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Sula Paperback – June 8, 2004
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As girls, Nel and Sula are the best of friends, only children who find in each other a kindred spirit to share in each girl's loneliness and imagination. When they meet again as adults, it's clear that Nel has chosen a life of acceptance and accommodation, while Sula must fight to defend her seemingly unconventional choices and beliefs. But regardless of the physical and emotional distance that threatens this extraordinary friendship, the bond between the women remains unbreakable: "Her old friend had come home.... Sula, whose past she had lived through and with whom the present was a constant sharing of perceptions. Talking to Sula had always been a conversation with herself."
Lyrical and gripping, Sula is an honest look at the power of friendship amid a backdrop of family, love, race, and the human condition. --Gisele Toueg --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
On it's surface, "Sula" is the story of two black women who remain lifelong friends despite their obvious differences and the different way in which each pursues her life. Set in an Ohio community called, The Bottom, "Sula" follows these two women, Sula Peace and Nel Wright, from childhood to marriage to old age to death.
Nel is the conformist in this oddly matched pair. She marries and raises a family in the place of her birth. Outwardly, at least, she seems to need no more than husband and children and community to make her happy. She adapts. Sula, on the other hand, is a far different story.
Sula is a woman who feels the need to escape, to break free of whatever binds her. And, if her breaking free involves pain...for herself or for others, then so be it. She moves from The Bottom, goes to college and becomes the epitome of everything that Nel is not...in short, Sula becomes a waton seductress. For Sula, hell is stability; for Nel, hell is change.
Is either woman happy with her choices in life? No, not entirely, and we do find echoes of Nel in Sula and echoes of Sula in Nel. Though it's not obvious at first glance, the women are really two sides of the same coin. One came up "heads," the other, "tails." Both women are, however, black Americans and both are proud to be black Americans. It is how they express their heritage, and their love for each other, that differs.
Morrison is a masterful writer and her handling of the character of Sula is miraculous. We could have so easily come to hate this wanton women, we could have so easily come to have seen her as the stereotypical seductress, the temptress, the tramp. Yet Morrison manages, somehow, to endow Sula with a humanity and a beauty that shines through all her artifice and pain.
For me, "Sula" is a book about choices and the problems of living with those choices. It is about loving someone who chooses a very different path in life than we do and what is needed to keep that love alive...or even if it can be kept alive. Sula and Nel are both beautiful characters and both are vibrantly alive. Both want desperately to hold onto their love for each other, but fate and circumstances make it increasingly difficult. The story of Sula's and Nel's growth from child to adult to old age is the thread that ties the other stories in this book into one seamless whole.
Although "Sula" could be seen as an allegory or metaphor for the rediscovery of the core self of black America, I feel the characters, themselves are too rich, to fully-drawn, to alive, to call this book an allegory. Perhaps on some level, it is, but Morrison is a writer of literature, not genre fiction.
All of Toni Morrison's books are masterpieces and all can be read on many levels. "Sula" is no exception. It is a difficult book but one that is both beautiful and tragic and worth every second any reader spends with it. I really can't recommend "Sula," or any other Morrison book, highly enough.
The most obvious of Morrison's subjects, however, is her examination of the lives of black women in a society controlled by whites and by men. "Sula" is, above all, a study of contrasts, exploring the lives of three disparate women. The Old Testament version is represented by Eva Peace, an iron-willed woman who goes to biblical extremes to protect and control her children; she is so defined by her household that she never even leaves it. Not content with the company of her immediate family, she adopts stray children and takes in boarders to fill the rooms of her constantly expanding residence.
Set below Eva's expansive and commanding view of matriarchy is Nel, who embodies more traditional ideals about marriage and maternity, faith and subservience; she is the daughter, wife, mother who willingly capitulates to the demands of social convention. Nel's life will be much like the life of her mother: defined by husband and children. One of the more touching and oddly resonant moments occurs during Nel's wedding in her mother's home. The guests are spilling their drinks on the carpet and "the children are wrapping themselves into the curtains." but the normally abstemious Helene simply lets go: "Once this day was over she would have a lifetime to rattle around the house and repair the damage."
And perhaps this moment, too, defines the rebellious, independent, and "amoral" Sula, Eva's granddaughter and Nel's closest childhood friend. Immediately after the wedding that forever transforms Nel's and Helene's lives, Sula leaves town. After a ten-year hiatus in the urban deserts of America, she refuses to settle down with her own family, choosing instead a life of autonomy. Her homecoming, with its open defiance of social conventions, supplies her neighbors with a clearly defined enemy: "They began to cherish their husbands and wives, protect their children, repair their homes and in general band together against the devil in their midst."
Morrison's subtle symbolism and her signature sarcasm constantly defy reader's expectations: has a recent author ever been so consistently and brutally witty? The novel is filled with shocking incidents, hilarious escapades, and offbeat characters, but what linger are the portrayals of these three women and the choices they make. In the end, the reader confronts Nel's anguished acknowledgment of what has been surrendered to the pursuit of social conventions--yet Morrison is too adept to offer easy lessons. Each woman suffers from her own failings as much as from the expectations of others, and not one of them is able to salvage much from the ashes of her sacrifices.