Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A Couple More Winners..

Chronicle of a Death Foretold is a short novel I would never have picked up if it hadn't been good advice from Ariel and Doug. This is a cautionary tale of the kind of senseless horror that happens when an isolated community makes harsh demands on women and then demands accountability when these demands are not met. It's brutal revenge in the name of honor, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez reaches out of the page and makes everyone an accomplice. It is an artful allegory and an excellent example of the magical realism style for which the author is known.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold can be read in a day, so if you have a day, it's worth the read.

Getting Mother's Body (2003) was the debut novel written by Suzan-Lori Parks, who won the 2002 Pulitizer Prize for Drama for her play called Topdog/Underdog, and also won a MacArthur genius grant in 2001.

I mention the fact that she's a playwright first because then it's no surprise when I insist that Parks has a real talent for writing dialog. That's important in a novel, especially to us sub-vocalizers, and these particular characters do not talk or act like the people living next door to most of us. This is Texas in 1963, and the protagonist is a 16 year old girl, Billy Beede, who is orphaned, very poor, and pregnant, with the added burden of being African-American in a segregationist time.

Billy's mother, Willa Mae, has been dead for six years, buried by her lover with a pearl necklace and a diamond ring. When Billy receives a letter letting her know that her mother's burial place is about to be paved over and that she should collect the body, Billy decides to go on a quest for the "treasure," the jewelry she could sell for money she so desperately needs. Meanwhile, Willa Mae's lover, Dill, is determined not to let the digging happen.

This is the story of how a whole family is drawn into joining this search, each with her own dreams about how one could start over or improve her life, if only she had a little of that treasure. The story is told in turns by each one of them, so that Getting Mother's Body is a collection of interesting character sketches that all come together with a little surprise at the end. I enjoyed the journey and liked the ending.


Ariel the Thief said...

One of the things stunned me in Chronicle of a Death Foretold was how the brothers didn't want to kill Santiago Nasar, and how nobody, except for that one woman, really believed it'd be done, how nobody expected a murder, and how it was done, anyway. Oh and I was so happy for Angela Vicario.

Doug said...

What I took away from Chronicle of A Death Foretold was the way Marquez told the story backwards and managed the same element of surprise you get in a mystery novel told forward. I wonder if the movie Memento was inspired by this book.

Does Willa Mae's lover resemble at all the Dill from To Kill A Mockingbird?

actonbell said...

Ariel--I agree! That was fascinating.

Doug-I don't see any similarity at all. This Dill is a lesbian. Willa Mae was probably straight, but was mercenary enough not object to this...

actonbell said...

Oh, and I meant to add--Marquez certainly did tell it backwards, which added points of difficulty in making the ending so intriguing. I've never seen Memento, but will. Someday.

TLP said...

Well, since you'll be away, and I'll be there being a nice Granny to Serena, I'll read both of these books. I always like the books you like.*

*I am having trouble getting into the Yiddish Policemen's Union however.

Doug said...

Well, Dill in Mockingbird was based on Truman Capote, apparently.

I actually came by while you're on vacation to send you my sympathies.

"This is suck" -David Foster Wallace 1962-2008
(As quoted by Actonbell)

TLP said...

I borrowed Getting Mother's Body today while visiting with Serena. Serena thinks it's a great book...to rub against.

Couldn't find Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Did you guys take it with you?

Doug said...

It was a library book, TLP. Pay attention!