. ‘People go missing all the time, Sugar. You know that.

Sugar meets John Dixon’s eyes. ‘Not one after the other. Not like this.

Without saying anything else, John Dixon departs Mummy Cherry’s wake.

Sugar watches and watches and watches John stride down the path, get into his car and drive away.

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Say Her Name

Say Her Name PDF

Product details:

EditionInternational Edition
ISBN1542029686, 978-1542029681
Posted onApril 1, 2022
Page Count316 pages
AuthorDreda Say Mitchell

Say Her Name By Dreda Say Mitchell PDF Free Download - HUB PDF

Say Her Name: It’s twenty years since Eva, a biracial woman, was adopted as an eight-year-old, and Cherry and Carlton ‘Sugar’ McNeil have always been the only parents she’s wanted or needed. But when she’s dealt the double blow of Cherry’s death and her own suspension from work, Eva decides it’s time to discover who she was before she was theirs.


Author: Dreda Say Mitchell

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