Rosa Guy Jerrie Norris - Essay

Jerrie Norris

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

"The Disappearance," Rosa Guy's fourth novel, is a compelling and suspenseful story. The reader is immediately captured by the characters, who are so sharply defined, so clearly who they are. Dora Belle could only by a quirky, middle-aged West Indian and only Ann Aimsley, as Guy draws her, could be the queen of her dust-free, plastic-covered home. It is as if Guy excised whole chunks of life and brought her characters up whole. Juxtaposing characters and details of their lives, Guy outlines a picture. She paints a picture of images built up and arduously maintained to mask those common human frailties—fear, loneliness and insecurity—which touch people wherever they live. And so we see those frailties as they move an Ann Aimsley in Brooklyn or Imamu's mother in Harlem and set off events that march steadily toward tragedy.

And it is tragedy and victims that we find here, victims—intended or unintended—of false images. The victimizers are here as well. But there are no happy endings. What we are offered, and I think more realistically, is characters who are "willing to move from where they are," to use their experiences as a basis for growth. In Imamu, Guy gives us such a character, a victim who turns adversity to his benefit, one who dares to find some advantage in his disadvantaged life style.

"The Disappearance" will be no disappointment to readers of Guy's previous work or to young adults and adults newly discovering her. It is a suspenseful and readable novel that treats thought-provoking and complex issues.

Jerrie Norris, "Urban Strife on Suburban Streets" (reprinted by permission of the author), in The Christian Science Monitor, October 15, 1979, p. B4.