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River, Cross My Heart: A Novel (Oprah's Book Club) Paperback – October 14, 1999
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The Daughter of Union County
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After Clara drowns, the river is never the same, and Johnnie Mae hovers on the edge of womanhood wondering if she'll be able to get past her guilt and emptiness. In an eloquent passage, Clarke writes, "Losing a loved one, a family member, is like losing a tooth. After a while, those teeth remaining shift and lean and spread out to split the distance between themselves and the other teeth still left, trying to close up spaces."
Bits of wisdom like this are the book's charm. Most remarkable are the church scenes, which Clarke renders almost purely in the give-and-take of voices: the booming preacher's sermon ("The people we love, we only borrowing them"), and the congregation's "Praise Jesus, Amen" exclamations. The author based her novel on stories passed down in Georgetown--tales of that area's first black churches, founded when people decided they wanted their own place of worship, and implicitly their own God. In church the novel takes flight. Elsewhere River, Cross My Heart suffers from clumsy, purple prose, and a plot that moves forward in labored fits and starts. Clarke painstakingly tries to re-create this past world, but sometimes it seems her duty to history is holding her back, bogging her down in period-piece details. In the effortless church scenes, history loses its gravity and is absorbed by grace. --Emily White
Top Customer Reviews
What I did appreciate about this book was the way in which Clarke dealt with racism. I especially liked the questions that young Johnnie Mae kept asking when confronted with such blatant examples of inequality. It seemed like Johnnie Mae was asking herself the same questions that blacks must ask themselves today when confronted with such a hateful thing as racism. The fact that Johnnie Mae was relentless in her questioning put her at odds with the older, more experienced blacks, many of whom had almost resigned themselves to their place, it seems, until Johnnie Mae infuses them with hope at her swimming competition.
I liked Johnnie Mae's sense of self worth and bravery. I thought the interactions between Johnnie Mae and Pearl were funny and touching; although there were too few of them to make up for the book's shortcomings.
I think the author should re-write this book and concentrate more on the rest of Johnnie Mae and the other Bynums' lives.
Personally, I would have liked to see Johnnie Mae go to Howard University, like her swimming coach, or fall in love and marry Charlie. Aside from Johnnie Mae, Calvin was ripe with possibilities.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I enjoyed this book 3/4 of the way through. It was very well written and interesting. Then it started to meander and I found myself getting disappointed. Read morePublished 5 months ago by BarbaraBee
Most excellent read, having grown up in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood this work wrapped itself around an array of memories that were absolutely heart wrenching....most excellent.Published 5 months ago by william a. stewart
All in all, it was a pleasant read, and perfect if you want something light, fluffy, cottony, and banal. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Jacob Hellman
First books always intrigue me, I know there is something
special between the pages. This book did not disappoint. Clark
is a wonderful writer. Read more
The community welcomed me into the fold on the very first page. Riveting prose captures the young protagonist's loss and the experiences she gains as a result. Read morePublished 7 months ago by TishaMarie
The setting for this touching story is in the Georgetown Neighborhood of Washington, DC. Segregated public places were still in vogue which included neighborhood swimming pools... Read morePublished 11 months ago by Earlean S. Grogan
Some of the history was unknown to all of us in the book club and therefore interesting. It is presented in an interesting way.Published 17 months ago by N.B.V.