BOOK TITLE: THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD
AUTHOR: ZORA NEALE HURSTON
REVIEWER: VERAH OMWOCHA
Janie Crawford is a mullato girl who grows up in the early 20th century. She is left under the care of her grandmother by her absentee mother. Her grandmother prematurely marries her off to Logan Kellicks, a dull, ugly and older man. She later runs away from the marriage.
Through Jody, her new lover, she sees an opportunity to redeem herself as he promises to help her fulfill her dreams. This is not to be as Jody becomes a ‘big’ man; the mayor and a rich landlord. He treats her like a trophy and wants her to behave ‘like a mayor’s wife should’, something that curtails Janie’s freedom; she is not even allowed to speak with commoners.
At Jody’s death, Janie becomes a rich, free and independent woman; happily running the store Jody left her. This is until the love of her life, Tea Cake, shows up at the front of the store one day. Ignoring the judgemental looks of the people (Tea Cake is much younger than she is), they find love in each other. Sadly, he dies from hydrophobia when a hurricane strikes.
Janie goes back to her hometown after collecting money and wisdom from each of her marriages. She learns about herself; about love; about life. In the end, she finds peace and contentment in her being. She does not feel the need to explain herself to the townspeople but does it anyway to her best friend Phoebe, allowing her to tell the nosy neighbours if she (Phoebe) so wishes. Janie understands that none of those people who judge her harshly and question her decisions ever truly loved and lived like she has so how can they understand?
Janie’s journey is catchy and emotional. This story collected all my emotions in one basket; sadness, happiness, love, fear, freedom. It is a reminder of what it means to be an African woman: the joys, the troubles, the happiness, heartbreaks and everything else that comes with being a woman even in a contemporary society.
This is a well-wrought novel from an African woman about an African woman. It is a story about a woman who carves out her fate and finds real love. Women characters always stand out for me and Janie is just a perfect embodiment of a strong, liberated and independent woman.
If you ever want to get lost between the covers a book, grab Zora Hourston’s ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’. It completely gripped me, flipping through the pages through the night and still wanting more.
Although it was a little difficult to read through the pidgin in the dialogues, I found it completely authentic. The prose in flashbacks is also beautiful!
This is not just your ordinary story, it is full of life lessons. Take a peek at these sampled quotes.
‘‘It is so easy to be hopeful in the daytime when you can see the things you wish on. But it was night, it stayed night. Night was standing across nothingness with the whole world in his hands…they sat in the company of each other in the shanties straining against cruel walls and their souls asking if He meant to measure their puny might against His. They seemed to be staring in the dark but their eyes were watching God.’’
‘‘If you can see the light at daybreak, you don’t care if you die at dusk. So many people never see the light at all.’’
‘‘Love is like the sea. It is a moving thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from the shore it meets, and it is different with every shore.’’
‘‘She had waited all her life for something, and it had killed her when it found her.’’
‘‘There are years that ask questions and years that answer.’’
‘‘A person’s true destiny can only be revealed at the end of their journey.’’
‘‘There are two sides to every person, one that we reveal to the world and one we keep hidden inside. A duality governed by the balance of light and darkness…within each one of us is the capacity for both good and evil. But those who are to blur the moral dividing line hold the true power.’’
‘‘Trust is a difficult thing. Whether it is finding the right people to trust or trusting the right people will do the wrong thing. But trusting your heart …is the riskiest thing of all. In the end, the only person you can truly trust is yourself.’’
Ending…. Two things everybody’s got to do for themselves. They got to go to God, and they got to find out about living for themselves.
I could go and on but hey, read the book! It’s lovely, I promise.