The debut novel from Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks is a gutsy, funny, tragic and completely original work for fans of William Faulkner and Alice Walker. In the 1950s, in a small southern town in the US, the Beedes are the lowest of the low. Always struggling, they remain shackled by poverty and their own lack of ambition. ...
The debut novel from Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks is a gutsy, funny, tragic and completely original work for fans of William Faulkner and Alice Walker. In the 1950s, in a small southern town in the US, the Beedes are the lowest of the low. Always struggling, they remain shackled by poverty and their own lack of ambition. Everyone, but sixteen-year-old Billie Beede. Billy Beede has big ideas about her life. She's had the Beede misfortune to get pregnant by an itinerant coffin salesman. And when he proves to have a wife and seven kids in another town, she determines to try her luck elsewhere. The answer seems to be in the hem of her mother's dress, her mother who died ten years ago. The rumour is that Willa Mae - a Billie Holiday look-alike - was the only Beede who made good, and was buried with a pearl necklace and a diamond ring sewn into the hem of her dress. Billie - and all her relatives - aim to get their hands on this treasure and make something of themselves. What follows is a mad road trip that evokes shades of Faulkner - in its potent earthiness - but also has the approachability and warmth of novels like The Colour Purple. This is a fantastic debut novel from an accomplished and well-loved American playwright.
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Getting Mother's Body along with ZZ Packer's Drinking Coffee Elsewhere are two of the freshest, most exciting works of African American fiction that I have come across in years. They're also two of the best books I've bought this year. Both books (Packer's is a collection of short stories) eschews the common girlfriends/black-men-are-no-good themes of most comtemporary black writers like McMillan and shy away from more cerebral and metaphorical themes like Morrison or Walker. Instead this is straight forward fiction meant to entertian that just so happens to have black main characters. Getting Mother's Body, like McMillan's Day Late and a Dollar Short, is told from the POV of several characters with the purposeful use of bad grammar. Although some grammatical purists may find it difficult to get into the novel for that reason, I felt it lent an honest and real voice to the characters. Not everyone says "are not" instead of "ain't" or "going to" instead of "gonna". Personally, I found the purposeful use of bad grammar more difficlut to follow in McMillan's Day Late... than Getting Mother's Body. I won't go into the particulars of the novel as so many others have. What I will say is that this is a breezy, fast and fun read. Parks is a vivid storyteller and her images scroll across your mind like a well paced movie. Pick this up and see for yourself. Pure, unadulterated fun.
Jun 1, 2007
A play in novel form
Really reads like a play. Close your eyes and imagine each chapter/speaker standing on stage bathed in a spotlight, while the remaining characters share the stage unlit. Up light, down light, up light and so on. Interesting characters, mostly predictable plot turns, but not dull. I thought it was a quick read, but don't try it in multiple sittings. Really best read in a few large chunks.
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