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Linden Hills by Gloria Naylor

Linden Hills

by Gloria Naylor

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423725,018 (3.78)7
  1. 00
    Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (susanbooks)
    susanbooks: Naylor so brilliantly plays w/Dante & Jane Eyre

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I read this in college 20 years ago. It's been a long time, but certain passages in this book still come to mind, so while I'm not sure if/when I'll reread it, I'm confident it's worth the four stars. ( )
  Sean191 | Oct 5, 2016 |
Linden Hills is one of the creepiest books I've read, and certainly one of the most enjoyable. Gloria Naylor is a beautiful writer, hands down. Although her language is full of symbol and metaphor, she is still easily accesssable. I read Linden Hills after reading The Women of Brewster Place and expected something similar: stories of different people's stuggles with racism and class. Though I loved WBP, Linden Hills has an extra element, a feeling of being sucked down into disparity. The characters are all looking tho climb the social ladder of the bourgeois black comminuty. However, truly they seek a descent, both literally (the most coveted addresses are at the bottom of the hills) and figuratively (losing themselves and their souls to advance socially). I think this is a great book not only for its lessons about society, appearece and status, but also beacsue Naylor is a gifted storyteller. I finished this book within a day of starting it because I couldn't put it down. I'm dissapointed that Naylor isn't as highly recognized as some other contemorary authors: she definitely deserves a place beside Morrison for her beauty of language and Steinbeck for her examination of the human spirit in a crushing society. Bravo! ( )
1 vote erindona | Dec 8, 2012 |
Not much of an idea? It was a wonderful idea - colossal. Anything that put the music back in Ruth's voice as she spoke to him. He would go into Linden Hills and work his butt off. Then he'd take the money and buy her and Norm a great gift — maybe even a turkey, too. Ruth wanted him to go into Linden Hills and he would go. He was just sorry that she hadn’t asked him to go into hell for her so he could really prove himself.

Best friends and fellow poets Willie Mason and Lester Tilson, work their way down through the exclusive, and exclusively African-American, suburb of Linden Hills, doing odd jobs to earn money to buy Christmas presents. But the streets of Linden Hills correspond to the circles of hell in Dante's Inferno, and Willie (who lives in the down-market area of Putney Wayne) and Lester (whose family have lived on First Crescent in Linden Hills since the very beginning) are this book's Dante and Virgil.

Lester and Willie's friends Ruth (who during her first marriage lived on Fifth Crescent) and Norman, live in a barely furnished apartment in Putney Wayne and are happy with their lot, and unlike most of their neighbours, they don't aspire to a house in Linden Hills. Those who have already made it into Linden Hills hope to move further down the hill, and ultimately onto Tupelo Drive, just above the moated house belonging to undertaker and property developer Luther Nedeed, whose ancestor bought the hillside back before the American Civil War.

Apart from the poets and their friends, the person I had most sympathy for was Reverend Hollis, a resident of Fifth Crescent who employed Willie and Lester to help him get ready for the children's Christmas party at his church. Reverend Hollis feels his faith seeping away, quashed by the emptiness emanating from his large, wealthy and status-conscious congregation, so every year he throws a party for the children of Putney Wayne at his own expense, in the hope of encouraging some poorer people who are full of God's spirit to start attending his church. The oddest person in the book doesn't even live in Linden Hills. Maxwell Smyth has risen to a high position in General Motors despite the handicap of being black. He controls every aspect of his life to the nth degree, including his dietary and toilet habits, dedicating his life to being so perfect that no-one can doubt that he is the best man for whatever job is on offer. ( )
1 vote isabelx | Apr 28, 2011 |
Once upon a time, a community was founded for upwardly-mobile African-American families. But generations of corrupt landlords and status-hungry tenants have turned this prestigious neighborhood into something vaguely resembling Dante's vision of Hell. I read this for a Theology class; we kind of focused on that metaphor.

  savethegreyhounds | Nov 10, 2009 |
If you're familiar with Dante's Inferno, this is a fascinating read, but it's a wonderful book regardless. The characters are striking and the story moves quickly. As a reader, you'll be engaged quickly and finish the book wishing it were a bit longer. If I do have criticism, it's that I would have liked a bit more--a bit more detail, and a bit more time on character--but overall it comes together as you'd want it to after some thought, particularly if you've read The Inferno. As usual, Naylor's prose in perfect--raw and graceful; this one is worth reading, and rereading. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Jan 16, 2008 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gloria Naylorprimary authorall editionscalculated
Miceli, JayaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Grandma Tilson, I'm afraid of hell.
Ain't nothing to fear, there's hell on earth.
I mean the real hell where you can go when you die.
You ain't gotta die to go to the real hell.
Uh uh, you just gotta sell that silver mirror God
propped up in your soul.
Sell it to who --the devil?
Naw, just to the highest bidder, child. The
highest bidder.
For my parents -
Roosevelt and Alberta Naylor
First words
There had been a dispute for years over the exact location of Linden Hills.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
"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
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Lester Tilson and Willie Mason, a pair of hip, latter-day poets, work their way down through Linden Hills, experiencing firsthand the lust, pain, hypocrisy, and valor of the hell-bound upper- and middle-class residents

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