Toni Morrison's first novel, The Bluest Eye (1970), was acclaimed as the work of an important talent, written--as John Leonard said in "The New York Times" --in a prose "so precise, so faithful to speech and so charged with pain and wonder that the novel becomes poetry."
Her new novel has the same power, the same beauty.
At its center--a friendship between two women, a friendship whose intensity first sustains, then injures. Sula and Nel--both black, both smart, both poor, raised in a small Ohio town--meet when they are twelve, wishbone thin and dreaming of princes.
Through their girlhood years they share everything--perceptions, judgments, yearnings, secrets, even crime--until Sula gets out, out of the Bottom, the hilltop neighborhood where beneath the sporting life of the men hanging around the place in headrags and soft felt hats there hides a fierce resentment at failed crops, lost jobs, thieving insurance men, bug-ridden flour...at the invisible line that cannot be overstepped.
Sula leaps it and roams the cities of America for ten years. Then she returns to the town, to her friend. But Nel is a wife now, settled with her man and her three children. She belongs. She accommodates to the Bottom, where you avoid the hand of God by getting in it, by staying "upright, " helping out at church suppers, asking after folks--where you deal with evil by surviving it.
Not Sula. As willing to feel pain as to give pain, she can never accommodate. Nel can't understand her any more, and the others never did. Sula scares them. Mention her now, and they recall that she put her grandma in an old folks' home (the old lady who let a train take her leg for the insurance)...that a childdrowned in the river years ago...that there was a plague of robins when she first returned...
In clear, dark, resonant language, Toni Morrison brilliantly evokes not only a bond between two lives, but the harsh, loveless, ultimately mad world in which that bond is destroyed, the world of the Bottom and its people, through forty years, up to the time of their bewildered realization that even more than they feared Sula, their pariah, they needed her.
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I'm brousing the review guide for SULA found on the Oprah site...
(7) Characterize the novel…
Storytelling from the elders with an interpretive narrator who studies those peoples conditions. Where you can find a numbers runner or a peculiar happening, only you feel it. There is no physical morsel to play with. One decade fly’s by from a wedding to a bird bath.
Sula and Nel become friends and later seem to be each other’s alter egos.
How does Nel’s decision to marry inform Sula’s life?
How does Sula leaving influence Nel? (6)
Page (79-85) The Wedding Episode!
The couple was having a fabulous wedding, considering the options. Their ceremony was favored with a reverent blessing; being good folk had rewards. He was a man eligible to choose between many young women. Nel’s submissive character he felt was suitable to his ego. The marriage episode was separation brought on by initiation. Sula handled the arrangements for Nel. When Nel was dancing with Jude at the wedding reception the blue dress faded from the woman in white. Sula left and remained gone for a decade.
Jude recognized Sula as her adventurous friend. Nel was a person of order, loyalty was expected, glorified. He needed someone to understand his man experience. Jude felt the Black man should be considered. Dancing around in the summertime heat the reception helped them to fell close enough to be intimate. “For the first time that day they relaxed and looked at each other, and liked what they saw.”
“Nel’s response to Jude’s shame and anger selected her away from Sula. “And greater than her friendship was this new feeling of being needed by someone who saw her singly.”. She didn’t even know she had a neck until Jude remarked on it, or that her smile was anything but the spreading of her lips until he saw it as a small miracle.
Sula was no less excited about the wedding. “She thought it was the perfect thing to do following their graduation from general school.” She wanted to be the bridesmaid. No others. And she encouraged Mrs. Wright to go all out, even to borrowing Eva’s punch bowl. In fact, she handled most of the details very efficiently, capitalizing on the fact that most people were anxious to please her since she had lost her mama only a few years back and they still remembered the agony in Hannah’s face and the blood on Eva’s.”
Page 103-104 Jude came home from work with an attitude and his wife is weary and wary yet Sula is indignant talking about love. Jude’s opinion was that she had a lot of lip and a lot of mouth; only you could get to feeling burdened.
“Colored women worry themselves into bad health just trying to hang on to your cuffs. Even … And if that ain’t enough, you love yourselves. Nothing in this world loves a black man more than another black man! You hear of solitary white men, but niggers? Can’t stay away from one another a whole day. So! It looks to me like you the envy of the world.”
Jude and Nel laughed out loud, while he thought on why she wasn’t married. Jude recognized Sula’s womanize as not enviable, more matter of fact. The characters take an inward view of themselves based on morality and the predicament they created and then nurtured. Nell sees no need to be bothered with either friend, they become estranged. However, these are binding relationships.
Quotations of Betrayal “The closed place in the water spread before them.” What is death but loss or a secret kept forever between friends?
Their conversation is easy. Every word is kin to the gospel. These people are similar in humor. They daydreamed from an early age. Jude becomes Sula’s cross to bear. They disappointed Nell, her best friends. Page 111 seen as a muse on loyalty.
And what am I supposed to do with these old thighs now, just walk up and down these rooms? What good are they, Jesus? They will never give me the peace I need to get from sunup to sundown, what good are they, are you trying to tell me that
teeUser Review - Veronica M. - Overstock.com
This passionate work of art takes you to a place of sorrow pain sadness and joy a must read. Read full review