Title: The Color Purple
Author: Alice Walker
Awards: 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award
About the book: 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.
My thoughts: This is one of those books that I have wanted to read forever, but just hadn't made the time. I picked it up to read this month in honor of Black History Month, as well as for a Goodreads read-a-long. If you haven't had the chance to read this one yet, you need to make the time.
The story is told in a series of letters - starting out with letters from Celie to God, then later including letters from Nettie (Celie's sister) to Celie and her return letters to Nettie. In the beginning, Celie is a young black girl, raped by her own father, birthing two of his children - which he takes from her and does who knows what with, and then sold off to be a wife to a man who only wants her for her ability to take care of his own children and home after his wife dies.
For years Celie lives this existence, with the only bright spot being the short period when Nettie, her sister, stayed with them. It isn't long before Mister sends her off though (as she is the one he wanted for a wife) as she doesn't want to have anything to do with him. Celie's days don't really change much until Shug, Mister's mistress, comes to stay with them when she is very ill. Even though Celie knew who she was, she takes her in and nurses her back to health without any thought about herself or her husband's cheating ways. Shug and Celie hit it off and because of their friendship, Celie is able to start to live and recognize that she matters, regardless of what has happened in her past.
Many years pass before we hear from Nettie, who has ended up in Africa as a missionary. The difference in the prose between the two women speaks volumes as to what kind of education they have each had, and how they each view the world around them. Being able to communicate with Nettie continues the spark in Celie and helps her to begin to transform into an independent black woman.
This was a wonderful book and because of the language and dialect, I felt myself immediately immersed in the culture and the setting portrayed. I wish that I would have had the opportunity to read this in school or in a F2F book club as this would be a great book to discuss.