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Hudson, author of the sensitive Meyer, Meyer (1967), now offers a warm, intimate, yet curiously dated chronicle of a black woman's survival-struggle through the Fifties and Sixties. Rannee Simms is the second of eleven children born to an Alabama mill-worker in Simms Quarter, a poor rural family compound. The Simms' three-room pineboard cabin is ruled over by Mama, ""stronge and tall--head high over a mess of Simms."" But no one has time to listen to Rannee--to ease her fears of Mama's switch, of hard times, of Klan rumors. Only Uncle Floyd relieves her loneliness--the mysteriously appearing and disappearing uncle who's always singing or whistling, his ""big head stuffed with chapter and verse"" (slave stories, Army humiliations, the doings of a vicious white God). So, eager to leave terrifying school-days behind, Rannee marries shy, thin Ward Peters, father of her baby Lance. But Ward will be shot to death by a white man for ""trespassing."" A second, happy marriage--to handsome, grand Jarvis Lyle--will be similarly blighted: Jarvis, sent to jail for aggravated assault of a white man, returns a different man, violent and paranoid; Rannee eventually leaves him to take her four little boys to a northern city--where she finds grinding labor, housekeeping work for callous-to-silly white women, and a welfare slum. And though she also finds the public library, the joys of reading, and a loving black policeman, Rannee will again face the crossroads of anger and activism--after white-induced violence, a church bombing, and her gentle son's arrest for ""criminal trespass."" Rannee's saga often seems a throwback to the many earnest, simplistic dramas of black suffering and courage that proliferated two or three decades ago; it has none of the character-specific richness of Alice Walker's The Color Purple or Paula Fox's A Servant's Tale. But Hudson delivers the familiar story with empathic commitment--making this a well-meaning and modestly inspirational message-novel, even if too narrow and predictable for sophisticated readers.

Pub Date: April 29th, 1985
Publisher: Putnam