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Toni Morrison's first novel, The Bluest Eye (1970), was acclaimed as the work of an important talent, written--as John Leonard said in The New York Times--in a prose "so precise, so faithful to speech and so charged with pain and wonder that the novel becomes poetry."
Sula has the same power, the same beauty.
At its center--a friendship between two women, a friendship whose intensity first sustains, then injures. Sula and Nel--both black, both smart, both poor, raised in a small Ohio town--meet when they are twelve, wishbone thin and dreaming of princes.
Through their girlhood years they share everything--perceptions, judgments, yearnings, secrets, even crime--until Sula gets out, out of the Bottom, the hilltop neighborhood where beneath the sporting life of the men hanging around the place in headrags and soft felt hats there hides a fierce resentment at failed crops, lost jobs, thieving insurance men, bug-ridden flour...at the invisible line that cannot be overstepped.
Sula leaps it and roams the cities of America for ten years. Then she returns to the town, to her friend. But Nel is a wife now, settled with her man and her three children. She belongs. She accommodates to the Bottom, where you avoid the hand of God by getting in it, by staying upright, helping out at church suppers, asking after folks--where you deal with evil by surviving it.
Not Sula. As willing to feel pain as to give pain, she can never accommodate. Nel can't understand her any more, and the others never did. Sula scares them. Mention her now, and they recall that she put her grandma in an old folks' home (the old lady who let a train take her leg for the insurance)...that a child drowned in the river years ago...that there was a plague of robins when she first returned...
In clear, dark, resonant language, Toni Morrison brilliantly evokes not only a bond between two lives, but the harsh, loveless, ultimately mad world in which that bond is destroyed, the world of the Bottom and its people, through forty years, up to the time of their bewildered realization that even more than they feared Sula, their pariah, they needed her.
About the Author
Toni Morrison is Robert F. Goheen Professor at Princeton University. She has written seven novels, and has received the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. She won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993.
“Extravagantly beautiful. . . . Enormously, achingly alive. . . . A howl of love and rage, playful and funny as well as hard and bitter.” —The New York Times
“Exemplary. . . . The essential mysteries of death and sex, friendship and poverty are expressed with rare economy.” —Newsweek
“In characters like Sula, Toni Morrison’s originality and power emerge.” —The Nation
“Enchanting. . . . Powerful.” —Chicago Daily News
“Toni Morrison is not just an important contemporary novelist but a major figure in our national literature.” —The New York Review of Books
“Sula is one of the most beautifully written, sustained works of fiction I have read in some time. . . . [Morrison] is a major talent.” —Elliot Anderson, Chicago Tribune
“As mournful as a spiritual and as angry as a clenched fist . . . written in language so pure and resonant that it makes you ache.” —Playboy
“In the first ranks of our living novelists.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Toni Morrison’s gifts are rare: the re-creation of the black experience in America with both artistry and authenticity.” —Library Journal
“Should be read and passed around by book-lovers everywhere.” —Los Angeles Free Press