9780753819517

By the Light of My Father's Smile

Walker, Alice

ISBN 10: 0753819511 / 0-7538-1951-1
ISBN 13: 9780753819517
Publisher: Phoenix (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd )
Publication Date: 2005
Binding: Softcover
Editorial Reviews for this title:
Synopsis:
'All your life you have the necessary illusion that you know all there is to know about heartbreak. I hate to the one to tell you about the heartbreak you will experience after you die ...' A family goes to the remote sierras of Mexico - the writer-to--be Susannah; her sister Magdalena; their father and mother. There, amid indigenous people called the Mundo, they begin an encounter that will change them more than they ever could have dreamed. This is a deeply sensual novel that explores the richness of female sexuality as a celebration of life, affirming the belief 'that it is the triumphant heart, not the conquered heart, that forgives. And that love is both timeless and beyond'.

Review:
The Mundo are a new tribe, created by the intermingling of escaped Black slaves and native Indians in the Mexican Sierras. Ineligible for academic funding, a husband-and-wife team of African American anthropologists pose as Christian missionaries to secure sponsorship to live among the Mundo and study their culture. This soul-stifling deception underlies the family tragedy at the heart of Alice Walker's novel, her first in six years. The father, preaching the message of his puritanical Protestant sponsors, is "sucked into the black cloth" of Christianity and blinded to the Mundo's life-affirming ways. When he discovers his daughter Magdalena's affair with a young Mundo, he beats her with a belt, thus estranging himself from both her and the younger daughter, Susannah. The first of several narrative voices to speak is his. Dead, he has become an "angel" who observes his daughters from the "other side" and seeks to make amends for the pain he inflicted on them in life.

It is the conceit of By the Light of My Father's Smile that angels have complete access to the consciousness of the living beings they observe. One of the book's very first scenes involves the ebullient lovemaking of Susannah and her partner, Pauline, reported in sweaty detail by the angelic paternal voyeur. Highly explicit, this set piece is a kind of guerrilla assault on our sensibilities, preparing us to receive Walker's urgent message--that sexuality and spirituality are inextricable, that denying one causes the other to atrophy as well. The blessings of fathers are, according to this canon, essential to the sexual flowering and spiritual maturity of their female offspring. It is in the loss, the conferring, and the claiming of these blessings that the novel finds its narrative thrust.

By the Light of My Father's Smile is intended perhaps less as a story than as a parable presenting Walker's cosmology for the new millennium--one that synthesizes ancient and modern wisdoms in a way that's as artistically daring as it is politically correct: Sex is good, repression is evil. Dominant is bad, distaff is good. European culture is dead meat, the third world is wise, there is ongoing commerce between the living and the dead, great orgasms shall set us free. Many readers will agree that a world built upon these precepts surely would be preferable to the one we now inhabit. Here, as in previous fictions, Walker the storyteller is spellbinding, Walker the preacher-theorist, less so. On the other hand, what other novelist risks so bravely or with such generosity, and seeks to give so much? With the proper mindset, Walker assures us, anyone can become a member of the Mundo tribe. --Joyce Thompson

Review

Review:
4 cassettes / 4 hours
Read by Audra McDonald

"Alice Walker is a lavishly gifted writer."
- The New York Times Book Review

A family from the United States goes to the remote Sierras in Mexico - the writer-to-be, Susannah; her sister, Magdalena; her father and mother.  And there, amid an endangered band of mixed-race Blacks and Indians called the Mundo, they begin an encounter that will change them more than they could ever dream.  

Moving back and forth in time, and among unforgettable characters and their stories, Walker crosses conventional borders of all kinds as she explores in this magical novel the ways in which a woman's denied sexuality leads to the loss of the much prized self, even as her family's past of lies and love is transformed.

By the Light of My Father's Smile explores the richness and coherence of alternative cultures' experience of sexuality as a celebration of life, of trust in Nature and the Spirit, even as it affirms the belief, as Walker says, "that it is the triumphant heart, not the conquered heart, that forgives.  And that love is both timeless and beyond time."

From the Inside Flap

Editorial reviews may belong to another edition of this title.
 

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