Sula by Toni Morrison

Date Read: February 16th 2015

Published: 1982

Publisher: Plume

Pages: 192


The Blurb

This rich and moving novel traces the lives of two black heroines from their close-knit childhood in a small Ohio town, through their sharply divergent paths of womanhood, to their ultimate confrontation and reconciliation.

Nel Wright has chosen to stay in the place where she was born, to marry, to raise a family, and become a pillar of the black community. Sula Peace has rejected the life Nel has embraced, escaping to college, submerging herself in city life. When she returns to her roots, it is as a rebel and a wanton seductress. Eventually, both women must face the consequences of their choices. Together, they create an unforgettable portrait of what it means and costs to be a black woman in America.


Review – ★★★ (3 stars)

Toni Morrison is a brilliant writer. Some bits of this novel were a bit dry and uninteresting, but Sula is a lovely story.

Sula Peace and Nel Wright were childhood friends from the same (fictional) town – the Bottom, in Ohio in the 1930’s. Nel came from a stable, strict household, while Sula was from a less strict household that did not seriously abide by social conventions. Despite Nel’s mother’s warnings, Nel constantly spent her time with Sula. They were inseparable, shared deep secrets (Chicken Little’s death) and were sometimes mistaken as sisters.

After high school, Sula decided to attend college in Nashville, while Nel immersed herself into motherhood, devoting her life to her husband and her three sons. When Sula returns to the Bottom, 10 years after she graduated, it was obvious that her relationship with Nel was not as intimate as before. Commentary from residents of the Bottom suggested that Sula had become a promiscuous woman who had affairs with married men, but Nel disregarded the gossip and continued to believe in the sisterhood they shared.

I really disliked Sula Peace. She was a selfish, wicked soul. Nel Wright was a bit more innocent and didn’t live for herself – I feel she lived for her husband, her kids, and Sula. I found the demise of Nel and Sula’s sisterhood predictable- especially given their similar YET very different character traits. Other characters like Eva (Sula’s one-legged grandmother), Hannah (Sula’s mother) and Shadrack help consummate the storyline in a way where readers learn life lessons from them. I loved Eva’s character- she symbolized a strong, resilient and almost heartless matriarch in my eyes.

Overall, it is Morrison’s unique writing style that made me appreciate this novel. Sula was not an exciting or extremely intriguing read for me. I’ll rummage through my Mom’s bookshelves and read another Toni Morrison soon. Maybe I’ll read The Bluest Eye or Tar Baby next.

★★★ (3 stars) – Good book. I recommend it, I guess.

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