"Linden Hills" tells the story of two young black men, Willie and Lester, who travel through an affluent black community the week before Christmas in order to find work. Lester lives with his mother and older sister, both of which have completely bought into the Linden Hills philosophy that promotes materialistic tendencies and high status above all else. Because of this mentality, Lester feels obligated to buy his family expensive Christmas gifts. Thus, he and his friend, Willie, set out to find odd jobs around Linden Hills. Throughout their journey the pair witnesses first hand the fraudulence and lack of spontaneity that characterizes the entire neighborhood. For example, they are hired as help for a wedding in which the groom is really a homosexual, but is afraid to live with his lover openly because he fears the social and occupational repercussions......
Naylor masterfully captures the emotional complexity of each of her characters, which represent the different personality types within the black bourgeoisie. The juxtaposition of poor blacks with rich blacks is constructed in such a way that it forces the reader to examine his/her motives and aspirations in life. Like the residents of Linden Hills, many people are motivated by the Western concept of success: a lot of money and flashy possessions that scream to the world you are indeed well off. Throughout the novel, the dominate question Gloria Naylor asks her readers is how much of our inner selves are we willing to sacrifice for a dream created by someone else?___
By Michael Ivey
Life & Style