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Sula by Toni Morrison
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Sula (original 1973; edition 2004)

by Toni Morrison

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4,98652913 (3.79)1 / 274
Member:Xzcott
Title:Sula
Authors:Toni Morrison
Info:Vintage (2004), Paperback, 192 pages
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Sula by Toni Morrison (1973)

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Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
Toni Morrison presents a fascinating, complex, and complicated portrait of life in a racially-divided small Ohio town from 1919-1965. What I found poignant was that the reader meets the African-American residents of this community on their own terms, without a framing gaze to define them. It also challenged me to remember the racial tension that was evident in the small, eastern Ohio town where I spent many summers with my great grandmother; something that hadn't entered my thoughts in a long time. I'm grateful to Toni Morrison, and her beautiful writing, for bringing about this reflection.

This book also presents a feminist-leaning perspective on relationships (especially between females), and the choice to accept or reject society's expectations on you, as well as the ramifications of that choice. This book caused me to reflect on my own childhood and the relationships I had with female friends, and how those relationships have grown and changed. How have my choices impacted my own perspective of my hometown and the people I grew up with? ( )
  BooksForYears | Apr 1, 2016 |
The Bottom is a mostly black community in Ohio, situated in the hills above the mostly white, wealthier community of Medallion. The Bottom first became a community when a master gave it to his former slave. This "gift" was in fact a trick: the master gave the former slave a poor stretch of hilly land, convincing the slave the land was worthwhile by claiming that because it was hilly, it was closer to heaven. The trick, though, led to the growth of a vibrant community. Now the community faces a new threat; wealthy whites have taken a liking to the land, and would like to destroy much of the town in order to build a golf course.

Shadrack, a resident of the Bottom, fought in WWI. He returns a shattered man, unable to accept the complexities of the world; he lives on the outskirts of town, attempting to create order in his life. One of his methods involves compartmentalizing his fear of death in a ritual he invents and names National Suicide Day. The town is at first wary of him and his ritual, then, over time, unthinkingly accepts him.

Meanwhile, the families of the children Nel and Sula are contrasted. Nel is the product of a family that believes deeply in social conventions; hers is a stable home, though some might characterize it as rigid. Nel is uncertain of the conventional life her mother, Helene, wants for her; these doubts are hammered home when she meets Rochelle, her grandmother and a former prostitute, the only unconventional woman in her family line. Sula's family is very different: she lives with her grandmother, Eva, and her mother, Hannah, both of whom are seen by the town as eccentric and loose. Their house also serves as a home for three informally adopted boys and a steady stream of boarders.

Despite their differences, Sula and Nel become fiercely attached to each other during adolescence. However, a traumatic accident changes everything. One day, Sula playfully swings a neighborhood boy, Chicken Little, around by his hands. When she loses her grip, the boy falls into a nearby river and drowns. They never tell anyone about the accident even though they did not intend to harm the boy. The two girls begin to grow apart. One day, in an accident, Sula's mother's dress catches fire and she dies of the burns.

After high school, Nel chooses to marry and settles into the conventional role of wife and mother. Sula follows a wildly divergent path and lives a life of fierce independence and total disregard for social conventions. Shortly after Nel's wedding, Sula leaves the Bottom for a period of 10 years. She has many affairs, some with white men. However, she finds people following the same boring routines elsewhere, so she returns to the Bottom and to Nel.

Upon her return, the town regards Sula as the very personification of evil for her blatant disregard of social conventions. Their hatred in part rests upon Sula's interracial relationships, but is crystallized when Sula has an affair with Nel's husband, Jude, who subsequently abandons Nel. Ironically, the community's labeling of Sula as evil actually improves their own lives. Her presence in the community gives them the impetus to live harmoniously with one another. Nel breaks off her friendship with Sula. Just before Sula dies in 1940, they achieve a half-hearted reconciliation. With Sula's death, the harmony that had reigned in the town quickly dissolves.

In 1965, with the Bottom facing the prospect of the white golf course, Nel visits Eva in the nursing home. Eva accuses her of sharing the guilt for Chicken Little's death. Her accusation forces Nel to confront the unfairness of her judgment against Sula. Nel admits to herself that she had blamed his death entirely on Sula and set herself up as the "good" half of the relationship. Nel comes to realize that in the aftermath of Chicken Little's death she had too quickly clung to social convention in an effort to define herself as "good." Nel goes to the cemetery and mourns at Sula's grave, calling out Sula's name in sadness.


