A lost midcentury classic--the farcical misadventures of a queer Black teen sharing a house with two adoptive mothers, a lascivious cook, and a reticent ghost.
In a small Michigan town, in the late 1950s, the widow Etta Klein--wealthy and Jewish--has for more than thirty years relied for aid, comfort, and companionship on her Black housekeeper Harriet Gibbs. Between "Aunt Harry" and Etta, a relationship has developed that is closer than a friendship, yet not quite a marriage. They are inseparable, at once absurdly unequal and defined by a comic codependence.
Forever mourning the early death of her favorite son, Sargent, Etta has all but adopted Aunt Harry's nephew, the precocious, gay seventeen-year-old Oliver, who has been raised by both women. Oliver is facing down his departure to college--and fending off the advances of Etta's cook, Nella Mae--when the household is disrupted by the arrival of a self-proclaimed "warlock," one Maurice LeFleur, who has convinced Etta and Harry that he might be able to contact Sargent in the afterlife . . . Ladies of the Rachmaninoff Eyes
was the debut of the extraordinary Henry Van Dyke, whose witty and outrageous novels look back to the sparkling, elaborate comedies of Ronald Firbank and forward to postmodern burlesques like Fran Ross's Oreo
. There is nothing else quite like them in American fiction.