Exclusive Excerpt: I Am Ayah: The Way Home by Donna Hill

Donna Hill has a way with words, that much is undeniable. So the wait for her next novel, I AM AYAH: THE WAY HOME, is agonizing. We’ve decided to make that wait a little more bearable. To tie you over until May 23, enjoy this exclusive excerpt!


Alessandra and Zach sat side by side on the living room couch, with Alessandra wrapped tight in a blanket and Zach’s arm looped around her as she periodically shivered against him. 

He reached next to him on the coffee table. “Here, drink this.” He held out a mug of chamomile tea. “It’ll help.” He set her breakfast plate on the table. 

She side-eyed him with skepticism. Her hands poked out from beneath the blanket and took the mug by the handle. “Thanks,” she murmured. 

She closed her eyes and let the wafting steam bathe her face. She took a sip and gave in to the soothing heat that slid down her throat and spread through her belly. 

“You wanna talk about it?” Zach gingerly probed. 

Alessandra took another sip, sighed. “I’m not even sure what to say, or where to begin.” She glanced at him with wide, sad eyes and slowly shook her head. 

“Try starting with what happened this morning.” 

She pushed out a long breath, eyed him for a moment, the remnants of Traci’s intel floating in her head. But exhaustion and simply needing a listening ear won. “You’re totally going to think I’m bonkers.”

“I’m a pretty good judge of character.” He smiled. “And you may be a lot of things, Ms. Fleming, but I don’t get the bonkers vibe.” 

Alessandra actually smiled and took another swallow of tea. “Okay…so…I got up to take a shower, and when I stepped out into the hallway…it was like I was someplace else. Like I was someone else. It was dark and I felt terrified.” She drew a shaky breath and frowned. “For a second, I swear I could smell seawater. And then it was over.” She shook her head and shivered, turned and looked at him. “See? Bonkers.” 

Zach studied her anguished expression. “Sounds to me like your mind, body, and spirit are trying to process your loss, Alessandra. The mind is an amazing organ and will do what it needs to in order to protect you.” 

Alessandra pursed her lips. “I suppose.” She glanced at him. “Makes more sense than to think I’m hallucinating.” She was thoughtful for a moment. “Ever since I was a kid, though…I felt things.” 

She swallowed, glanced warily at Zach, then looked away. “Sometimes I could feel someone’s hurt or joy or sense something was going to happen—even if I didn’t know what it was.” Her brows tightened. “I would tell my mom whenever I was feeling funny, as I called it. But my mother would tell me not to let that foolishness get the best of me, and that when I started to feel those feelings I was to put them and the people that brought them on out of my mind.” 

She licked her lips. “It was hard trying not to feel, to connect with other people…but over time, I did. I put a lid on it. I guess that’s why it’s been hard for me to stay in relationships. The idea of connecting runs me off. The fact that my only friend Traci has stuck around as long as she has is an anomaly.” She sputtered a broken laugh, dragged in a breath, and exhaled. “But…it started again—right before I left Manhattan—and got more intense when I came back here. Flashes of images, scents, dreams.” 

“Lot of sudden life changes, maybe,” Zach consoled. “Sometimes we get overwhelmed by emotions and they come out in different ways. You did say you were struggling with what to do about your exhibit,” he offered by way of an explanation. 

Alessandra slid him another side-eye. “Only thing that makes sense of the senseless, I suppose.” She stared into her cup of tea. “Besides my mom and Traci, you’re the only person I’ve ever said anything to about it,” she confessed. 

Zach regarded her for a long moment, then gently squeezed her shoulder. “Thank you for trusting me. I won’t ever dishonor that.” 

He stood. “Try to eat something,” he said, lifting his chin toward the plate. “I have some things I need to take care of. I’ll come back later to check on you.” He looked into her upturned face. “You’ll need to make plans,” he said softly. 

She swallowed. “I know.” She gave him a tight-lipped smile, then he grabbed his coat and left. 

Alessandra sighed and reached for her plate on the coffee table. She pushed the eggs and hash browns around, then took a forkful and realized just how hungry she was. 

Plans. Her heart jumped. She didn’t know where to begin or what to do. Her throat clenched. When her mom passed, her dad had taken care of the details. All she was good for back then was tears and heavy doses of guilt. She bit down on her bottom lip. Plans

She closed her eyes for a moment, tried to think. 

We wait till dark. When dey sleep. More of us den dem

Alessandra’s eyes flew open. She gripped the arm of the couch, glanced around as if expecting someone to be there. The smells of dank wood and seawater filled her nostrils. 

She leaped up from the couch as her heart pounded, nearly knocking over her plate. She blinked rapidly and tried to get a grip on what she’d heard—or thought she’d heard—but it was like steam. 

Fragile. There and then not.

Set amid Sag Harbor’s vibrant African American history, bestselling author Donna Hill weaves a stunningly rich story about finding the way home…no matter how long the journey takes.

Alessandra Fleming has spent most of her life running from her past. Her budding photography career, her life in Manhattan, all serve to distract from the secrets and guilt she’s never been able to face. Then the call. Her estranged father is in the hospital…and Alessandra must return home to Sag Harbor, crumbling the first wall between her past and her present.

For some, coming home is a relief. For Alessandra, it’s a reminder of the family she’s lost, of the time she’ll never regain. But the answers—the secrets—of her family are hidden in the house, waiting for her. And the only one who may be able to help her uncover them is her father’s neighbor, Zach, who brings with him an attraction that’s intense and instantaneous, yet oddly familiar.

Now Alessandra is being pulled back not only into her own complex family history, but into the richly documented lives of four extraordinary women. Generations touched by tragedy and triumph, despair and hope. And it’s in these aching echoes of the past that Alessandra’s own story—her mistakes and her capacity to love—will take shape, guiding her to the life she’s meant to live…and the extraordinary person she will become.

About The Author

Donna Hill has published more than seventy books spanning a long career. She is an Essence bestselling author and recipient of multiple awards, such as: The RT Career Achievement Award, the Gold Pen Award, The Trailblazer Award, and the Zora Neale Hurston Literary Award. She is an editor of novels and two award-winning anthologies. She is currently in a PhD program but received her MFAW in Creative Writing from Goddard College. She is a proud single mother and grandmother who gives back to the community and is known as a pioneer of black romance novels.

You can follow Donna on Twitter to stay up to date on the latest news.

About Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.