THE VIEW FROM HERE by Brian Keith Jackson


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 Cleanly written debut that begins modestly enough, with a simplicity worthy of a YA audience, but loses its way once Jackson's preacherly instincts take over and his characters become object lessons in righteous behavior. As some sort of homage, Jackson sets his novel in the small Mississippi town of Eudora in Welty country, but it's more like the town of Alice, as in Walker. Lest he be charged with a vision of relentless black violence toward women, Jackson has his main character repent his ways and includes a shrew of witchlike proportions. The story is plain enough: Covering the nine months before the narrator's birth, the tale flashes back to her mother's courtship and marriage to one Joseph Henry Thomas, a hard-working illiterate who considers his wife and four children his property and rules the roost with an iron hand--and with a toughness penetrated only by his older sister, Clariece, a mean and pretentious old cow married to a preacher. Clariece certainly lords over Joseph's wife, Anna, the sweet and understanding center of this family saga. Without consulting her, Joseph promises his sixth child, the narrator, to his childless sister, an act that begins the rough times. For, in short order, Joseph loses his job, Anna's best friend dies, and Joseph takes up with the bottle. But the memory of Ida Mae, her wild and sassy friend, helps Anna through the crisis; in letters addressed to Ida Mae interspersed throughout the novel, Anna builds the courage to confront her cruel husband and his brutal sister. In Anna's moment of strength, Jackson provides the chest-thumping moral: ``. . . women are the bearers of life, [and] we also provide the strength that makes life worth living.'' The down-home parable-making here is undermined by all the pop psych, making this, sadly, a perfect contender for the latest in black schmaltz. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-671-56895-7
Page count: 229pp
Publisher: Pocket
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1996


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