(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

In the opening scene of the novel, nineteen-year-old Clementine Rivers (Tish), sitting with phone in hand on one side of a solid glass barrier, tells twenty-two-year-old Alonzo Hunt (Fonny), who is in jail, and on the other side of the glass wall, that she is pregnant with his child. That she is unmarried does not bother Tish. She knows that she and Fonny had planned to marry, and had Fonny not been falsely accused of raping a Puerto Rican woman, they would have been wed.

The novel is divided into two parts. Part 1, “Troubled About My Soul,” constitutes about 90 percent of the book; the remaining 10 percent is part 2, “Zion.” The novel begins when Tish is in her third month of pregnancy and ends as the birth of the child is imminent. Between these momentous events is the tale of the efforts of the families of Tish and Fonny to get him released from prison and to ensure the well-being of the first grandchild.

After telling Fonny that he is about to become a father, Tish goes home, where she tells her mother, Sharon Rivers, who relays the information to her husband, Joe, and her daughter Ernestine (Sis). Mrs. Rivers makes this moment into a joyous occasion, showing the support and love of this family for Tish, Fonny, and the child-to-be-born.

When the Hunts are told of the impending birth, Frank, Fonny’s father, is ready to celebrate. In contrast to Frank Hunt’s reaction is the response of his wife, Alice, who accuses...

(The entire section is 419 words.)