The View From Here

( 3 )

Overview

Set in an environment of casual prejudice and commonplace poverty, this remarkable novel opens with one of Anna's rambling, poignant letters - missives she can never mail - to Ida Mae Ramsey, her best friend since they sat together dangling their legs near the soft waters of the creek, where Ida Mae spiked Anna's lemonade. Desperate to escape the trap of marriage and children and find an independent life, Ida Mae packed up and headed north, flitting from job to job, city to city, her infrequent letters arriving ...
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Overview

Set in an environment of casual prejudice and commonplace poverty, this remarkable novel opens with one of Anna's rambling, poignant letters - missives she can never mail - to Ida Mae Ramsey, her best friend since they sat together dangling their legs near the soft waters of the creek, where Ida Mae spiked Anna's lemonade. Desperate to escape the trap of marriage and children and find an independent life, Ida Mae packed up and headed north, flitting from job to job, city to city, her infrequent letters arriving with no return address. Anna stayed home and married Joseph Henry Thomas, her beloved J.T., raising her five boys and stepping softly around her husband's vast silences. Now Anna is pregnant again - a girl this time, she is sure - a girl J.T. says they can't afford to keep. As spring swells inexorably toward summer, Anna misses Ida Mae's comfort and support almost more than she can bear. With remarkable insight and compassion, The View from Here illuminates the universal, unspoken bonds - so strong, yet so easily damaged - that pulse through families, and the twisted skeins of memory and desire that linger only in our most secret hearts.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The view is from the womb in Jackson's extraordinary debut, most of which is narrated by L'il Lisa, who begins speaking to us five months into her mother Anna's pregnancy. (Readers may be reminded of Kate Atkinson's The View from the Museum.) Taking place over the course of four months in the 1950s, the action centers around an African American family isolated among the corn fields of rural Mississippi. Well before her birth, Lisa knows her brooding, domineering father, J.T., won't allow Anna to keep the baby. With five sons already, J.T. can't handle another mouth to feed and has arranged to give the child to Clariece, his barren older sister, to rear. Clariece is pretentious, verbally and physically abusive, belittling and dishonest. Himself raised by Clariece, T.J. has been so thoroughly demeaned by her that he can't recognize her poisonous character. Anna wants to keep Lisa and has faith that J.T. will come to his senses when his only daughter is born. In addition to Lisa's narrative, Jackson threads poignant fragments of unmailed letters written by Anna during her lonely pregnancy to her devoted childhood friend Ida Mae, who has gone north and for whom Anna has no address. He also includes occasional third-person passages which offer an omniscient perspective on Anna, Ida Mae and J.T. from their youth up through Lisa's dramatic birth. Jackson orchestrates the three viewpoints like a skilled composer, engaging the reader intellectually and emotionally. His descriptions are understated but evocative, his dialogue natural and true to period regional idiom. A formidable craftsman and exceptionally gifted storyteller, he has written a haunting story. (Feb.)
Kirkus Reviews
Cleanly written debut that begins modestly enough, with a simplicity worthy of a YA audience, but loses its way once Jackson's preacherly instincts take over and his characters become object lessons in righteous behavior.

As some sort of homage, Jackson sets his novel in the small Mississippi town of Eudora in Welty country, but it's more like the town of Alice, as in Walker. Lest he be charged with a vision of relentless black violence toward women, Jackson has his main character repent his ways and includes a shrew of witchlike proportions. The story is plain enough: Covering the nine months before the narrator's birth, the tale flashes back to her mother's courtship and marriage to one Joseph Henry Thomas, a hard-working illiterate who considers his wife and four children his property and rules the roost with an iron hand—and with a toughness penetrated only by his older sister, Clariece, a mean and pretentious old cow married to a preacher. Clariece certainly lords over Joseph's wife, Anna, the sweet and understanding center of this family saga. Without consulting her, Joseph promises his sixth child, the narrator, to his childless sister, an act that begins the rough times. For, in short order, Joseph loses his job, Anna's best friend dies, and Joseph takes up with the bottle. But the memory of Ida Mae, her wild and sassy friend, helps Anna through the crisis; in letters addressed to Ida Mae interspersed throughout the novel, Anna builds the courage to confront her cruel husband and his brutal sister. In Anna's moment of strength, Jackson provides the chest-thumping moral: ". . . women are the bearers of life, [and] we also provide the strength that makes life worth living."

The down-home parable-making here is undermined by all the pop psych, making this, sadly, a perfect contender for the latest in black schmaltz.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671568962
  • Publisher: Gallery Books
  • Publication date: 2/1/1998
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 0.55 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 8.50 (d)

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2002

    Outstanding!!

    Told largely in part by the unborn child, this is a story of self-discovery, strength, and family love. The View From Here is excellent! It goes deep into the soul and deep into the impoverished rural South into the home of Anna and J.T. where years of depression, predjudice, mental and physical abuse has taken its toll on the family. An unplanned pregnancy throws the family into crisis and the loss of employment makes a bad situation worse. J.T. ¿fixes¿ things by offering the unborn child to his older sister/surrogate mother, Clairese, the preacher¿s wife, and turns to corn liquor as console for his idle time. Anna eventually saves her family by (a) pulling on inspiration of her best friend, Ida Mae, who has ¿gone up North¿ in search of freedom and a better life and (b) her mother¿s strength to preservere and do the right thing. This book is a quick read, a real winner¿I was really intrigued to see that it was written by a man! I give this body of work 5 stars and two thumbs up!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2002

    beautifully, uniquely written

    I make a habit of trying to read author's first novels, and rarely am I disappointed. But, when I read The View from Here several years ago, I found myself enchanted by his writing style. Often I check to see if he has published again, and indeed Queen of Harlem is coming soon! I'll go out on a limb and suggest this will be one to recommend, as well his second novel Walking Through Mirrors.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2000

    Fantastic!

    I LOVE this man's books! I've read both of his books and I could not begin to sing my praises for both of his works ('Walking Through Mirrors' is his other book). Brian Keith Jackson tells a story that reminds me of Toni Morrison's 'The Bluest Eye' in story content but this book is far clearer to read and, quite frankly, far more enjoyable in my opinion. This is a story about a pregnant Anna, her 5 boys, and her husband Joseph. Brian tells a powerful story of how Anna struggles to keep her family together despite her husband and his sister's intentions. I even liked the fact that the story's narration was told through Anna's unborn child. Quite simply put, this is an excellent book by a phenomenal author.

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