19 December 2016

BOOK REPORT: Their Eyes Were Watching God

A close friend recommended Their Eyes Were Watching God. It’s one of his favorites.

This is a character drama. It’s not about lost cities, black holes, or spaceships (which is mostly what I’ve been reading lately). It’s about people. Specifically black people in Florida a century ago. A woman named Janie is the protagonist. I appreciate characterization in a novel more than concept, plot, or setting. So I liked this one.

I love that the author shows you characters so vividly yet quickly (it’s a pretty short read). You see a lot of personality, but she doesn’t draw it out. It packs a lot of punch in not a lot of words. Zora Neale Hurston is a fantastic writer. Her diction throughout is poetic, exemplified by the paragraph from which the title is drawn:

“They sat in company with the others in other shanties, their eyes straining against crude walls and their souls asking if He meant to measure their puny might against His. They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God.

I listened to the audiobook, and the narrator is incredibly talented. She sounds distinguished as she’s reading the poetic sections, and then she’ll transform while reading a character’s prosaic dialog. I was super impressed, and I listen to a lot of narrators, so I would know, ha ha.

The theme is about finding meaning in life through love, through trusting people, but through being respectful to yourself and your own delights as well, summed up in this quote:

“Two things everybody’s got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin’ fuh theyselves.”

This is a book I would quickly recommend to anyone who enjoys reading.

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— J