REVIEW: “In Love and Trouble” by Alice Walker

In Love and Trouble

Alice Walker
Harcourt Inc., 2001

CHALLENGE(S): GLBT Challenge (mini)

Finished 27 Feb 2010.

Because this is a book of short stories rather than a novel itself, I thought I’d take notes as I read and give a little mini-review of each story. While there were a few I disliked or was confused by, for the most part I really enjoyed Walker’s writing and will look forward to reading some more books by her in the future.

Roselily

I love the way Walker inter-spliced the wedding vows with the narrative on this one; it added an interesting level of meaning to the story. However, I found it a little confusing at first, as it doesn’t seem to take place in a present, as such; it’s more like an internal monologue, which I wasn’t expecting. 3/5

Really, Doesn’t Crime Pay?

Okay, while Roselily may not have struck me with any force, this story definitely did. Perhaps, because the main character is also a writer, I felt for her as I didn’t for Roselily – I don’t know. I loved the way this was set out, with the time being measured both in years and in page count, and I loved the voice of the narrator. In particular, these sections particularly moved me (note: not safe for work):

“After that, a miracle happened. Under Mordecai’s fingers my body opened like a flower and carefully bloomed. And it was stange as well as wonderful. For I don’t think love had anything to do with this at all.” (p.17)

“Last night while Ruel snored on his side of the bed I washed the prints of his hands off my body. Then I plugged in one of his chain saws and tried to slice off his head. This failed because of the noise. Ruel woke up right in the nick of time.” (p.21)

What strikes me is the gentle rhythm of the writing style, and the way each character has a clear, distinct voice; it is both vivid and lyrical. Plus that second quote is a wonderful mixture of humour and tragedy that’s really tricky to pull off. Great stuff. 5/5

Her Sweet Jerome

Oh my. This one was dark; I both hated and felt sorry for the protagonist at the same time. I’m not sure that I can exactly say I enjoyed it, but it certainly caught at my emotions. 3/5

The Child Who Favoured Daughter

Another dark one. I didn’t fully understand it; the writing seemed to slip back and forth without quite saying anything. There were some interesting similes and metaphors, but it was the first one I actually didn’t like. 2/5

Everyday Use

This was a very powerful story; at first glance it doesn’t seem like much, but it draws you into a world on the edge of things, a point where new and old conflict with each other in subtle ways. 5/5

The Welcome Table

I love this one – the use of the quote at the beginning is very apt and the story itself well-written. 4/5

Strong Horse Tea

Very sad story. I really liked the way Walker told the story from two contrasting points of view, and was horrified by the attitude of the mailman even as I understood the reasons for it. I did think the woman’s change of heart was a little too quick though. 3/5

Entertaining God

I found this one disturbing, I’m not entirely sure why. It was whimsical and strange and sad, and frequently a bit confusing, but I loved the part about the gorilla at the beginning. 4/5

The Diary of an African Nun

Absolutely loved this one; the evocative descriptions of the landscape, the nun’s view of sex and sexuality, the way it was all tied in together around dancing was very well done. I also loved the way that Walker built the character without ever really referring to her personally. A powerful story. 5/5

The Flowers

Very short, so there’s not that much to say about it, except that it was extremely eerie, the transition from beautiful summer day to tragedy. Effective ending, lovely descriptions. 4/5

We Drink the Wine in France

Oh. That was very sweet, and again, sad. I want to know more about the characters and find myself wishing for a happy ending for them. I think what I love best about Walker’s prose is the richness of her descriptions. For example:

“She is down low. Her neck strains backward, bringing her face up to his. She is a small, round-bosomed girl with tumbly hair pulled severely back except for bangs. Her eyes are like the lens of a camera. Now they click shut. Now they open and drink in the light. Something, a kind of light, comes from them and shines on the professor of French.” (p.121)

Lovely. 5/5

To Hell With Dying

The perfect end to the book, I have to say. I could vividly see Mr. Sweet and loved the idea of the kids bringing him back to life. A beautiful story. 5/5

OVERALL RATING:

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  1. I really liked Roselily, which is what I read for my mini-challenge this month. I’m bad at reading full story collections, though…

      • black sheep
      • February 27th, 2010

      I hear you – it took me about a week to go through all of them! I kind of have a tendency to get sidetracked in the middle with story collections. I think possible it’s because, since they’re shorter, there’s not as much connection with the characters or an unfolding plot to go back to, so it’s difficult to get yourself to keep reading. That’s my theory, anyway!

  2. Alice Walker is amazing, isn’t she? I’ve never read these short stories. Great review!

      • black sheep
      • March 3rd, 2010

      Thanks! Yes, she’s really gifted. I’m going to see if I can track down The Colour Purple this month 🙂

  1. March 1st, 2010

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