Tananarive Due's Novels:

Short Story Collections

Ghost Summer

Devil's Wake series

Devil's Wake

Domino Falls

African Immortals series

My Soul To Keep

The Living Blood

Blood Colony

My Soul To Take

Tennyson Hardwick


In the Night of the Heat

From Cape Town With Love

South By Southeast


Joplin's Ghost

The Good House: A novel

Freedom in the Family

The Black Rose

The Between

The Ancestors

My Soul To Keep
Harper Prism; ISBN: 006105366X

Essence Magazine

Purchase My Soul To Keep

I loved this novel... It's really big and really satisfying, an eerie epic that bears favorable comparison to "Interview With A Vampire". Ms. Due accomplishes the hardest thing of all with deceptive ease, creating characters we care about on their most human level. I read it non-stop.
- Stephen King

With this novel, author Tananarive Due proves that her debut work, The Between, was no fluke... My Soul to Keep confirms her as a standout among today's Contemporary mystery writers. And she's certainly one of the best current authors who use African-American themes in the suspense genre.

Tananarive Due keeps you reading. Her ability to weave the magic carpet of a story from the threads of her imagination–with appealing characters as the warp and easily acceptable supernatural elements as the woof–gives readers a delightfully satisfying ride. . . A page-turner of originality and intelligence. . . Take my advice: Learn how to pronounce and spell the name of one of the brightest hopes of the dark side of fiction – Tananarive Due.

One of the Best Novels of 1997

Top-flight soft-horror novel...gripping originality.
Kirkus Reviews

Harrowing and moving...A novel populated with vivid, emotional characters that is also a chilling journey to another world. 
Publishers Weekly

JESSICA IS A Miami investigative reporter with a beautiful daughter, Kira, and a husband, David, so loving, brilliant, and attentive that she calls him Mr. Perfect. Suddenly, her life takes a terrifying turn. Her best friend is brutally and mysteriously murdered and Jessica discovers an ancient, unimaginable danger that will shatter her life and family -- forever.

DAWIT is an immortal. More than four hundred years ago he and a sect of Ethiopian scholars traded their souls for eternal life. Obeying a vow of secrecy, Dawit has traveled the world as a soldier, a slave, a jazz musician -- never staying anywhere long enough for others to notice that he does not age. As further insurance, with barely a thought he kills any mortal who dares to become too curious about him. For the first time, though, it is Dawit who threatens to break his vow and defy his brothers by keeping his beloved mortal wife and child with him -- forever.

In My Soul to Keep, the worlds of Jessica and Dawit collide with harrowing, unforgettable consequences as Jessica learns firsthand the terrible price for eternal life. The newest novel by Tananarive Due, acclaimed author of The Between, it is a shocking, brilliantly plotted work of suspense and the supernatural that astonishes until the final, remarkable page.


EVEN NOW, ALONE, Dawit knew he was being watched.

One of the Searchers had found him, perhaps months before. He'd noticed a cigarette butt half buried outside the back door a week ago, his first physical clue; but other clues had been present for some time, especially his awareness, his certainty, of eyes following him. Maybe Khaldun had sent more than one.

Their methods were undoubtedly sophisticated. They may have equipped themselves with wires planted throughout his house, ears listening on his telephone line, discerning eyes intercepting his mail. He could put nothing past them. All the better, he thought. It should be clear to them that he had not betrayed the Covenant with Khaldun. He had never betrayed it. Why was mere separation always considered such a dire threat? All he wanted was peace.

Maybe they would leave him be this time.

Accidentally, scouring the house for signs of intruders–he did this daily now–Dawit unearthed the scratched, frayed clarinet case he'd hidden away in the cabinet below the bookshelf, among his papers. It had been ten years since he'd last seen the case. He opened the rusting latches and saw the fme stained-wood instrument, each section nestled in its proper indentation against the fading magenta felt, and the memories deluged him in a crystalline rush that made him take a step backward.

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His memory was so sharp that he imagined he could smell mingled cigarette and cigar smoke and illegal whiskey soaking through wooden floorboards.

ihearitspiderihearit sohotman takemehome

Dawit touched the dusty Grenadilla wood of his B-flat Laube clarinet, and his heart raced. His armpits felt pricked with perspiration. His fingers trembled as he lifted the mouthpiece from its bed and examined the cracked, dry reed. More quickly, he began to fit the instrument together.

