Set in an environment of casual prejudice and commonplace poverty, the story of a gentle, hardworking wife and mother, Anna Thomas, follows her endeavors to overcome a challenge that could destroy her family
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Right from the get-go Brian Keith Jackson's debut novel, The View from Here has an unusual kick to it: the book is narrated by the protagonist's as yet unborn child. The heroine of this touching tale is Anna Anderson Thomas, an African American wife and mother trying to keep her family together in the face of casual prejudice and economic hardship. The mother of five boys, she discovers number six is on the way around the same time her husband, JT, loses his job at the lumber mill. JT insists they can't afford this new baby and decides to give it to his sister to raise. In the ensuing months, Anna's only comfort comes in occasional letters from her childhood friend, Ida Mae, and the responses she composes in her head but never sends.
Jackson's book captures perfectly both the love and the rage of this family under pressure. As Anna navigates the choppy waters of family ties, old obligations, and new responsibilities, the passionate prose and unusual narrative perspective brings immediacy to her passage.From Kirkus Reviews:
Cleanly written debut that begins modestly enough, with a simplicity worthy of a YA audience, but loses its way once Jackson's preacherly instincts take over and his characters become object lessons in righteous behavior. As some sort of homage, Jackson sets his novel in the small Mississippi town of Eudora in Welty country, but it's more like the town of Alice, as in Walker. Lest he be charged with a vision of relentless black violence toward women, Jackson has his main character repent his ways and includes a shrew of witchlike proportions. The story is plain enough: Covering the nine months before the narrator's birth, the tale flashes back to her mother's courtship and marriage to one Joseph Henry Thomas, a hard-working illiterate who considers his wife and four children his property and rules the roost with an iron hand--and with a toughness penetrated only by his older sister, Clariece, a mean and pretentious old cow married to a preacher. Clariece certainly lords over Joseph's wife, Anna, the sweet and understanding center of this family saga. Without consulting her, Joseph promises his sixth child, the narrator, to his childless sister, an act that begins the rough times. For, in short order, Joseph loses his job, Anna's best friend dies, and Joseph takes up with the bottle. But the memory of Ida Mae, her wild and sassy friend, helps Anna through the crisis; in letters addressed to Ida Mae interspersed throughout the novel, Anna builds the courage to confront her cruel husband and his brutal sister. In Anna's moment of strength, Jackson provides the chest-thumping moral: ``. . . women are the bearers of life, [and] we also provide the strength that makes life worth living.'' The down-home parable-making here is undermined by all the pop psych, making this, sadly, a perfect contender for the latest in black schmaltz. (Author tour) -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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