I must admit something to you dear readers. Before Sula, I had never read anything by Toni Morrison.
I know, I’m the worst. But I remember my mom reading Beloved and just being wrecked, and there never seemed like a ‘good time’ to get wrecked. But my friend gave me Sula and set a coffee date to discuss and here we are. The same friend who gave me Parable of the Sower actually.
I read the back of the book (I have a friend who doesn’t and just literally picks up books and it freaks me out) so I saw that this was supposed to be about friendship. And once I realized only one friend got her name as the title, I was intrigued.
Sula, set between 1919 and 1965, is the story of two girls, Sula and Nel, who are closer than sisters. They live on top of a hill, Bottom, in Ohio and grow up together.
Bottom is a community like any other; families and cliques, churches, town drunks and ice cream parlors. There are unspoken rules, traditions, and oppression. Everyone has their part and plays it. The town changes and evolves, I can’t image how much a small-ish community would have changed between 1919 and 1965.
But in some ways doesn’t change at all.
Sula and Nel’s lives start differently, but they found some common ground and stay close through adolescence. But after their school years end, they take drastically different directions. It’s poses a question about whether friendship can survive life, but it’s also about so much more.
Sula, takes off one day and disappears for 10 years. Apparently during that time she was doing whatever she wanted and when she comes back she’s a different person. We don’t get tons of details on that part of her life, but the new Sula is differnet. She sleeps with whoever she wants, doesn’t believe in good vs evil, and believes legacies are only important to the person leaving it behind. Which would make for a super compelling character.
Except for one thing. Sula does something, on accident, as a kid that has some pretty insane ramifications. But as an adult, neither Sula or Nel (who was a witness) link Sula’s changed behavior to the event. And it’s a pretty intense occurrence. So I’m left wondering, am I supposed to believe that these aren’t linked? Or is it implied and we’re just not going to directly address it? It was very frustrating.
Not that I didn’t like this book. I did, I thought the characters and the writing were stunning and I really enjoyed following the legacy of this community. At the end, I felt like I was supposed to make judgements about good vs bad. However the book also seemed to say, who are you to say someone is good or bad? But I didn’t want to pass judgement, I wanted to acknowledge context.
BUT. Like I said, I still really loved the book. And come on, it’s Toni Morrison. You have to read it.
Today’s playlist: The Cat’s soundtrack. Don’t ask why, I couldn’t tell you. It’s just where life has taken me. To grown people dressed as cats.