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Gregory BeyerMcFadden has a wonderful ear for dialogue, and her entertaining prose equally accommodates humor and pathos.
—The New York Times
If Jack Johnson had given up and allowed James Jeffries to clip him on the chin, which would have sent him hurling down to the floor where he could have pretended to be knocked out cold, then maybe Easter Bartlett's father wouldn't have twirled his wife and daughters around the house by their pinky fingers and his son John Bartlett Jr. wouldn't have felt for the first time in his life pleased and glad to be a black man. And if Jack Johnson had let the shouts of "Kill that nigger" that rang out from the crowd unravel him or the Nevada heat irritate him, maybe then he would have lost the fight and things would have remained as they were.
Things could have gone a different way if Jack Johnson hadn't gotten the notion some years earlier to cap his teeth in gold, so his smile added insult to injury when he was announced the victor of the "The Fight of the Century," and that glittering grin slapped white folk hard across their faces.
And if John Bartlett Sr. hadn't bet on Jack Johnson to win, then he wouldn't have had the extra money to buy his wife and two daughters new dresses from the most expensive dress shop in town, and the older of the two girls called Rlizbeth wouldn't have let her hair down and donned that brand-new yellow dress that made her look like an angel, so those white boys wouldn't have noticed her, wouldn't have called out to her from across the road, wouldn't have followed her and jumped her just as she reached the bend and dragged her into the brush, where they raped and beat her.
If all of that hadn't happened, then Easter wouldn't have looked up to see her sister crawling home on all fours like a dog, with a bloodstain shaped like the state of Texas on the backside of Rlizbeth's dress. Easter wouldn't have bore witness to the bite marks on Rlizbeth's breasts, and wouldn't have heard the silence that streamed out of Rlizbeth's mouth when she opened it to scream.
No sound at all.
Because after the first boy rammed his dick inside of Rlizbeth, her voice floated up into the sky never to be heard from again. And Easter wouldn't have had to accompany John Sr. down to the sheriff's office because her mother wouldn't let him go alone and wouldn't-couldn't-send John Jr. because that boy hadn't unclenched his fists or his jaw since it happened, and besides blood was swimming in his irises and he claimed to hear it thumping in his ears, so Easter went and then watched her father change from a man to boy right before her very eyes.
And if Sheriff Wiley had not forced Easter and her father to stare at the filthy soles of his boots, because it had not suited him to remove his feet from atop the wooden desk, and if Wiley had looked them straight in the eye like he would have his own kind instead of watching them from beneath the shade of the wide-brim hat he wore, and maybe if he'd believed John Sr. when he said, "I knows it was white boys cause we found tufts of blond and red hair clutched in Rlizbeth's hands," and Wiley had just gone out and found those boys and arrested them instead of suggesting that Rlizbeth had torn her own dress, bit her own breasts, and broke her own hymen all in order to cover up the somewhere or someone she had no place being or seeing-then maybe life for Easter would have been different.
But Wiley didn't do the right thing, and Easter looked up at her father who sat next to her with his head bowed and she heard his timid voice say, "Yes suh, I suppose you could be right, but how do you explain the hair? The red and blond hair?"
Wiley said he couldn't explain it and then dismissed them by tugging the brim of his hat down over his face and bid them a good day. If he hadn't done that and Easter hadn't seen the tears welling up in her father's eyes, she wouldn't have turned into the snarling howling thing and her father wouldn't have caught her by the waist just as she leapt across the desk intent on tearing out Wiley's throat.
If Jack Johnson hadn't been quite so dark and hadn't pumped his fists in the air like the champion he was then maybe ...
If Rlizbeth had just put on one of the old, worn dresses she owned and kept her hair pulled back in a tight bun, Easter probably never would have written the word HATE on a piece of paper, crumpled it into a ball, dropped it in a hole in the ground, and covered it with dirt, and her mother wouldn't have tried to go back to living as if that awful day hadn't happened and those boys weren't walking around as free as birds, and she never would have had the strain of pretending that everything was normal even though Rlizbeth had lost her voice and John Jr. had taken to staring down every white man in the town and John Sr. was intent on trying to make himself grow big again and thought that taking refuge in the arms of another woman would help him do that.
