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Jonah's Gourd Vine, Zora Neale Hurston's first novel, originally published in 1934, tells the story of John Buddy Pearson, "a living exultation" of a young man who loves too many women for his own good. Lucy, his long-suffering wife, is his true love, but there's also Mehaley and Big 'Oman, as well as the scheming Hattie, who conjures hoodoo spells to ensure his attentions. Even after becoming the popular pastor of Zion Hope, where his sermons and prayers for cleansing rouse the congregation's fervor, John has to confess that though he is a preacher on Sundays, he is a "natchel man" the rest of the week. And so in this sympathetic portrait of a man and his community, Zora Neale Hurston shows that faith, tolerance, and good intentions cannot resolve the tension between the spiritual and the physical. That she makes this age-old dilemma come so alive is a tribute to her understanding of the vagaries of human nature.

Published: HarperCollins on Oct 13, 2009
ISBN: 9780061865831
List price: $10.99
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This was the last of my All Virago/All August books and I loved, loved, loved it.It is told as in the style of an old Southern story by someone who lived it. At least that is how I found it to be.John Pearson, the main character, grows up under the thumb of his antagonistic stepfather and a loving mother and step siblings. The era is just after the war. When he gets old enough he goes out on his own to work and pay his own way in the world. He meets, falls in love with and marries a little gal who adores him throughout the entire book.But John/Jonah finds it difficult not to wander from his lady and from his work. So there are many adventures and changes that crop up during Jonah's lifetime.This is a fascinating read. It took me a few pages to get comfortable with the writing and the phrasing of the book but by then I was deeply immersed in it. I didn't want this one to end and was quite saddened when it did. Neither did I see the ending coming.I highly recommend this one as well.read more
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So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city. And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceedingly glad of the gourd. But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered. And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death. Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?Jonah 4:5-11Hurston's first novel, published in 1934, is a fictionalized account of the lives of her parents set in the post-Reconstruction South to the years that followed the First World War. The title refers to the Biblical prophet, who cared more about the death of the gourd vine that sheltered him from the sun than the people of the nearby town of Nineveh, who were at risk of annihilation at the hand of God. John Crittenden is born out of wedlock in post-Reconstruction Alabama to Amy, who later marries Ned, a sharecropper and embittered former slave who constantly butts heads with the strapping "high yaller" boy who isn't his own. Weary of the abuse and threats of his stepfather, John travels to a nearby farm to work, and meets Lucy, a younger girl who he falls in love with and ultimately marries. However, John is a strong and handsome man who is desired by many women, and he takes full advantage of this, to the detriment of his wives and young children. The aftermath of one affair nearly lands him on a chain gang, and he escapes to Florida, where he eventually moves to Eatonville, one of the first all-black towns in the Deep South. After working as a carpenter and sending for his family he eventually becomes a gifted preacher, who is in high demand in neighboring towns. However, he has not lost his taste for the flesh despite his love of the Spirit, and the problems that caused him to flee Alabama come to haunt him and his family in Florida. I enjoyed this debut effort by Hurston, with its rich characters and compelling story, and I plan to read her other three novels in my Library of America collection, Zora Neale Hurston: Novels and Stories, namely Their Eyes Were Watching God (a re-read), Moses, Man of the Mountain and Seraph on the Suwanee, later this year.read more
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Reviews

This was the last of my All Virago/All August books and I loved, loved, loved it.It is told as in the style of an old Southern story by someone who lived it. At least that is how I found it to be.John Pearson, the main character, grows up under the thumb of his antagonistic stepfather and a loving mother and step siblings. The era is just after the war. When he gets old enough he goes out on his own to work and pay his own way in the world. He meets, falls in love with and marries a little gal who adores him throughout the entire book.But John/Jonah finds it difficult not to wander from his lady and from his work. So there are many adventures and changes that crop up during Jonah's lifetime.This is a fascinating read. It took me a few pages to get comfortable with the writing and the phrasing of the book but by then I was deeply immersed in it. I didn't want this one to end and was quite saddened when it did. Neither did I see the ending coming.I highly recommend this one as well.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city. And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceedingly glad of the gourd. But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered. And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death. Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?Jonah 4:5-11Hurston's first novel, published in 1934, is a fictionalized account of the lives of her parents set in the post-Reconstruction South to the years that followed the First World War. The title refers to the Biblical prophet, who cared more about the death of the gourd vine that sheltered him from the sun than the people of the nearby town of Nineveh, who were at risk of annihilation at the hand of God. John Crittenden is born out of wedlock in post-Reconstruction Alabama to Amy, who later marries Ned, a sharecropper and embittered former slave who constantly butts heads with the strapping "high yaller" boy who isn't his own. Weary of the abuse and threats of his stepfather, John travels to a nearby farm to work, and meets Lucy, a younger girl who he falls in love with and ultimately marries. However, John is a strong and handsome man who is desired by many women, and he takes full advantage of this, to the detriment of his wives and young children. The aftermath of one affair nearly lands him on a chain gang, and he escapes to Florida, where he eventually moves to Eatonville, one of the first all-black towns in the Deep South. After working as a carpenter and sending for his family he eventually becomes a gifted preacher, who is in high demand in neighboring towns. However, he has not lost his taste for the flesh despite his love of the Spirit, and the problems that caused him to flee Alabama come to haunt him and his family in Florida. I enjoyed this debut effort by Hurston, with its rich characters and compelling story, and I plan to read her other three novels in my Library of America collection, Zora Neale Hurston: Novels and Stories, namely Their Eyes Were Watching God (a re-read), Moses, Man of the Mountain and Seraph on the Suwanee, later this year.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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