The View from Here

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Set in rural Mississippi in the 1950’s, THE VIEW FROM HERE focuses on a poor, black family in crisis. Anna is the caring and obedient wife of her patriarchal husband, J.T., and mother of five strapping sons. When she becomes pregnant yet again, J.T. decides to give the child up for adoption to his barren older sister, Clariece. Things go from bad to worse when Anna loses her part-time job as housekeeper to an elderly white woman and J.T. is let go from his longtime job at the local mill, leaving their eldest son, Junior, the principal wage earner.

Anna’s unborn child, whom she has named Lisa and in whom she confides, serves as the novel’s principal narrator. As such, Lisa proves to be both omnipresent and omniscient. In addition, this main narrative is interspersed with two others: a series of letters that Anna writes but never mails to her childhood girlfriend, Ida Mae, and scenes from Anna’s adolescence.

The author has done a masterful job of using the past to illuminate the present. Rather than confuse, these three narrative strands have been skillfully interwoven to present a compelling portrait of a hard-working, dedicated wife and mother struggling against adversity to keep her family together. The tension mounts throughout the novel as the long-suffering Anna rides out each successive conflict until the powerful final chapter when she is dealt what she considers to be the last straw and explodes into action.