And if Zelda hadn't found the love letters pressed into the pages of her husband's Bible, letters written on fine onionskin paper that smelled of rose water, then John Jr. wouldn't have caught her crying, wouldn't have seen the letters scattered on the floor, and wouldn't have hit his father so hard that it knocked the wind out of both men. If all of that hadn't happened, then John Jr. wouldn't have had to leave the house, the town, and the state, and Easter might have gone on loving and respecting her father. But it did and Zelda's heart snapped under the strain, pain, and betrayal, and she died.
If there had not been a funeral, there would not have been a repast, so there would have been no need for Easter's father to wait patiently for the last mourner to leave the house before he changed his clothes, mounted his horse, and galloped off into the night leaving the scent of his pipe tobacco hanging in the air. And if he hadn't left, then he couldn't have returned with the wide-eyed, milky-brown woman who smelled of rose water and wasn't much older than Rlizbeth. He couldn't have brought her into their home, told Easter and Rlizbeth her name-which was Truda-and then informed them that she was his new wife and their new mother.
If Jack Johnson had just thrown the fight and Rlizbeth had maybe walked down a different road and not have been so pretty, everything would have remained the same in their small home and Easter would not have known the aching sadness of a dead mother, gone brother, and mute and ruined sister. And if there were no ache and no sadness then Easter would not have taken the gown that her mother died in, laid it across the dining room table, and arranged the china, crystal, and the silverware with the scrolled handles on top of it as if it was a special holiday and the family was expecting dinner guests. And she would not have placed bunches of flowers at the neckline, hemline, and sleeves-but she did, and when Truda walked into the dining room the next morning she forgot to breathe.
And if Truda hadn't forgotten to breathe, then maybe she wouldn't have screamed, which of course brought John Sr. into the room to see what was the matter. After that he kicked in the door to Easter's bedroom and found her sitting at the edge of the bed staring at her palms. He charged in and loomed over her like a great black hawk and hollered that he should have drowned her at birth. And if he hadn't said those hurtful words, Easter would have stayed in Waycross, Georgia, married, had children, grown old, and died.
But on that summer day in 1910, Jack Johnson did beat James Jeffries and Rlizbeth did put on that yellow dress that made her look like an angel and nothing and nobody was ever the same again.
Excerpted from Glorious by Bernice L. McFadden Copyright © 2010 by Bernice L. McFadden. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted September 9, 2010
I am a serious fan of Berniece McFadden. This was not her best work by far. It is however an good start. I feel like the book lacked depth and there was a rush to complete the story. The premise is good but the sub stories could have been deleted to give better focus to the main character and her story. The story does jump around and will leave some confused especially since a lot is left to the reader's imagination. As for the period in which the story is set, it is a fascinating time and the history is rich and complex. That seems to be missing from the plot. Also lacking is McFadden's usual ability to develp her characters and make you love(or hate) them. I felt very little connection to most of the character including the main one and felt some of the characters weren't even necessary. In all, I was not impressed.
