By the Light of My Father's Smile is Alice Walker's first novel in six years--a stunning, original, and important book by "one of the best American writers of today" (The Washington Post).
A family from the United States goes to the remote Sierras in Mexico--the writer-to-be, Susannah; her sister, Magdalena; her father and mother. And there, amid an endangered band of mixed-race Blacks and Indians called the Mundo, they begin an encounter that will change them more than they could ever dream. Moving back and forth in time, and among unforgettable characters and their stories, Walker crosses conventional borders of all kinds as she explores in this magical novel the ways in which a woman's denied sexuality leads to the loss of the much prized and necessary original self; and how she regains that self, even as her family's past of lies and love is transformed.
By the Light of My Father's Smile presents, as Alice Walker puts it, "a celebration of sexuality, its absolute usefulness in the accessing of one's mature spirituality, and the father's role in assuring joy or sorrow in this arena for his female children." It explores the richness and coherence of alternative culture, experience of sexuality as a celebration of life, of trust in Nature and the Spirit, even as it affirms the belief, as Walker says, "that it is the triumphant heart, not the conquered heart, that forgives. And that love is both timeless and beyond time."
When she goes to the city she leaves me lounging in the swing underneath the oak tree. She visualizes me as a shadow, as her car zooms around the curves that take her rapidly down the mountain. She is listening to a music I have not heard in many years. At first I think it is Portuguese fado; then I realize it is flamenco, which is also characterized by passion and profound sadness. She moans along with the woman who is singing-wailing, her hands gripping the steering wheel to the plangent cries of the singer and the sobbing of violins. The momentum of her flight sets the old swing to rocking. Her car is old and black. It was another expression of my effort to contact her.
She was not even aware at the time of my death that she missed me. Poor child. She did not cry at my funeral. She was a stoic spectator. Her heart, she thought, was closed. I watched her looking down at me, the father who gave her life, with the passivity of one who has borne all she intends to bear. She did not ...
If you liked By The Light of My Father's Smile, try these:
'Though I've read countless novels, I had never read one like this ... told in a chorus of completely unexpected voices, as befits the first novel from a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and screenwriter' - Washington Post.
This audacious exploration into the nature of love is rich in characters, striking scenes and a profound understanding of how alive the past can be.
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