It was Khaldun who had taught Dawit the joy of creating sounds in the House of Music, while Dawit spent those first bewildered years wondering if he really would live forever. Ten years stretched to fifty, and fifty to a hundred, and by then he knew he would be privy to delights most men would never experience. The learning!

Of all the other houses that made up his brotherhood's community–the House of Mystics, the House of Science, the House of Meditation, the House of Tongues, and the House of History–Dawit had most treasured his studies in the House of Music. The first instrument Khaldun taught him to play was a simple, monochromatic flute carved from bamboo. Next, the stringed krer, with its wondrous ability to follow any human voice. And Khaldun had collected other instruments from around the continent: Egyptian lutes, bowl lyres from the lands south of them, the beautiful stringed koru from the far west coast, Bantu trumpets made from elephant tusks. And drums, of course, of every variety.

Dawit carried the love for music that Khaldun had cultivated in him wherever he went, always finding a way to indulge it. He'd bought this clarinet from a closet-sized music shop in Chicago in 1916, in January, his first day back in the States after his last short visit home.

How long had it been since he'd played his beloved instrument? At least fifty years, perhaps longer. He'd tried to make himself forget, but now the walls of his present were collapsing around him to clear space for the past, a happy past.

He moistened the reed with his lips and tongue, then blew. The aged reed spat at him. Too brittle. Damn it to hell. He searched the case for new reeds, or at least reeds that weren't already worn out. He found two wrapped in a small cardboard box.

He put on a recording by Satchmo with his Hot Five, "Cornet Chop Suey," turning up the volume until the music seemed to hold up the walls. After a breath to steel himself, he began to play. The reed and sticky keys fought against him. He was clumsy at first, stopping and starting as his head nodded to the music's flow. He lost the beat and honked when he should have found the notes, but then it began to fit back together again. Oh man, oh man.

His fingers played under, over, and around the cornet's lead. He had it, the way he had it then, just like that one precious time when the remarkable young cornet player from Kid Creole's band appeared from nowhere, climbing up on stage with Dawit and his boys -- "Hey, lemme try this one, boys," the kid said with a wink. Then he gallantly pulled out the piano stool for Lil, his delicate-boned little wife -- and they played their hearts out, almost enough to bring tears to the others' eyes, who were just trying to keep up. "Cornet Chop Suey," the kid told them it was called. Just wrote it, he said. Wanted to try it on for size.

That kid was something else. As much as Dawit loved to play with his own boys, he began looking forward to the end of their nightly gigs. And then he wasn't ashamed, like every other true musician he knew in town, to find that kid wherever he was playing and watch him hold a club in a trance late into the night. He reminded Dawit of Khaldun, the way he drew them all around him.

Goddamn, he could go!

To go back there again and hear Louis Armstrong with his Stompers at the Everleigh Club! No, the Sunset Cafe. Nineteen twenty-seven. No one could play like Satchmo. No one.

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Playing on, Dawit heard his clarinet's smooth notes swirling around his head. His flying fingers hurt. He blew until his face was dripping.

"You go on, Spider, show these cats something."
"What 'chu call this band?"
"The Jazz Brigade. Here every Friday and Sat'day night. Place jumps."
"What's that cat's name on horn? Blowin' the stick?"
"Bandleader. Spider Tillis."
"His mama named him Spider?"
"Name of Seth Tillis. Hey, Spider! Man say we gon' make a recording!"

He knew it, he knew it, even then he knew it. The music they made was new, it was an invention of sound, an American-born hybrid; it was going to take hold of the world and not let it shake loose. From the moment he'd heard it, from the instant he'd picked up a clarinet or a saxophone or sat at a piano to imitate it, he knew it.

Seth was the name Dawit lived under then, left over from slave times. He found the name Tillis in a book -- no way he'd go by Ole Master's vile surname -- but Tillis was as agreeable as any other American name.

"How come they call him Spider?"
"Don't ask, just watch his fingers move."

