Sunday, April 12, 2009

Four Spirits by Sena Jeter Naslund

From the web: Weaving together the lives of blacks and whites, racists and civil rights advocates, and the events of peaceful protest and violent repression, Sena Jeter Naslund creates a tapestry of American social transformation at once intimate and epic.

In Birmingham, Alabama, twenty-year-old Stella Silver, an idealistic white college student, is sent reeling off her measured path by events of 1963. Combining political activism with single parenting and night-school teaching, African American Christine Taylor discovers she must heal her own bruised heart to actualize meaningful social change. Inspired by the courage and commitment of the civil rights movement, the child Edmund Powers embodies hope for future change. In this novel of maturation and growth, Naslund makes vital the intersection of spiritual, political, and moral forces that have redefined America.

This was a difficult book for me to get into. I started it back in February and here it is April and I have just finished it. Naslund changes the narrators' viewpoint with each chapter - one chapter is told from the view of Stella, the idealistic young white girl, the next from the Klan member's wife, then the shy young black girl, and so on. The character that seemed to dominate the first half of the book was Stella the young idealistic white girl. When I went back and reread it at the end, I didn't get that same impression. Perhaps she just seemed more prominent to me at first because she is most like me and was thus easiest to understand.

The book really turned for me when Stella starts teaching at the night school and begins to forge some relationships with her black students and co-workers. That was when it really became interesting and I wanted to keep reading rather than set it aside so easily. I shed tears for the injustice and the violence - Naslund brought the time period to life. As much as Naslund did a good job of bringing the era to life, she also had some very strange passages that seemed so dreamlike they were almost hallucinogenic - those added nothing for me and just confused me. Overall the book was good but not a favorite. I enjoyed it enough that if her other book, the more well-known, "Ahab's Wife" dropped in my lap, I would give it a try.

This is one of the books on my list for the Spring Reading Thing 2009. Click on the logo to see the rest of my list.

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