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Merle

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SPOILER ALERT!

Sula by Toni Morrison

Sula - Toni Morrison

You can ignore the rating; I just don't like the "zero stars" look when I decide not to give one.

 

My only prior experience with Toni Morrison was reading Beloved and The Bluest Eye for school, and I wrongly assumed that those two were her "classroom" books and that this one would be more commercial, by which I mean more traditionally plotted and easily understood. It isn't, and I wish I had read it in a school setting so there would be a critical essay or two assigned alongside it and some classroom discussion that would have helped elucidate just what was going on here. Lacking that, it proved a thought-provoking read as I tried to figure out how all these parts fit together (thematically that is, because they don't particularly in the plot sense) and why some of the characters behave as they do. But I am still left with a book that, though undeniably accomplished, didn't do a lot for me.

One aspect of the book deals with female friendship, and it follows the typical arc of such stories to a T: After an initial period of discord or avoidance, two girls become close friends. Their closeness lasts until a dramatic break-up, most stereotypically caused by one friend infringing with the other's man. They then become estranged, making up only shortly before one friend dies. Published in 1973, this book is older than the other examples I've encountered, so perhaps those authors were influenced by Morrison? I do wonder why female friendship stories almost always end in the untimely death of one of the friends; I cannot think of any other type of relationship in literature that is so predictably doomed, except perhaps the relationship between human and dog. (And that one makes more sense, because you expect to outlive your dog.)

Anyway, this is a quick read, both well-written and very readable for Serious Literature. I don't think I understood it well enough to leave a proper review, so I will end my comments here and hope they don't discourage you all from reading it; clearly many others have connected with this story much more deeply than I did.