REASON READ: Banned Book (Woohoo!), Colorful Reading Challenge
PUBLISHER: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
GENRE: Fiction, African-American Fiction
DEAR HALF-BAKED FRIENDS OF THE FCC: Got it from the library.
RATING: 4.5 Stars
Book Summary: Celie is a poor black woman whose letters tell the story of 20 years of her life, beginning at age 14 when she is being abused and raped by her father and attempting to protect her sister from the same fate, and continuing over the course of her marriage to "Mister," a brutal man who terrorizes her. Celie eventually learns that her abusive husband has been keeping her sister's letters from her and the rage she feels, combined with an example of love and independence provided by her close friend Shug, pushes her finally toward an awakening of her creative and loving self.
Feelings on the Book: The Color Purple is a story of suffering, a story of violence, a story of love, a story of sexuality, a story of family, a story of finding one's self.
I found the character of Celie to be immediately lovable. I wanted to hug her and be her friend and take her away from the abusive Mr. _____ (this is actually what he is called in the book). I cheered for her when she met Shug and cried for her when her world fell apart again. Then I nearly cried tears of joy for her when her life came back together again. So, yeah, I was emotional reading this. It is an emotional rollercoaster of a book.
What I Liked:
- The characters were well-developed and three-dimensional. You could picture each of them even if, like me, you had not seen the movie yet. (Although I couldn't help picturing Oprah as Celie just because I knew she played the part.)
- There was the main story of Celie going through the joys and trials of her life, but there were also several side stories that were well-developed but that did not compete for attention with the main plot line.
- I liked that I identified with Celie. I may not have been raped or had to give away my children or been in love with a woman, but I completely adored the way she thought. I identified with her emotions- her heart breaking over a lost love, her grief over her sister, her complacency when she was abused, her resoluteness after she realized she was better than that and got the hell out of that situation, her effort to always make the best out of a situation.
- I felt there was a lack of transition from Celie's letters to God to the letters to and from Nettie. For the first like half of the book they were almost all letters to God and centered on Celie's life. When Celie discovers Mr. _____ had hidden Nettie's letters from her, all of the sudden there are a hundred pages on just Nettie's life in Africa as Celie reads her letters. It felt very abrupt and went on for so long that I almost became disinterested in the story. It wasn't that Nettie wasn't interesting, because that story line was, it was just I wish there had been more about Celie mixed in with those letters. It's like I missed her during that part of the book.
- There are somewhat graphic scenes of violence, including rape, incest, physical abuse and the aftermath.
- There is a lot of sexuality in the book. There are several relationships written about- marriages, incest, rape, affairs, consensual sex, and a lesbian relationship.
- There is a lot about religion in the book- whether God is real, whether God is male or female or neither, whether he can or will do anything to help the situations presented, what church is or is not, Celie's sister Nettie goes to Africa as a missionary, Celie addresses a lot of her letters to God, especially at the beginning. If you are a member of the conservative "God doesn't approve of lesbians" train, then this book is probably not for you. But I loved that viewpoint and admire Walker for writing it in a time when homosexuality was not widely accepted, much less that lesbians could be Christians. You rock, Alice Walker.
- Walker does not ease into these controversial topics but hits you with it immediately on page one so be prepared for that. Of course, for me, it grabbed my attention right away and enticed me to keep reading. But other readers may not like that the hard-hitting stuff is immediate and lasts for the duration.
Have you read and reviewed this book? Please leave me a comment with the link and I will add it to the post!