This book raises questions on so many of life’s ills, but it left me feeling strange about them all. It is a medley of protest against racism, sexism and the diminished value of life. What screams out most in this book though is the treatment of black women by black men, with or without excuse. Screaming almost as loud is the problem with racism and how it breaks down the black man.
Alice Walker, in this, her debut novel does an amazing job at revealing the essence of humanity. While living we all go through stages just as Grange has, and at some point life will deal us unfair blows, at other points we will be unfair to others on our walk. Depending on how long we live we come to a point where we want to make right for all our wrongs, and that was his third life – when Grange finally realised as unfair as life could be and as unfair as it had been to him, he would do right by someone, even if it was just one person.
But because he is human, he had to be cruel to be kind, as he was doing right by his granddaughter he was doing wrong by his son and second wife who had yet to come to the start of their third lives.
This book is a lesson on how we choose to react to what life dishes us. It is a multi-layered book, because in some instances society dictates so loudly that it is impossible for us to hear the voices within telling us to let go or break free, kind of like the women in this book. Even when Grange’s first wife and his daughter-in-law looked to be breaking free of the weight their men had on them, they soon recoiled to the position society would have rather had them in.
Through the granddaughter there is a hope for the emancipation of women and it took an oppressive man to remind her that she is better than what the world at the time would have had her believe. We are left hoping that even though her only companion has died a sacrificial death, Ruth would make her life what all the other r black women in this story couldn’t.
Another of the messages this book holds for me is that oppression and abuse of any kind, man on woman, white on black, takes away from who we can be and what we can become. It tears away at our minds and we begin to believe our worthlessness as the voices of the oppressor and abuser become louder and louder in our own heads … even in their absence. To kill a man and then allow him to believe he is still alive … that’s what oppression and abuse in the manner in which this book describes does.
However, what fascinates me most about Walker’s tale, is even in their weakest moments, the women whose stories she’s chosen to tell still hold an undeniable strength. None of them have gone down without a fight, even to the bitter end.