The events of the plot of Rich in Love suggest a much grimmer story than the one Lucille tells. Describing the plot—a seventeen-year-old whose mother leaves, who is the survivor of an attempted abortion, who has two sex relationships, whose unhappily pregnant sister considers an abortion and gives birth to her baby in a toilet—may make the book sound depressing. It is, however, not depressing at all, but life-affirming.
In fact, the book is rich in sensuous details and comic effects. Lucille’s narrative voice often sounds like that of a mature and poetic adult. Humphreys’ central intention is celebratory as she develops Lucille’s character in a situation “rich in love.” Lucille is experiencing a chaotic time in her own life at a chaotic time in history—domestic history, rather than the traditional history of wars and political upheavals.
The novel as a whole is structured around parallels: The black Poole family parallels the white Odoms. Rhody Poole, who left her daughter to be reared by her mother, parallels Rae Odom McQueen, whose mother is unlikely to rear her child. Rae’s pregnancy and her not wanting the baby parallels Helen’s situation when she was pregnant with Lucille. These parallels reinforce the connections among the characters’ lives and put their individual decisions in perspective.
During most of Rich in Love, Lucille is a neglected child who is looking out for her parents, but what appears to be chaos in the Odoms’ lives is the result of changing mores, including changing sex-role expectations. Lucille is therefore also growing up and learning about the varieties of love in a place she loves, a place rich not only in love but also in varieties of history.
The setting of...
(The entire section is 726 words.)