The title of this book alone piqued my interest. Prior to checking it out from HCPL, I was quite wary of this book. Nevertheless, my curiosity beat out my fear; after all, I’m strong in my beliefs.
Generally speaking, this semi-autobiographical novel follows characters connected to a storefront Pentecostal church in 1930s Harlam. It’s a day in the life sort of thing as well as a multi-generational story.
The main character is John (James Baldwin), a young teenage boy being reared by his victimized mother Elizabeth and her husband, the strict, violent “preacher” Gabriel. Gabriel abuses his family and seems to “have it in” for John, more so than John’s siblings. In return, John despises his father and fantasizes about killing him. When John has such dreams and homoerotic feelings, he feels the wrath of God.
John shares center stage with his parents and his Aunt Florence as well. Still and all, it’s mostly John’s story. In addition to all of the abuse, John carries the burden of being held to high standards. He is expected to be a preacher when he grows up, unlike his impish younger brother, Roy. So, the reader sees the fateful day where John must decide between duty and temptation.
I have a feeling that this was a good book. The prose is clear and illustrative. These could be people I know. Yet, I didn’t enjoy it much. I’m tired of reading about abusive fire and brimstone spouting types at the moment. I felt Baldwin’s pain but I’m weary of reading about violent Christians. Maybe I should reread Cry, The Beloved Country.
Three Out of Five Pearls
Word Bank: (pending)
- Come to Jesus
- Seventh Day
- Threshing Floor
Places: Harlem & Manhattan, New York; Georgia
For more on James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain, please check out the following links: