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Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper


This is my first time reading Ms. Cooper and I really enjoyed her style. In this book we go to Wideland, Oklahoma where an older woman relates an African American family saga about the people of Wideland and about love: hard-to-find, hard-to-get, hard-to-keep love.

Our narrator explains that the story (which covers much of the 20th century) is shaped like a “Y” with two strands coming together. In one strand we meet Val, a Native American and Irene, the Afr. Am. woman he comes to love as well as their daughters, Rose and Tante. Tante can’t wait to leave Wideland and make her own life, while Rose stays and becomes a teacher, making sure the poor children learn how to read and write. She also marries Leroy and has her own daughter, Myine. But Leroy is bad news and brings an old girlfriend into the picture. There is a lot of evil here, people being poisoned to death and children being sold to others…

The story of Herman Tenderman is the other strand. Much of his story occurs at the same time as that of Tante and Rose, but it isn’t until later, when they merge, that the love story begins. Herman makes his way in the world, gets a college degree, joins the Navy and works hard as a garage mechanic. Years pass and Herman and Myine’s paths cross more and more until they realize they were meant to be. Even still, it takes them a long time to get through past hurts and admit to themselves and each other that their love completes the “Y” of the narrators’ story. Check catalog for availability.


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