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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

ReShonda Tate Billingsley’s #1 national bestselling novels include Let the Church Say Amen, I Know I’ve Been Changed, and Say Amen, Again, winner of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work.Her collaboration with Victoria Christopher Murray has produced three hit novels, Sinners & Saints, Friends & Foes, and Fortune & Fame. Visit ReShondaTateBillingsley.com, meet the author on Facebook at ReShondaTateBillingsley, or follow her on Twitter @Reshondat.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1

"Ain't nothing open at two in the morning but legs and liquor stores!" LaShawanna Jenkins wiggled her neck as she thrust a finger up in the air. Her golden braids swung from side to side like they were doing a sultry salsa dance. "And since he didn't come home drunk, you know where he was!"

Darius Jenkins's lip turned up as he fought back a smile.

"See, he thinks it's funny!" LaShawanna snapped. She threw her hands up in exasperation. "Your Honor, he got me messed up 'cuz I ain't the one." She cut her eyes at her husband of six years. "I told him, one mo' time. Just one mo' time and it was over. I guess he don't believe fat meat is greasy."

Judge Vanessa Colton-Kirk sighed as she gazed at the file in front of her. Every day, it was the same thing. Some couple who was once madly in love could no longer stand the sight of each other and came before her seeking a divorce.

Vanessa flipped through the stack of papers. Five kids. No assets. LaShawanna worked at a grocery store. Darius worked as an auto mechanic. Same story, different couple. Vanessa looked up from her papers. "So, Mrs. Jenkins, what is it that you are requesting?"

"I want out. And I want you to make him pay child support and alimony," LaShawanna barked. "And I want him to pay for my statue, which he broke when I put him out. That was my grandma's statue."

"It was a freakin' rooster, Your Honor," Darius said with a smirk.

"So? It was my rooster!" LaShawanna screamed.

Vanessa slammed down her gavel. "Please! Both of you, just be quiet." She turned toward LaShawanna. "Mrs. Jenkins, Texas is a non-alimony state, so I can't award your request for alimony. I will, however, order that Mr. Jenkins pay fourteen hundred dollars a month in child support."

"Fourteen hundred dollars!" Darius cried. "I ain't got that kind of money!"

Vanessa looked down at the folder again. "It says here that you bring home roughly twenty-four hundred dollars a month."

"I do, but how am I supposed to live?" he huffed.

Vanessa struggled to maintain her composure. She got so tired of these men who came through her courtroom and didn't want to pay child support. "Mr. Jenkins, if you don't pay to support your five children, who do you suppose will?" she asked, putting her hands underneath her chin.

The smirk was definitely gone from his face now. "Man, this is messed up." He groaned, running his hand over his immaculately braided hair. "I don't even know if Darianna and Demarcus are mine."

"No, you didn't!" LaShawanna shouted. "You know doggone well them your kids!"

Darius folded his arms across his chest. "I don't know nothing."

Vanessa took a deep breath and reminded herself that she had to endure this divorce court craziness in order to climb the ladder of her political career. "Mr. Jenkins, how old are Darianna and Demarcus?"

"Seven and nine."

"And did you not sign the birth certificate?"

"That's beside the point."

"I'm afraid it's not." Vanessa began signing the necessary paperwork to close out this case. "You have taken care of Darianna and Demarcus, along with your other three children, since their births. You have maintained that you were their father since birth." She set her pen down and looked up. "So as far as the courts are concerned, you are the father of each and every one of them. My order stands at fourteen hundred dollars a month."

"Yeah!" LaShawanna sang as she did a victory dance. "That's what you get. Tell your little bimbo that y'all gon' have to make do on a thousand dollars a month. 'Cuz the minute you're late, I'ma have your sorry butt thrown in jail!"

"Mrs. Jenkins!" Vanessa snapped.

LaShawanna covered her mouth, though she was still delighted. "I'm sorry, Your Honor."

Vanessa shook her head. "Whatever," she mumbled. "Divorce is granted."

