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What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day (Idlewild, #1)
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What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day (Idlewild #1)

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  18,028 Ratings  ·  595 Reviews
Acclaimed Playwright, essayist and columnist Pearl Cleage breaks new ground in African American women's literature--with a debut novel that sings and crackles with life-affirming energy as it moves the reader to laughter and tears.

As a girl growing up in Idlewild, Michigan, Ava Johnson had always heard that, if you were young, black, and had any sense at all, Atlanta was t
Paperback, 244 pages
Published November 1st 1998 by Harper Perennial (first published 1997)
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Aug 17, 2015 Obsidian rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Told in the first person, main character Ava Johnson returns to her hometown of Idlewild, Michigan. Ava up until recently lived in Atlanta, GA. However, after finding out that she is HIV positive, she ends up having to shut down her business after losing customers when her status is found out.

Ava is blunt, funny, and at times sad when she reminisces about growing up/being raised by her older sister and brother in law. Ava has plans to stay with her sister for just the summer before heading to Sa
Apr 06, 2009 Allison rated it liked it
Shelves: 2009
I picked this book up at a thrift store just because I liked the title. I almost quit reading after the first two pages, but I am glad I stuck with it. The plot is flat at times and it can be raw to the point of vulgarity, but hope shines through it all. This is definitely not the sort of book I normally read, but I liked it because of that.

Quotes I enjoyed:

"Sometimes you meet yourself on the road before you have a chance to learn the appropriate greeting. Faced with your own possibilities, th
Mar 09, 2008 Lynn rated it liked it
Normally I run like crazy from an 'Oprah's book club' selection - finding them self-righteous and/or overwritten. What a nice surprise to discover that this book was neither!
I found myself emotionally engaged by Ava's situation and relationships and didn't tire of the narrative at all.
I guess I've learned a little about my own particular literary prejudices by enjoying this book much more than I expected!
Feb 07, 2017 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book has everything a good book should have: it's hilarious, the characters are people you'd want to hang out with for hours upon end, there's romance, and at least one character has devoted her life to making the world a better place. And I don't think it's much of a spoiler to say the plan is working. These characters are making their corner of the world a better place. And the whole book ends in a church, with everyone happy. The book is just perfect.
Mar 01, 2012 Angela rated it it was amazing
An African American woman from a small town, living in a big city discovers something that changes her life and the way she views it forever…she was told she is HIV positive. Ava is a successful business woman, running her own salon in Atlanta. Her life may have been a bit full of sex partners, but she is a good woman and a hardworking woman. She feels, when told she is HIV positive, that the men she has had sex with deserve to know. So she sends out letters telling them all and telling them tha ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Marilyn Maya
May 25, 2012 Marilyn Maya rated it it was ok
What looks like beautiful is an ordinary novel,

I was excited when I started reading this book. The author has a good voice, a beautiful voice, an honest voice. But that is all it is. The main character is well defined, strong and believable. The beginning is exciting and new. But then the plot. oh, the plot. so thin, so predictable, so boring. I knew from the first clue how the book would end. The other characters are one dimensional, either all good or all bad and did I say the plot was thin. o
Feb 04, 2012 Roberta rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013, americana
What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day è un altro romanzo ricevuto tramite Bookmooch, su cui non avevo grandi aspettative e che non mi ha convinto completamente. Pearl Cleage affronta delle tematiche molto importanti con questo romanzo (l'HIV, la disoccupazione, la criminalità, le droghe, il sesso non protetto e le gravidanze indesiderate nella comunità afroamericana) e lo fa concentrandosi sul piccolo: le vicende della protagonista Ava, una parrucchiera di colore che torna al paese natale Idl ...more
Leah Hess
Jul 17, 2011 Leah Hess rated it really liked it
Ava Johnson is almost the exact opposite of me. Seriously, we have nothing in common--but I was drawn to her character in just the first page of the novel, when she discloses her big secret. It's also nothing I can relate to, but intriguing nonetheless. She has undergone change since escaping the tiny Idlewild community, but comes back to discover that maybe change isn't always good. Her growth and progress through the novel were captivating, and Cleage really sucks you in to feeling as though ...more
Sep 19, 2009 Elvia rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Not sure about this one. Started off boring enough to make me fall sleep. I knew it being an Oprah book I wouldn't be all about it. The story clunked along with not much to go on. It was very predictable, even in a world I'm not part of. I knew on every turn what was going to happen. Then the end happened....what the hell kind of ending was that? I felt like it just stopped.
I don't like when the epilogues explain quickly what should have been explained in more chapters. That bugged me. All of t
Feb 21, 2009 Pauline rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I had no idea what I was getting into from the description of the book. Really, the book is about two sisters, black women, who live in Idlewild, MI. The book focuses a lot on their personal journeys and one of the main themes is healthy sexuality, and teaching girls about how to find themselves - I loved it!
Nicole Falls
Jan 11, 2010 Nicole Falls rated it really liked it
I first read this book when it was featured in Oprah's Book Club in the late 90s. (Full disclosure: I am an Oprahphile.) I absolutely LOVED it. Cleage's writing style is concise, yet complex. The characters that she builds are rich and dynamic. Reading a Cleage novel, you can picture things exactly how they are happening and I love that
Juany Ruiz
Feb 02, 2016 Juany Ruiz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved the book I felt extremely bad for the character Ava Johnson who was HIV positive. She felt judged and unwanted by society. But through tough times she went back to her hometown to refresh her mind and spend time with her strong sister Joyce. She unknowingly found true love and a new life she grew fund of.
May 19, 2014 Jamal rated it really liked it
"Because what looks like crazy on an ordinary day can look like love howling if you see it in the moonlight"....this is the first cleage piece i read and it was already looking to collect all her work this was dope
Jul 06, 2012 Stacy rated it liked it
Ava is spunky and speaks her mind and that’s appealing in a main character. As she tells her story she is not afraid to admit her shortcomings (she drinks too much, she slept with too many men) and I liked that about her. I also really liked her sister who brought a real warmth to the book. Her work with teen moms moved the story along nicely and provided a real nasty antagonist. Eddie was an okay character, but he was a little too good. He didn’t seem real.

