Story Plant hardcover

ISBN: 978-1-61188-201-8

Fiction Studio Books e-book

ISBN: 978-1-61188-202-5

Publication date: April 28, 2015

358 pages

Mary Jacob grew up as an anomaly. A child of Louisiana in the early sixties, she found little in common with most of the people in her community and in her household, and her best friend was Lavina, the black woman who cooked and cleaned for her family. Now, in the early nineties, Mary Jacob has escaped her history and established a fresh, if imperfect, life for herself in New York. But when she learns of her father's critical illness, she needs to go back home. To a disapproving father and a spiteful sister. To a town decades out of alignment with Mary Jacob's new world. To the memories of Billy Ray, Lavina's son who grew up to be a musical legend whose star burned much too bright.

And to the echoes of a fateful day three decades earlier when three lives changed forever.

A generation-spanning story both intimate and enormous in scope, Lavina is a novel rich in humanity, sharp in its indictments, and stunning in its resolution.



Mary Marcus

"Marcus (The New Me) has written a novel of weight and heart. Forthright in chronicling harrowing conditions of the era and Southern setting while not succumbing to stereotypes, she reveals the complexities of humanity and demonstrates a keen ear for the music of language in the individual voices of her characters. Lovers of The Help and civil rights–era literary fiction will enjoy this book."

– Library Journal


"Marcus’ well-crafted, highly accessible novel can readily be compared to The Help, by Kathryn Stockett (2009), for its recognition of the lot of black domestic servants. However, there is one major difference, and that is the way Marcus writes about the creative impulse. Billy Ray’s descriptions of his music making are both wondrous and joyful."
– Booklist


"Lavina is a richly nuanced journey to Louisiana during the civil rights era and contemporary times that encompasses the liberating but pain-filled emergence of R&B and rock and roll. Mary Marcus has a mystical insight into the agony and ecstasy of the creative process and the lives of performers. She also unflinchingly brings alive the insane disparity of lives of rich and poor, and black and white, and sees both the pain, the cruelty and also the love and richness of the South."

– Danny Goldberg, author of Bumping into Geniuses

“Thoughtful fiction that once again exposes the dark enigma of America's racist past and present.”
– Kirkus Reviews


Lavina is a taut simmering and thoroughly southern work of art. Prepare to lose yourself in this thrilling novel, beautifully crafted by the awesomely talented Ms. Marcus.”
– Robert Tate Miller, author of Forever Christmas

“Mary Marcus writes witty insightful novels that echo all the interesting places she's lived--New York, Los Angeles, Shreveport, Louisiana. Her work reminds somehow of Joan Didion, Mary Karr and James Elroy. Don't ask me how.”
– Claudia Dreifus, author/journalist


“The author certainly poured her heart and soul into this novel. I was drawn into the different narrative voices, but one of the most effective aspects of the book was the use of the vernacular – you can hear the characters speaking – just excellent!”
– And the Story Unfolds

“Loved, loved everything about Lavina by Mary Marcus – beautifully crafted, from the stunning front cover, the well-developed characters, setting, plot, and remarkable storytelling.”
– Must Read Books

“For anyone looking for a masterly written and beautiful packaged novel, I recommend Lavina by Mary Marcus. It’s a phenomenal read!”
– Ninovelty


“One of the most beautifully written books I've read.”
– Meanderings and Musings

“Mary Marcus does an astounding job in reaching out to the reader, bringing them into the story as if the characters themselves were sitting beside us, telling us everything that happened, seemingly interrupting each other and filling in details. It's quite an amazing novel, simple as that.”
– The Coffee Pot

“A novel that sheds light on the evils that man commits against his fellow man both historically and personally.”
– Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers


“Richly nuanced.... Very nicely crafted, Mary Marcus.”
– Crystal Book Reviews

“Mary Marcus' Lavina is a sprawling, passionate Southern Gothic nightmare which beautifully depicts the transformative power of musical creation. Billy Ray jumps from the page as a living, breathing embodiment of Louisiana's Black roots music.”

– Blake Leyh, Emmy Award-winning music supervisor of The Wire and Treme

"Lavina is one of the best books I've read in a long time. Mary Marcus gives distinctive voice to three engaging characters, bringing our compassion and sympathy to each of them as she deftly unravels their complex story of heartache, courage, and love."

– Diane Chamberlain, international bestselling author of Necessary Lies

Mary Marcus has published short fiction in North Atlantic Review, Karamu, Fiction, Jewish Women’s Literary Journal and The New Delta Review among others. Her first novel takes her deeply personal voice to a new level. Danny Goldberg, author of Bumping Into Geniuses called The New Me “Part baby-boom prose poem, part woman’s re-birth…alternately hilarious and heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful. What a cool first novel!” Moira Walley-Beckett, Writer/Co-Executive Producer of Breaking Bad said, “The New Me is funny, poignant and deftly written. It is a relatable story that beats with a pulse of a modern marriage paradigm and provides cringe-worthy moments that simultaneously delight and distress. This book made me uncomfortable in all the best ways. I couldn’t put it down.”