She pounded her gavel one more time as she stood, grabbed her folders, and headed back to her chambers.

Her secretary, Nicole, was waiting right outside her office. She had a folded-up newspaper clutched in her hand. "Judge Colton-Kirk, here's the article I was telling you about." She held the paper out toward Vanessa. "It's an awesome article. Everyone around the courthouse is talking about it."

Vanessa smiled as she took the Houston Defender. She had done the interview with the Defender reporter two weeks ago, but she had no idea it was going to be an entire five-column profile. " 'Houston Judge Is Heading Places,' " she recited, reading the headline.

"And it even has a quote in there from Judge Malveaux, talking about what a great judge you are and how you have such a promising future," Nicole excitedly said.

Vanessa was shocked. She and Judge Malveaux didn't see eye to eye on a lot of things, so she was surprised that he would go on record as saying something positive about her. She tucked the paper under her arm. "Thanks, Nicole. I'll read it when I get a moment."

Nicole smiled in admiration before making her way back to her desk.

As much as Vanessa loved her job as the judge of Houston's infamous Divorce Court Number Three, these people could work her nerves. Before the Jenkinses, she'd fielded a couple who had tried a ménage à trois and the wife had ended up falling for the other woman her husband brought in. Yesterday, it was an Anna Nicole wannabe who'd married a man old enough to be her grandfather and divorced him a year later, taking half his money. His family had been furious, but the law was the law, and the law said she was entitled to half.

"Well, I see you've destroyed yet another marriage."

Vanessa walked into her office and threw the folders on her desk, which was covered with a stack of files that all needed her immediate attention. "Hello to you, too, Aunt Ida."

Ida was sitting in the chair in front of Vanessa's large mahogany desk. She wore her usual conservative lace-collared dress and pearls, and her small-framed black glasses were perched on the edge of her nose. Her curly gray hair poked out from under her Sunday-best hat, which she wore proudly even though it was just Thursday. Her Bible, which she never went anywhere without, sat prominently on her lap.

"Don't hello me. You should've made them children go to counseling or something. That's what's wrong with young folks these days, don't want to work at nothing. Just want to throw in the towel at the first sign of trouble." She sighed heavily.

Sweeping the hem of her black robe to one side, Vanessa sat down behind her desk and smiled at her great-aunt. Ida Mae Colton had been like a mother to Vanessa since her own parents died in a fire when she was six years old. Her grandparents had died years before, and Aunt Ida -- her grandmother's youngest sister -- was the only one who could take in Vanessa and her two sisters, Rosolyn and Dionne.

"Auntie, I've told you before, I don't destroy marriages." Vanessa opened up a drawer and pulled out a small mirror. She gazed at her reflection, taking note of a gray hair that was sprouting at the top of her hairline. Her flawless caramelcolored skin made people think she was a lot younger than her thirty-five years. "I simply preside over their breakups," she continued, plucking the offending hair out.

"Umphh. You the one with all the power. Seems like to me you can make them stay together," Ida grumbled.

"That's absurd." Satisfied, Vanessa placed the mirror back in the drawer. "I can't make anyone stay together."

"I know you can't make them, but you can encourage them. They need Jesus." Aunt Ida reached over and picked up one of the folders to fan her robust frame.

Vanessa laughed as she stuck her hand out for her aunt to give her the folder. "That's your answer to everything, Aunt Ida."

Ida, ignoring the outstretched hand, kept fanning. "It sure is. There ain't no other answer. That's why these marriages today ain't working, 'cuz folks ain't got Jesus at the center of their marriage."

Aunt Ida was the most religious person Vanessa had ever met. But all her years of forcing Vanessa to go to church -- not to mention the shady things that went on at some of these churches -- had only turned Vanessa off. Now she didn't go unless she was making a personal appearance or it was an election year.

"So, are you ready to go?" Vanessa asked.

Ida stood, finally setting the folder back on the desk. "You can try to shush me all you want, but you know I'm telling you the truth."