3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 13, 2010
Oh where do I start.First let me say this I am an avid historial fiction reader. But this book definitly misses the mark on so many levels. The plot and the characters are underdeveloped and the story jumps around making it a bit confusing to keep up. To make a long story short I didnt like it and would not recommend it at all. I recently read "The help" by Kathryn Stockett in three days (which is a 452 pg book) this one is only 235 and it Took me a month! I Have read "sugar" and this bitter earth and thought it was genious
3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 2, 2011
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Posted April 13, 2012
Glorious is an engaging page turner. It is a wonderful choice for Book Clubs and a must read for avid book lovers. McFadden does a wonderful job of keeping the reader in suspense and intrigue simultaneously with the many facets and evolving traits of the novel's characters and their distinct characteristics.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 11, 2012
Posted December 6, 2011
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Posted October 25, 2011
Ms. McFadden does it again! A great read. It flowed from beginning to end. I love reading about this period - Harlem Renaissance. Also, I love th mix of history and fiction. I have read most of Ms. McFadden's novels and each one has been excellent. I look forwarrd to her next novel.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 31, 2011
Very easy read, wildly colorful in painting a vivid literary picture. However, ran out of steam at a crucial point in the story. Bernice is a wonderful storyteller with rich and engrossing characters. I feel she may have short changed herself and her readers at the end. Still worth the read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 23, 2011
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Posted February 6, 2011
Easter Bartlett flees the South and its hate and makes her way to Harlem. Easter's life is a story of "what ifs". Easter has some very colorful characters in her life; Rain and Meredith Tomas. Easter comes into her own as a writer during the Harlem Renaissance. By leaving "hate" in the South, Easter believed that people should be treated the same. Easter is betrayed in a bad way by Meredith Tomas, her benefactor. Easter flees Harlem and returns to her humble beginnings in the South. Bernice McFadden does an excellent job of combining fact and fiction to create this amazing story that takes us from the horrors of the South to Harlem. You can feel the hurt that Easter and other Blacks felt during those turbulent times in America. This book is a must read! --EbonyReader4Life (Circle of Color Book Club)Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 16, 2010
I enjoyed this book because I understood what the author, Bernice McFadden, was trying to do. All of the characters are simply archetypes of African Americans during that time period. That's why none of the characters are well-developed; they are simply meant to be compilations of certain types of Blacks as they migrated from the South to the North in search of a better life because of the racism of the South. And the main character, Easter, is meant to be a representation of Black authors and artists during the Harlem Renaissance.
The book was good in that it dealt with classic struggles in the Black community (racism, skin color bias among our own, relationships between Black men and women, underestimating our own worth, and honoring our history) and some that are evident in every community (sexual identity and orientation, abortion, and drug use). The main problem for me was that I never really empathized with any of the characters because they we all superficial. It was, however, a decent read.
Posted June 8, 2010
I really enjoyed this book because it educates as well as entertains. The characters were really well developed and the storyline really took you on an unexpectant journey. I would have loved 100 more pages!!!!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 6, 2010
Easter Venetta Bartlett is a literary talent unrequited by her experiences and unable to fathom the envy and deceit of lesser talents of her gift. Knowing little of the publishing world, her work is stolen by someone close to her. She becomes victim of her talent and is branded a plagiarist.
Bernice McFadden's "Glorious" chronicles the life of affable Easter, from adolescence through her senior years. It is a story of betrayal, loss, talent and struggle in a hostile environment where choices are limited by the need to survive and hopes are mitigated by circumstances. Whether the Jim Crow South, the Renaissance of Harlem or the Civil Rights Era, the ability to participate in change(s) is limited by social position, and to a large extent, by physical characteristics. Through Easter, McFadden delves into bravery to survive multiple frustrations, delusions, disappointments and defeats, which reflect the triumph of the spirit over destiny. She weaves a tale that must be told when hope is lost and starting over may be a matter of being without roots and alone.
"Glorious" is well researched and at times heart-wrenching. I was so involved in Easter's story, however, that I felt a void when portions of her life were skipped over. I'd recommend "Glorious," especially for its historical perspective of the integration of gender norms and social philosophies through turbulent times. Some well know characters are presented from the perspective of a poor black woman awash. Interesting.
Reviewed by: Gail
Posted May 19, 2010
A touching historical fiction that forces the reader to sympathize not only to the main character but what the black Americans' struggles were throughout the early 1900's until the mid 1960's. The author brings joy, anger and sadness within the scope of the novel to bring full circle a deep seeded empathy for the people involved. This is a breathtaking novel that brings to life the trials and tribulations of the black American during this time period.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 15, 2010
I got this book for my mom for Mother's Day and she really enjoyed it. She is going to let me borrow it (one of the advantages of getting your mom presents you like!) and I can't wait!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.