THE FIRST FIG TREE by Vivian Glover


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Orangebury, S.C., during WW II is the setting for Glover's quiet first novel, which focuses on the last months in the life of a black woman who sometimes, half dozing in the shade on the side of her son and daughter-in-law's house, can still remember the day the slaves were freed. She'd like most to be left alone with her memories, but around her, her troubled great-granddaughter circles like a fly, asking questions, voicing her opinions, cogitating on why her mama left her and her daddy had to go off to war. At her own very slow pace, the old woman tries to teach the feisty little creature not to scorn the poor girls from a nearby shantytown who don't wash and have only raggedy clothes to wear, not to jump to conclusions, and to count her blessings for her good fortune every day. Occasionally Glover takes us back in time for glimpses of the old woman's young life, her husband's desertion, the death of her seemingly unloving mother, the poverty of the rural South. And occasionally racial tension--a narrowly avoided Klan lynching, another black family leaving for the more hospitable North--whispers through the book. But by and large, the balance here is off, with too little of the drama of the past or present filtering into the old woman's random thoughts as she nears her end. Given the general monotony, that her calm passage out of life at the book's close is touching at all seems a minor miracle.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1988
Publisher: St. Martin's