My mauma was shrewd. She didn’t get any reading and writing like me. Everything she knew came from living on the scarce side of mercyI normally would simply discard the book. Writing that tries to capture the ungrammatical speech and slightly-off pronunciations of poor people is just plain obfuscating. Any writer who does this page after page doesn't deserve to be read. Even that phrase -- "scarce side of mercy" -- seems so powerful. But what exactly does it mean?
I would moved on to another book if it hadn't been our book club's selection of the month. Muttering a bit, I continued to read Invention of Wings. I'm glad I did. Fortunately, Sue Monk Kidd doesn't overdo the dialect bit, beyond insisting of giving the slaves cutesy pet names. The book turned out to be tightly written, with a gripping story and very sympathetic characters.
The book captures the interweaving stories of women and African Americans trying to attain their freedoms in a world that is arranged to give them nothing easily. Throughout, it is a very moving book, but it was the afterword that brought me up short. Turns out the story of one of the two main characters in the book is true. And thinking back on it, no one can make this stuff up.