[edit] Characters
Sula Peace: the main protagonist, who affects the whole town of Medallion with her return
Eva Peace: Sula's grandmother, who is missing one leg. Though the circumstances are never fully explained, it is assumed that she purposely put it under a train in order to collect insurance money to support her three young children.
BoyBoy: Sula's grandfather, who leaves Eva for another woman.
Hannah Peace: Sula's mother; Eva's eldest daughter. Hannah is a promiscuous and care-free woman who was unwantingly "burdened down" by Sula at an early age.
Eva (Pearl) Peace: Sula's aunt; Eva Sr.'s youngest daughter and middle child
Ralph (Plum) Peace: Sula's uncle; Eva's son and youngest child. Plum was a WWI veteran and a heroin addict. Eva burns him alive with kerosene because of his mental instability.
Helene Wright: Nel's strait-laced and clean mother
Nel Wright: Sula's best friend (can also be considered a main protagonist) who doesn't want to be like her mother because she will never be reduced to "custard" and she will not be humiliated by other people as her mother is.
Shadrack: A paranoid shell-shocked WWI veteran, who returns to Sula and Nel's hometown, Medallion. He invents National Suicide Day
Jude: Nel's husband, who leaves Nel due to a love affair with Sula.
Ajax (Albert Jacks): Sula's confidant and lover
Tar Baby (Pretty Johnnie): A quiet, cowardly, and reserved man who rents out one of the rooms in the Peace household.
The deweys: three boys, each about one year apart from one another in age, who were each nicknamed "Dewey" by Eva. Their real names are never written in the novel, and after the introduction of these characters, the three were referred as one being, thus Morrison's use of a lowercase "d" in "dewey" for the rest of the novel.
Chicken Little: The little boy that Sula and Nel accidentally drown by throwing into the river
  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
Not nearly as good as The Bluest Eye, but the second part of this novel saved it for me. It's a much more difficult read and not as interesting. ( )
  uhohxkate | Jan 31, 2016 |
One of those plots that consists of one thing happening after another (in this case usually much after another; short as it is, it takes place over a good fifty year period) and it's up to the reader to put the meaning of it all together. So it stays with you, but it's a challenge.

I can see why Sula is the title character, but I think it's not just her story - nor just the story of the friendship between her and Nel - but rather it's about the three of them: Shadrack too, and the accident that threw them briefly together.

And the place, of course; of course it's about the place. ( )
  zeborah | Apr 8, 2015 |
After having read The Bluest Eye my expectations were really high. I was deflated. Sula isn't a bad read; it's just ok. The story moved along disjointed, which made it hard to follow at times. I finished the book trying to understand its meaning; which is good, I suppose, for discussion. It's not on my list of highly recommended books but I do recommend it. ( )
  Feleciak | Mar 7, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Toni Morrisonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dorsman-Vos, W.A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vink, NettieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wood, OwenCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
'Nobody knew my rose of the world but me.... I had too much glory. They don't want glory like that in nobody's heart."

- The Rose Tattoo
Dedication
It is sheer good fortune to miss someone long before they leave you. This book is for Ford and Slade, whom I miss although they have not left me.
First words
In that place, where they tore the nightshade and blackberry patches from the roots to make room for the Medallion City Golf Course, there was once a neighborhood.
Quotations
the only way to avoid the Hand of God is to get in it
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0452263492, Paperback)

Book Description Publication Date: 1982 | Series: Plume Amazon.com Review: In Sula, Toni Morrison, winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize for literature, tells the story of two women--friends since childhood, separated in young adulthood, and reunited as grown women. Nel Wright grows up to become a wife and mother, happy to remain in her hometown of Medallion, Ohio. Sula Peace leaves Medallion to experience college, men, and life in the big city, an exceptional choice for a black woman to make in the late 1920s. 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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:14 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Traces the lives of two African American women from their youth in small-town Georgia, through divergent paths of womanhood, to their ultimate confrontation and reconciliation.

(summary from another edition)

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