I have loved reading this book. In the last few weeks it’s felt as if I haven’t been able to stop, but each time I picked Alice Walker’s collection of short stories, I felt as if time was suspended and I was transported completely to heat of the Southern America.
Alice Walker, in In Love and Trouble tells us stories of black women living in the rural American South. They are a mix of the strange, the devastatingly sad and totally delightful. They are brief, yet deep. In just a few lines, Walker drops you into someone’s life and you feel as if you had been a fly on the wall all along.
Flipping back through the pages, I would find it difficult to pick a favourite story, but to give you a feel for them I will highlight a handful.
Her Sweet Jerome is the story of a woman who falls in love with a studious school teacher. Handsome and ten years younger than her, she desires him so much that she won’t rest until “I were Mr and Mrs Jerome Franklin Washington the Third, and that’s the truth!”. But after she gets her wish, she becomes suspicious of his behaviour. Though she supports him financially and lavishes him with beautiful things, the relationship is troubled. She lacks his “eddicashion” and is conscious of the fact and that she is older. He has no respect for her, beating her black and blue whenever she opens her mouth. She believes that he is cheating on her in some way and in desperation, rifles through his clothes and belongings until dramatically she discovers that what he is being distracted by is to her even more devastating than she could have guessed.
In The Child who Favoured Daughter, an angry father sits on his watch awaiting the return of his teenage daughter. Memories from the past, of a white man damaging his dearest sister whose face, his daughter resembles haunt him. Discovering love letters from his daughter to her love – a “white devil” – a dark and destructive jealous fury wells up within him and he viciously takes his anger out on the girl that he loves.
To Hell With Dying is the final story in the collection and describes the love of a little girl for family friend, Mr Sweet. A troubled man, but kind and charming Mr Sweet plays with the children and plays them songs, sometimes happy and sometimes melancholy on his steel guitar. A drunk and a diabetic Mr Sweet’s ailing health leave him laid out and the children are called to bring him back from the dead numerous times with tickles and kisses. Later, the little girl who narrates the story has grown up and left for university but drops everything to run back home to Mr Sweet one last time.
Walker manages to paint heavy and conflicted human emotions with a light brush. She roots the reader firmly in the sense of time and place, demonstrating a turning point where young people are struggling against prejudice and also the deep seated anger of a previous generation scarred by racism. I consumed each of these unique stories slowly, and as a collection they left me feeling totally satisfied. The richness and vitality of Walker’s writing makes this book an utter pleasure to read.