"Mmm-hmm," Vanessa said as she stood and slipped out of her robe. She brushed a piece of lint off of her crisp navy Dana Buchman suit. "What time do you have to be at the doctor's office?"

"At four. And I could've gone by myself. I don't need an escort."

"I want to go, because it's the only way I can be sure you'll go." Ida had scared everyone after a mild heart attack last year. But she'd pulled through it, and Vanessa and her sisters had vowed to make sure she took care of herself: they took turns taking her to the doctor.

Vanessa glanced at her watch. "Let's get going. I have a reception at six."

"Reception? Isn't today your anniversary?"

Vanessa nodded as she reached for her purse. "Yes, and Thomas has called a hundred times, telling me to make sure I'm home at a decent hour because he has a special night planned."

"Don't sound so excited," Ida mumbled as she walked to the door. "You'd think a woman celebrating her five-year anniversary would be more enthusiastic."

Vanessa swung her crocodile Hermès purse over her shoulder. "It's not that. I just know he's going to start in on me about kids again, and I'm tired of that argument."

"I don't understand why you haven't given that boy any babies yet." Ida shook her head in amazement.

This was a sore point between them, and Vanessa was tired of Ida harping on it, too. "I keep telling you, the time just isn't right."

"The time will never be right, let you tell it."

Vanessa gently pushed her aunt out of the office. "Let's go." She didn't want to have this discussion with I... --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books (July 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781416521679
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416521679
  • ASIN: 1416521674
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #892,500 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I am a former news reporter and anchor, who now writes books full-time. I'm the author of twenty-seven books and a mother to three. My sophomore novel, Let the Church Say Amen, has been made into a movie, directed by actress Regina King and produced by Queen Latifah's Flava Unit, Royal Ties Productions and Bobcat Films. (Oh, and I do make my film debut as well! Look for me in the church scene!)Honored to have won the 2012 NAACP Image Award for Say Amen, Again. I'm also a proud University of Texas at Austin graduate. Not only do I love writing, I love reading almost as much!

Customer Reviews

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I recommend you buy this book and settle in for a good summer read.
Amazon Customer
I literally read this book within two days because it was so good it was difficult to put down.
Book Lover
I would like to congratulate ReShonda Tate Billingsley on a job well done.
Urban Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Angelia Menchan on July 4, 2008
Format: Paperback
On the surface, the Colton sisters all seem to have perfect lives. They are a close-knit family led by matriarch, Aunt Ida and her bible. Vanessa Colton-Kirk is married to Thomas Kirk and is living a fabulous life on the way to becoming a judge. Rosolyn is happily married to her pastor husband and the mother of a young son. The youngest sister, Dionne, is not quite sure what she wants to do with her life but one thing she is certain of is her love for Roland. Can I Get a Witness by ReShonda Tate Billingsley gives us an inside look at the lives of these sisters, showing that things are not always what they seem.

Vanessa is thirty-five and wants nothing more than to become a judge. However, Thomas wants to be a father more than anything and is tired of waiting for Vanessa to make a decision about motherhood. More than anything he is tired of waiting for her to make him and their life a priority. Thomas makes a decision that could potentially alter their lives forever, causing them both to make decisions that change the direction of their future.

On the surface, Rosolyn appears to have the perfect life. She has been happily married to her pastor husband, Henry for years. They have a young son and everything indicates they are living a spirit-filled life with no trials and tribulations. Dionne and Vanessa are stunned to discover that their seemingly perfect sister has been hiding a secret for years. The question becomes will her revelation help them with their lives?

Dionne is head over heels is love with Roland, though she know he is still married. She is convinced that once he is divorced they will be married. Dionne is convinced she and Roland will be together but a hasty decision she makes in anger may come back to haunt her.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By D. S. Little on December 31, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book was amazing! I had the pleasure of reading this novel for a joint book club meeting in which the author was present. The book had my attention from beginning to end and was so real in dealing with issues that I could not put it down. No character was perfect and the plot was something we see everyday.

