This has to be one of the most disturbing books I have ever read. It tells the story about a little girl, Jeliza-Rose, whose parents are heroin addicts. Her mother dies and her father takes her to Texas to his mother’s home. The house has no running water, no electricity, and it is well away from any sort of civilization. After arriving in Texas, Jeliza-Rose’s father promptly dies leaving her to fend for herself. The cast of characters include her many Barbie doll heads, an odd older woman and her brother.
Cullin tells his tale without pulling any punches. He shows you exactly what this little girl has lived with all her life. Her mother was abusive towards her, and her father, while loving, was a little more than clueless. This book is haunting and frightening. It made me, as a mother, want to scoop up this child and protect her from the people who should have loved her most.
A friend recommended this book to me, and while I agree that it is masterfully written from the point of view of a very young girl, it was extremely disturbing. I’ll probably read it again in the future just to catch the nuances that I probably missed by being so horrified by the situation Jeliza-Rose was put in. I’ve also been told by the same friend that Terry Gilliam, a masterful film maker in his own right, has translated this novel to film. I’m not entirely sure that I can handle seeing the images this novel creates on screen. I had a hard enough time with the images in my mind.
*edited for spelling errors*
Have you ever really liked a character in a book but hated their actions and choices? Rooted for them to succeed, but really hoped they didn’t do what you knew they were going to do?
That is exactly how I felt about Bigger Thomas, the protagonist of this novel. I really liked him, wanted him to make a life for himself, but knew that it was ultimately impossible. After all, he was a poor black man in the first half of the 20th century. He accidentally kills a rich white girl, but feels empowered by it. He almost makes himself believe that he killed her on purpose. Then he tries to get away with it by writing a ransom note and signing it “Red” with a communist sickle and hammer. We all know what happens next… he gets caught. He gets tried with very little of what we like to call “due process”. And he gets sentenced to death. Bigger’s life is inevitable. What makes this novel a true gem is the fact that Wright wrote the character of Bigger so that we can’t help but feel for him. We have compassion if not empathy. We can almost understand when he kills his girlfriend Bessie to keep her from talking. I say almost, because Wright doesn’t pull any punches with his descriptions of the violence. It is graphic, and it is horrible. Yet we see it coming. It has to happen.
I read this book for the first time when I was in high school. I picked it up off the shelf just because it was there. I have had to revisit it because of the course I am taking in college, and I find that I have a greater understanding of the book now than I did the first time I read it over 13 years ago. While this book is a course reading, I’ve placed it under pleasure reading as well, because it was a pleasure to read this intricate and thought provoking novel.
I saw the movie when it came out on DVD. Loved it. So when I saw that the story anthology I had to buy for a class I’m taking included the original short story by Annie Proulx I was excited to read it. I was not let down in the least. The story is beautifully crafted. The movie ripped images directly from Proulx’s pages and put them on the screen. She included incredible imagery and masterful character development. I felt my heart break for Jack and Ennis even more profoundly than I did when I watched the movie version. If you have access to this story, I highly recommend reading it if you haven’t already.