Gloria Naylor, author of The Women of Brewster Place, grants the world another chance to read why she's considered a literary champion. When I began reading Naylor's Linden Hills I was not familiar with her works nor had any inclination to be. Oh how foolish I have been all these years. I didn't realize until the last word that I missed her voice.
When I first requested Linden Hills for review it was simply because of the cover. I'm totally one of those people who judges books by their cover. I can't help it and I know I'm not alone in this matter. Once I was given access to the title, I realized I'd stumbled upon a true literary creation that I'd either get... or not get. Literary fiction always seems to intimidate me. I wonder if I'll "get" it. Will I have trudged along through masterful prose after masterful prose and simply not understand? Understanding literature in a more meaningful way is a community I desire to belong. I am similar to the people who desire to live in Linden Hills.
Linden Hills is known all over the Western world for being an exclusive community that all want to belong to. No one quite knows what the requirements are to getting in this neighborhood, but it is the creme de la creme of where to call home. Outsiders to this community see the opulence with envy. They are blind to the true, sad, disturbed existence that really lay in wait for a place that is so exclusive, yet always has an opening.
Our primary tour guides through this "heaven" on earth are Willie Lester. Two friends who are thicker than blood with each other. Although they are best friends, they are both very different. One glaring difference is that one lives in Linden Hills and the other lives in the neighboring town of Putney Wayne. Putney Wayne isn't exactly the place to be, or the place to be from. It's considered low although it looks down (geographically) on Linden Hills. The irony is not lost on anyone that the world's most happening place to call home is at the bottom of the hill, is not lost on me. And I'm surprised to be even that smart.
I guess my application into the Linden Hill's of reviewers looks slightly better.
Gloria Naylor's Linden Hill's is a contemporary take on Dante's Inferno. With Lester and Willie as our guides, we happen upon the nine circles of hell. We meet the people of Linden Hills and learn how their stories intertwine. Before long, it's obvious there's a heart and soul that is missing in Linden Hill's. Perhaps that heart and soul died generations ago when the first lease contract for a 1000 years was signed.
How's that for adding another bullet point into the exclusive reviewer's club. Sure, I could be a snarky, witty, or even completely dimwitted reviewer, but I want in!!! I want in although I don't know why. There's just something about this exclusive membership I have no choice but to attain.
Either way, Naylor had me glued to the pages of Linden Hill's and it saddened me to part with each character I met. On the surface they all seemed so real and it almost makes me mad that much of their stories were not perfectly sealed with some form of conclusion. But, their necessity on helping Lester, Willie, and us readers understand Linden Hill's better, and then ultimately ourselves isn't lost.
In conclusion, Linden Hills is actually my favorite book I've read this year so far. It surface hot buttons on race relations, poverty, prosperity, and the image we all want to portray are just a looking glass for the real point of this story. Whether my interpretation be right or wrong, I hope to never lose myself or my personal truth to conform to any "exclusive" faction at the cost of my soul. I think I'll rescind my application and just let it burn. *****
Copy provided by Open Road Media via Netgalley