In meeting the author she was so pleasant and hilarious. She is truly a woman with a good heart and she has a loyal reader for life now. I recommend this book because while enjoying the characters you do learn about the power of forgiveness, fighting for your marriage, and the age old tale "What goes around comes around..." Enjoy like I did.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Purple Passion 802 on August 30, 2012
Format: Paperback
This book will bless everyone that reads it. What happens when a divorce judge decides to divorce her own husband? The twists and turns will keep the reader's attention from beginning to end. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to my fellow avid readers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Reviewed by Misty Irby on December 16, 2008
Format: Paperback
The Regal Sisterhood Book Club selected "Can I Get A Witness" for our October 2008 read. As usual, ReShonda gave us plenty of material to talk about during our meeting. ReShonda is a master storyteller with an awesome imagination. How in the world does she think of these things? After meeting ReShonda in person, It is so easy to see her in so many of her characters. This is an awesome read with numerous twists and turns. You won't be able to put it down and will find yourself laughing and crying with the characters. Put on your seatbelt and get ready for a ReShonda Ride!

* The views expressed in this review are purely for informational purposes, provided by The Regal Sisterhood Book Club - Dallas. We don't claim to be professional reviewers, nor do we feel the need to be published authors, in order to express our opinions. We are merely readers who recognize quality literary material. Our comments are not meant to offend or ostracize anyone. We wish all authors the best success in their chosen field.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on February 3, 2013
Format: Paperback
This is my first time reading a book by ReShonda Tate Billingsley and I must say I am hooked!! I started this book as part of a reading challenge and I knew that it would be completely different than what I am used to. But it had the drama I craved without the cursing and sex. Can't beat that with a stick!

Vanessa is a divorce judge who puts her career before her husband. After missing their Anniversary dinner for work, her husband Thomas is fed up and leaves. Vanessa's younger sister Dionne is in love with the idea of being married and believes her boyfriend of over a year is the one for her. Both women are incredibly hurt by the betrayal that they eventually find out occurred in their relationships. One is hellbent on being done, while the other fights to keep her relationship.

In the midst of it all, they can't see that God has a better plan for them. All they have to do is open their eyes and hearts to it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 23, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was a really good book. I dont know when I bought it but for some reason I decided to read it a coupe days ago and I couldn't put it down. I loved the message I got from it as well!!
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By D. Dalton on November 17, 2008
Format: Paperback
Can I Get A Witness hits the floor running. Ms. Billingsley does a good job of throwing the reader into the story and you find yourself feeling for the characters and caring about what happens in their lives. The plot and character development are both thorough but it seems a bit too short and slightly rushed at times. When I finished the last page I found myself wishing certain points of the book were longer.

The story revolves around the lives of three sisters and the struggles they go through to cope with their relationships. The sisters are helped along by their Aunt Ida with her the well intended, sarcastic yet funny at times comments and advice. Aunt Ida raised them and encourages them to include God in their relationships.

Vanessa is a divorce-court judge whose marriage has been in trouble for a long time. Unfortunately, Vanessa was totally unaware of their marital problems, leaving her unprepared for the crazy ride she will have to take while dealing with her husband Thomas and his mistress.

Dionne, the youngest and brattiest of the sisters, whole life revolves around getting married before age 30. During her quest to find a husband, Dionne finds Roland; a not yet divorced man with doggish tendencies... which only the beginning of her troubles. Dionne has lots of growing up to do and doesn't seem to actually figure this out until it's almost too late.

Rosalyn, the eldest sisters, is the most level headed. With a happy marriage to a minister and a son - she comes off as the perfect sister with the perfect life. She is spiritually in tune with herself and seeks to help her sisters through their issues. But, she too has some drama of her own.

This book is a very fast read with strong characters. A story line that is crazy, funny, and serious. Ms. Billingsley delivers serious lessons with humor and care. I even found myself speaking out loud a few times at the audacity of some of the characters! A must read.
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