During the civil rights conflict, Birmingham, Ala., was notorious for the ferocity of its racial bigotry: peaceful demonstrators attacked with fire hoses and dogs by police chief Bull Connor; the Klan-set explosion at a black church that killed four little girls. The four victims are only background figures in Naslund's (Ahab's Wife) faithful and moving evocation of the city and the era, but they appear to several characters in the form of spirits who promise the reconciliation to come. The novel is constructed as a series of vignettes that follow a dozen or so characters whose lives finally intersect in entirely credible ways, and who serve as emblems of the divided citizens of Birmingham, some who bitterly fought integration and others who persevered in their struggle for equality. As such, it's a panorama of the social landscape of the Deep South during its violent crucible of change. Naslund, who grew up in Alabama, writes with a deep, instinctive compassion for the South's tragic heritage of racial hatred, and an understanding of the high toll paid by people committed to justice. She develops her plot in a leisurely fashion that initially may leave readers somewhat frustrated, but her method eventually pays off in stunning scenes, vivid with action, color and emotion, that recreate both the horror and the heroism. The characters pivot around Stella Silver, a white college student who is horrified by the glee in her community when JFK is assassinated, and who is moved to activism. In its authentic, balanced evocation of daily life across a wide spectrum of the black and white communities, this novel justifies its length and measured pace, and credibly renders the faith and courage that brought redemption to a blood-soaked city.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Adult/High School-The author of Ahab's Wife (Morrow, 1999), a feminist corrective to Moby-Dick, has picked an equally ambitious subject for this novel: the racial injustice, hatred, and horror of Birmingham, AL, circa 1963. With a full cast of fictional characters, and a few historical figures (Police Commissioner Bull Connor, the Reverends Shuttlesworth, King, and Abernathy), Naslund weaves a busy but satisfying story of real and imagined events: lunch-counter sit-ins, fire-hosed demonstrators, police dogs at children's heels. The title refers to the spiritual presence (felt by several characters) of the four young girls who died in the horrendous bombing of their church. One matronly woman "sees" them as honeybees on roses, one bee to a rose. Because of this and other such contrivances, some readers might find the narrative strained, and the principal characters either too good or too horrible. For the most part, though, the author manages to keep this big story under control, in part by employing a measured narrative pace. There is plenty of value here for strong, informed teens. Undoubtedly, some readers will find the novel too slow, or too full of names and events, and thus confusing. But for those who can handle the mature themes, Four Spirits is an excellent history lesson, and a story not soon forgotten.
Robert Saunderson, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
When I picked this book for my book club I knew it was topical. I knew we (as a nation) need to focus our attention on the racism in this country and one way to do that is to... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Nicole Del Sesto
I learned so much history. Book is full of various people w divergent viewpoints. We need to know where we have been.Published 6 months ago by Judith Hoyt
This book was in excellent shape. It was delivery promptly as well. That's especially important since I belong to a book club and often need to get started reading for the next... Read morePublished 22 months ago by Victoria J. Reese
Well written reminder of the struggles in the past of integration; informing but still a page turner with an interesting twist for the end result.Published 23 months ago by Marga'Lee Marshall
It seems Sena Jeter Naslund can't write a bad book, so no matter the subject, it's a must-read. This particular tome takes place in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1960s and the story... Read morePublished 24 months ago by Jan Kellis
A heart-wrenching story masterfully told and very enlightening. A nuanced and profound retelling of the civil Rights Movement in Alabama. Left me breathless.Published on August 24, 2013 by NDA
I ordered this book for a book group I attend. It has taken me awhile to get into it, because it is set in a dark time for our nation. Read morePublished on July 22, 2013 by Paul R. Buettner
Although I live in Louisville, Kentucky, Ms. Naslund's home town, I have never been intrigued by her books. Read morePublished on May 8, 2013 by CatLover19781982
A very powerful and disturbing look at the civil rights issues of the 60's from very personal viewpoints. Well written. Read morePublished on April 19, 2013 by linda cowles