BN.com Gift Guide

Praisesong for the Widow

Paperback (Reissue)
$12.87
BN.com price
(Save 19%)$16.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (106) from $1.99   
  • New (12) from $3.26   
  • Used (94) from $1.99   
Sending request ...

Editorial Reviews

Sacred Fire
Praisesong for the Widow is a novel full of music and dancing; it describes the sickness that occurs when we disconnect from our heritage and the healing power that comes from reclaiming the music and rhythms of the ancestors. Its hero, Avatar “Avey” Johnson, was a new character in black literature: an affluent middle-aged black woman, a mother, a grandmother, and a widow. Avey and her late husband worked hard to climb from the slums of Harlem to the comforts of suburban White Plains. But that material comfort brought with it a spiritual disease—a hard-to-diagnose but impossible-to-ignore malaise that eventually erupted into violent illness during a Caribbean vacation. In this novel, Paule Marshall traces Avey’s journey from sickness to strength, from the soulless suburbs to the African roots of her identity.

The novel opens with a curious scene: a woman throwing clothes into a suitcase. Since her husband passed away, Avey had been going on cruises with her friends from work, Thomasina and Glance. It is on a Carribean vacation that she finds herself in distress and decides to abandon the cruise. She finds herself dreaming of childhood summers spent in South Carolina with her Aunt Cuney. Aunt Cuney used to take her to Ibo Landing to do the Ring Shout, a ritual dance in honor of the Africans who were brought to the Landing to be sold as slaves. Later she dreams of her late husband who, in his drive for material success in a white world, shut their lives off from the passion and sense of community they had once shared.

The next day she runs into Lebert Joseph, an old man who listens to her concerns, diagnoses her problem, and prescribes cure: a trip to the island of Carricacou, where she undergoes a reunion with that part of her African heritage and traditions that she has allowed to lie dormant within her for so many years. On the island of Carricacou, Avey observes and eventually partici pates in rituals with the islanders. In one of their rituals, prayers and songs are followed by dances. Each nation is called on to dance, but Avey cannot join until they begin to dance the Carricacou Tramp, a dance she recognizes as the same Ring Shout she did as a child in South Carolina. With that, she is reunited with the roots of her own identity and that of her people. It is through the rituals on the island that she realizes the connective thread between the Ring Shout danced by church members, the neighborhood picnics and jazz music in Harlem, and the African origins of her people.

Praisesong for the Widow takes on a decidedly contemporary problem: the rootlessness of a generation of black women—and men—who forsook the traditions of the ancestors and the warmth of the community for a sterile and materialistic version of the American dream. In this novel, Marshall takes a character suffering from this modern dilemma and cures her by immersing her in a world of history, myth, and ritual. The novel is written so vividiy and lyrically, one can almost see Avey dancing the Ring Shout and hear the drums in tribute to the islander’s ancestors. The book won the American Book Award in 1984.

Anne Tyler
Astonishingly moving.
—Anne Tyler, New York Times Book Review
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452267114
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/28/1984
  • Series: Contemporary Fiction, Plume Series
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 317,701
  • Product dimensions: 5.42 (w) x 8.09 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Meet the Author

Paule Mashall is the author of Brown Girl, Brownstones, The Chosen Place, The Timeless People, Praisesong for the Widow, Soul Clap Hands and Sing, Reena and Other Stories, and Daughters. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, she is now Professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)