I really liked that the main character
Dec 08, 2009 Leann rated it liked it
This review is several months overdue, but here are a few thoughts.

This was a quick and interesting read, but I'm not sure that it deserves the acclaim that many readers have offered. The story is filled with lots of unrealistic drama that takes away from the very real and human story at its core. Ada's struggle as a woman recently diagnosed with HIV becomes essentially buried as a love interest, an abandoned child, delinquent teenagers, lies within the church, crack addiction, and custody issue
Sep 05, 2011 Heather rated it really liked it
Shelves: general-fiction
There are a lot of reasons to like this book -- it's well written, has great style, interesting characters, and a hopeful message. But the reason I love it and reread it regularly is because it's about hair -- women's hair and what it means and the relationship women have with the people who touch their hair. And there's other stuff too -- you know, a plot and action and drama and romance. But the parts that always move me or make me think are the parts about hair.
Dec 30, 2015 Leaguez rated it it was amazing
I would have probably read this in a day had I not got it so late. I truly enjoyed this book, like I did not want to put it down. Perfect way to start my reading off this year right. I am excited to get the next book. This is such a beautiful story about unconditional love. This book really had me smiling hard reading certain parts. No matter the extent of the obstacles, love shined it's light above it all. AMAZING!!!
Julia Grundling
Jun 24, 2014 Julia Grundling rated it really liked it
i didn't expect too much of this book, as i haven't heard anything about it before. i found it on, to which i subscribe.

and oh my - did i enjoy it - what a lovely story. i definitely want to read the second one too. the writing style is easy to read and i can totally hear and see the characters.
Jan 09, 2009 Suzanne rated it really liked it
Given my feelings towards Oprah's book club books (great writing or agenda?), I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It tackles some pretty hard issues in our culture: racism, AIDS, how people can manipulate religion to serve their own purposes, and the nature of love.
Eva Leger
Jul 20, 2008 Eva Leger rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: true crime fans
Recommended to Eva by: drugstore find
Shelves: b-fiction
I really liked this book. I bought it not knowing she came recommended from Oprah (I usually like Oprah's picks a lot) and just ended up loving it. Not a slow read by any means and I liked that it kept going without getting me bored at all.
Stacy Curry
Feb 03, 2017 Stacy Curry rated it it was amazing
Exactly the book I needed at this very moment in my life...I LOVE it when that happens!
Cherie Pearson
Feb 11, 2013 Cherie Pearson rated it it was amazing
I loved this book and everything Pearl Cleage write
Erica Johnson
Feb 16, 2015 Erica Johnson rated it it was amazing
Absolutely loved rading this book! The author writes very, very well and this story was so relatable for me. I look forward to reading more of her books.
Keisha Green
Dec 30, 2011 Keisha Green rated it really liked it
Very good read. It had all that I was looking for; humor, suspense, love, and class. I would definitely recommend this one.
Feb 14, 2014 Feliciadahousegirl6 rated it really liked it
Absolutely loved this book! Great message without being preachy. Look forward to reading her other books!
Jul 09, 2015 FreeFormLady rated it really liked it
My thoughts on this wonderful book can be found here
Dec 06, 2016 Thais rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 26, 2017 Monamichelle rated it liked it
Decent read. It was interesting to step into the shoes of a person living with HIV...but I couldn't get over the basic premise of ensuing story between a couple of the main characters (made that intentionally ambiguous to avoid spoilers). The story also got really slow at parts. But the writing is great and had a few laugh out loud points. It was more of a 3.5 for me but that's not an option so it gets a 3.
Nov 02, 2016 Robyn rated it liked it
I didn't feel like this was a book I couldn't put down, but it was an enjoyable book. There were some big jumps in the plot that I felt were a little unreasonable, and I have to say I more or less predicted what was going to happen throughout the story. It wasn't that the story or the writing was bad; I just didn't find the plot particularly gripping.
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Pearl Cleage (born December 7, 1948) is an African-American author whose work, both fiction and non-fiction, has been widely recognized. Her novel What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day was a 1998 Oprah Book Club selection. Cleage is known for her feminist views, particularly regarding her identity as an African-American woman. Cleage teaches drama at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia.

Pearl Cl
More about Pearl Cleage...

Other Books in the Series

Idlewild (2 books)
  • I Wish I Had a Red Dress (Idlewild #2)

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“If you don't annoy your big sister for no good reason from time to time, she thinks you don't love her anymore.” 79 likes
“Discomfort is always a necessary part of enlightenment.” 32 likes
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