"People pay for what they do, and still more for what they have allowed themselves to become. And they pay for it very simply; by the lives they lead."
First things first: Baldwin can write his ass off. He just has a way with words that are imperceptibly profound and flow beautifully. This is a deeply religious novel and while I tend to me ambivalent towards such subject matter, I found myself challenged and also captivated by the influence Christianity has on the lives of these characters and the complex way religion drives the story about the Grimes family as each member struggles with their faith in seeking salvation. An engrossing coming-of-age story as well as an expansive African American family saga with shifting narrative perspectives that alternates between different places in time -- from the deep south during slavery all the way to 1930's Harlem, where most of the novel takes place. Although the heated racial tensions between blacks and whites is present in the novel, Baldwin is rather subtle in his approach; refraining from taking sides and placing the blame solely on the white man. He just simply paints an accurately objective picture of the social and political struggles of race, class, sexuality and violence throughout a particular time in American history. The novel is split into three sections and each has its own merits and by the end, I was deeply moved. As a cynical non-believer, Baldwin made me question my faith (or lack thereof) so there is definitely something to be said about the spiritual power of this novel.
Read from May 07 to 10, 2011