He lived for that music. Lived for it. It woke him up in the mornings and would hardly let his brain go at night. For the first time in a century, he'd been happy to be alive, very nearly giddy, because the music was something fresh every time he played it. And it became something else again when the boys in his new band joined in, every voice distinct, their instruments conversing.

"Pumpkin seed, what are you doing in here?"
"Mama said I could watch you play, Daddy."


The music stopped. The record had finished, and the only sound in the room with Dawit was the overloud popping and hissing from his speakers. The noise swallowed Dawit. His hands, suddenly fumbling and feeling too big, shook around his clarinet.


She'd been at home in their apartment the whole time, she and Rufus, and his wife, Christina, while he was at the club making music. Then he'd left after the Searchers came. Just left, unquestioning, the way he'd been instructed long before, after taking his vow of Life.

And he'd killed her. Killed Rosalie. Crushed her face. Pressed the pillow hard even when her instincts willed her to fight against him to breathe. He'd killed her just as he'd killed so many before her, and would surely kill so many after.

Dawit howled and sobbed. The clarinet fell to his feet, the mouthpiece breaking loose. He nearly sank to his knees, but he lurched against the sofa and leaned against the armrest as he cried.

Were the Searchers watching him even now, in this state? Dawit, the fearless soldier, reduced to this?

The telephone rang on the coffee table beside him, and Dawit jumped. He let it ring three times, hoping that when he picked it up he would hear her voice, the voice that was his salvation.

Yes, it was her. The first word she spoke was his name, the name he'd told her, the Hebrew variation of the name his mother had given him in his first language, so long ago. She spoke it like a melody.

"David? It's me."

"Hey, baby," Dawit said.

"What's wrong? You sound awful."

"I was sleeping," he lied. He hated the lies. Everything he said or did was an utter, complete falsehood. Everything except what was in his heart, at its core. "What's up?"

"Uhm. . . there's been a development. Peter's agent has already talked to somebody who's really interested in our book."

He couldn't help pausing before he spoke. "You're kidding. That's wonderful," he said cheerfully, ignoring the vise wrapped around his chest.

His words, it seemed, had stunned her. Her end of the line was silent for a few seconds. "Really?"

"Jessica," he said, "I'm sorry for the way I've behaved. I've been an ass. There's no excuse. You're publishing a book, that's your dream, and I would be a fool not to be thrilled. I'll run to the store before school lets out to pick up some steaks for a special dinner. Does that sound good?"

She made a sound like a gasp. "Are you sure you're David Wolde? My husband? The voice is familiar, but..."

"Just hurry home. We've endured enough unhappiness in this house. It's time for a celebration." He knew he had found the right things to say. He wanted so much to be sincere in sharing her elation that he'd nearly fooled himself. She deserved happy words. She deserved all he could say and more.

"David, I love you," Jessica said.

Dawit closed his eyes. The vise, for that instant, was gone.

Copyright ©1997 by Tananarive Due

Discussion Questions :

Ultimately, in your view, what is this novel really about?

Would immortality be a blessing or a curse?

What was Jessica’s biggest mistake in the course of this novel?

What was David’s biggest mistake in the course of this novel?

How are real-life relationships mirrored in the relationship between Jessica and David? How often do we ignore what we don’t want to see?

Is David capable of true love as we know it?

What role, if any, does Jessica’s Christian faith play in this novel?

At one point, the ghost of Jessica’s father tells her, “There are no good monsters.” Is this true? Is David a monster?

Are there any evil characters in this novel? In what ways does this novel make you question your concepts of “good” and “evil”?

Discuss the use of Christ’s blood in the mythology of the immortal Life Brothers. Should this notion trouble Christians? Why/why not?

How would you be living your life differently if you were an immortal?

What do you think of the separatist philosophy of the Life Colony? Is the Living Blood being wasted?

Who is most responsible for the tragic death in the Louisiana motel room?

Should Jessica have given Kira the injection of blood? Why/why not? Why didn’t she?

If you were Jessica, how would you have behaved when David arrived in South Africa at the end of the book? What, if anything, should she have done differently?

In what ways, if any, had Jessica changed by the end of this book?

In what ways, if any, had David changed by the end of this book?

©2011 Tananarive Due