The Rivers of Eros, set on the South Side of Chicago in 1971, is the story of Clotilda Pilgrim and her efforts to protect her grandchildren and to help them achieve happy and successful lives. It is also the story of her inability to understand herself or to cope with the difficulties of her own life. Clotilda is a middle-class widow who sews and takes in boarders to earn a living for herself and her grandchildren, Adeline (Addie) and Lester. Clotilda lives with an ever-present sense of guilt and responsibility for the tragedy that took her daughter’s life and that may destroy the lives of her grandchildren.
As a young woman, Clotilda seduced her sister Pearl’s husband, Chester, and had a daughter by him. Years later, this daughter, Ruby, was violently murdered by her husband, Zack Parker. Zack had mistakenly believed that Ruby was having an affair with Sonny Greenlee, a mechanic who worked in his garage. Addie, a young child at the time, witnessed the murder. She is plagued by nightmares and refuses to talk about her mother.
Clotilda is determined to shield her grandchildren from violence and despair. She has problems dealing with Addie, however, because she is afraid to discipline her granddaughter. Addie is headstrong, defiant, and searching for excitement in her life. She finds it with Dunreith Smith, the married brother of her friend Thelma. Dunreith, who has grown up on the streets, is an alcoholic, a drug user, and a womanizer who is often in trouble with...
(The entire section is 613 words.)