The LGBTQ Book club met on February 26 to discuss Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize winning epistolary novel The Color Purple . The group was a mix of people who had read it years ago and those who were had always meant to read it. All of us were surprised, though, either by forgetting characters and sections or by not knowing what to expect.
We all loved Celie’s growth from a smart teenager being sexually abused by her father, then a young stepmother, being transformed by her relationship with the charismatic Shug and finally into a forgiving elder surrounded by her family. Walker writes beautiful descriptions of faith and includes thought-provoking metaphors like Celie’s pants but we struggled to care as much about the many secondary characters like Nettie, Mister and Harpo. The time period and location were vague, but maybe that vagueness makes the story universal and reflects the personal nature of Celie’s letters, which wouldn’t organically announce dates and world events. While Celie does forgive many of the men who wronged her and her loved ones, we couldn’t pinpoint the character development that would have earned her forgiveness. In contrast, Shug never asked for forgiveness, because she was always clear with people that she wasn’t going to change to meet their expectations. She wanted what she wanted and it was their fault if they chose to ignore her very clear boundaries. Unfortunately, the ending landed flat for us, but Walker’s skills kept the characters alive for us long after we finished.
Read Alikes (other formats may be available):
- Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
- Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
- Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
- The Turner House by Angela Flournoy