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A troubling book from a troubling time not so long ago and not completely changed today. I tired of the constant christian reference but understand that without it nothing about the story could make sense. Lies, hypocracy, violence and grace in a mad world. Living in an unforgiving hell with glimpses of the sacred.
I'm torn. The writing is wonderful. It kept me reading. The story is a combination of disturbing and off putting. So much preaching of a violent nature ("going to beat sin out"). In the end, I can't say I like this story.
I feel a bit badly for James Baldwin as this is supposedly an autobiographical novel. I do hope his childhood had less violence in it.
The father in this story is the type of preacher who wants to be forgiven from their own sins and beat their helpless & innocent offspring as a means of accomplishing this, in the guise of "saving them". The child pays for the sin of the father without realizing that this is what's happening. Who gets saved in a case like this?
This is a hard story.
I wanted to like this book more because I am so intrigued by James Baldwin, but it was not an easy read. The semi-autobiographical stories about his family's beginnings are definitely interesting, but about 1/3 of the book was a bunch of religiousy prose that I could not make sense of or get into. Still an amazing writer though.
This rating system doesn't work for me on this book. It's beautifully written and is a powerful image of the intricate latticework of emotions, culture, and family that make up John's world in a northern city in the early 20th century. I DO understand why some people turn to religion for hope in hard times and trying circumstances. Certainly the folks who inhabit this story have a need for the hope that there's something better later on; however, I'm not a fan of the hypocrisy of religion, those who use religion to justify their actions, or those who ascribe everything in their lives to some all-powerful, all-knowing force. Gabriel, in particular, rankled, which I'm sure Mr. Baldwin intended, but so did so many of the other characters' actions and attitudes. And for John, I almost cried at the ending, and not with happiness. So with all the sermonizing and testifying to wade through, I didn't "like" this book, but I'm glad I read it.
Powerful, powerful, powerful. Muscular and poetic prose. Leaves a lasting impression.
I really enjoyed this book and the way James Baldwin writes is amazing. I love how poetic and descriptive he is.