Abraham’s Well

I just finished my friend, Sharon Ewell Foster’s Abraham’s Well: A Novel. Since I know Sharon and have enjoyed her books set in modern times, Ain’t No River and Ain’t No Valley this work of historical fiction was a departure. I can’t pretend that my review is unbiased so don’t say I didn’t warn readers.

The story reminds me of The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman as it consists of an elderly woman looking back on her life during a significant historical period. Armentia, the main character, is African American and Cherokee. She lives in the 19th (and I suppose early 20th century) experiencing tribal life, slavery, the removal of Cherokee and other native Americans during the Trail of Tears and eventually freedom. It’s the story of an imperfect character, rather than a superhero, finding strength and courage to surmount injustice and hardship. I’m a sucker for such stories.

For me historical fiction succeeds by teaching me and entertaining me and Abraham’s Well does both. Although I’ve read a little about the Trail of Tears and knew that some African American’s are part Native American, I had no knowledge of African American involvement in this chapter of American history. Sharon includes an explanation of why she decided to write about this topic and her family heritage as it relates to the themes of the novel. I found that quite interesting. I could see this making a good movie.

The book reads very fast, as Bridget points out. Bridget’s also right about the chapters on the preaching but there’s probably less church-going in this story than the others I’ve read so I had a different view of that aspect. I didn’t mind it. I realize that Sharon’s fans will be looking for Christian fiction when they decide to read this novel.

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Imitation of Life

imitation_of_life_1959_family

Lana Turner, whose name I knew, though I’ve never seen her films, stars in Imitation of Life (1959), which shows the life of Lara Meredith a widow with a young daughter who aspires to become an actress. One day while at the beach, Lara loses Susie, her daughter. Frantic, she meets Steve, a photographer who helps her find Susie. I turns out Susie’s been with Annie, an African American woman with a fair skinned daughter, Sarah Jane, who befriends Susie.

Since Annie and Sarah Jane are homeless, Lara takes them in. Although Lara’s struggling too, she shares her home with Annie, though not exactly equally. Annie becomes Lara’s nanny/housekeeper, which made sense in the era. One storyline is Lara’s career success. She (almost unbelievably) rises to the highest level of the film world. Because she is so busy with her career, she has no time for Steve, the handsome photographer who’s so good with Susie, Annie and Sarah Jane.

Sarah Jane and Annie

Sarah Jane and Annie

Another, more compelling storyline is Sarah Jane’s life. She distances herself from her mother from her youth. She refuses to go to school when her peers learn her mother’s Black. As a teen, she secretly dates a boy and hides her mother’s race from him. Sarah eventually runs away telling her mother not to look for her because she wants to live as a white person, which breaks her mother’s heart.

The film’s pretty good, but dated. I found the acting rather stilted, but certain directors have their actors speak in a very stately, stagey way, which we don’t see in contemporary films. For some reason in Imitation of Life I noticed this more.

N.B. This film was a remake of a 1934 film with Claudette Colbert.