Monday, March 23, 2015
'The Eyes of the Heart' by Embassie Susberry
2015 Reading Challenge, Week 12 - A Book Written by someone under 30.
I discovered this book because I follow the author's review blog. I had no idea what to expect, but I was pretty confident there would be romance, as she gives the books she reads a romance rating. I enjoyed this story, and admire the way in which a writer in her twenties is able to bring a historical period from long before her birth to life.
Second-Place Winner of the 2011 Women of Faith Writing Contest!
Set in a small Mississippi town during the heart of the Civil Rights era, The Eyes of the Heart is a story about forgiveness, love, fear and hate. It is also a story about Edith Holden, a young woman living in the deep south who finds herself unwillingly confronted with racism, social injustice and her love for a man she is unsure she will ever have.
This is a story about two African-American sisters set in the Civil Rights period of the twentieth century. It follows the fortunes of Eddy (Edith) and her sister, Sylvia, from their childhoods to adulthood. It's set in the deep south, Mississippi.
The narrator, Eddy, is in love with Robert, a handsome man with a heart for social justice. She faces the heartache of feeling that she's not his first choice, and the ever-looming threat of danger his path involves. Her sister, Sylvia's story was even more compelling for me, like a modern 'Romeo and Juliet.' She's in love with Nathan, who returns her feelings, but a future together seems utterly out of the question, for he is the son of the wealthy, white land-owner whose mansion their mother cleans.
This novel brings several things to light for me.
1) Even years after the American Civil War, these poor folk had to put up with appalling treatment, keeping them on edge at the best of times, and fearing for their lives at the worst.
2) It's amazing that young people like the Holden sisters were able to grow up with a sense of dignity and self-respect, when being treated with contempt was all they'd ever known. I found it sad that the reflex of ducking for cover was natural from the time they were tiny.
Their story reminded me of reminiscences told by my mother, about what she and her sister used to get up to. They were similar ages in the same decade, and also struggled to make ends meet, but my mother and aunt had it way easier in comparison to Eddy and Sylvia, as they were white girls living in Australia. These similarities just reinforced that no young women should have had to live under the shadow of this novel's heroines.
In spite of the weighty theme, this is an easy story to read, with plenty of lighter moments. At one stage, I thought their mother, Dottie, showed remarkable patience. The girls were supposed to be helping her clean the mansion, but seemed to have a lot of time for reading, chess, play-acting and discussion with Nathan. However, I suppose that can be explained by Dottie's own high regard for the young master of the property, who was unlike any of his relatives.
Having a story told in first person from one character always has its limitations, but Eddy is an astute and wise storyteller who notices lots. I think her voice does restrict all that we can find out about Sylvia and Nathan's romance (as Eddy, of course, wouldn't have been present at every moment of their courtship) but not so much that we don't get the picture and find ourselves emotionally invested.
On the whole, this book brings a significant phase of history to life, showing what previous generations went through so current ones are able to benefit, which is what I like in a story.