I do not know where the story begins. Though I am integral to it, I am not sure I know even what the story is as neither my life nor my death constitutes the story. Nor is the story always the one we recall. Rarely is it the one we tell.
At a first glace And All Wounds Forgiven is a novel offering insight to the turbulent times of social desegregation in the South. In 1954 the Superior Court outlawed social segregation in public schools, “wittingly or unwittingly” declaring “segregation illegal in every aspect of American life.”
John Calvin Marshall, a Harvard graduate with a Ph. D in philosophy was a key figure in changing the way the Afro-American citizens of America were to be accepted and integrated as equal citizens in everyday life. Maybe the whole world heard about Martin Luther King and his struggle for those who were brought here against their will and enslaved for more than three centuries. Nevertheless, he was not the one to start this movement for freedom and equality. There were others before him and one outstanding figure was John Calvin Marshall.
As I said in the beginning, at a first glance the novel is about Marshall’s struggle during the desegregation of the South. However, after you go into the story deeper and deeper, you realize that this is mainly a book about the lives of four people. The author uses the voices of these four people to tell about what happened back in 1964 and what they felt about what was going on.
We have the voice of Bobby Card “a black civil rights leader operating in the heart of darkness – the deep South of the 1960s – as Marshall’s chief lieutenant in the field.” Through his eyes we witness the outrageous horrors that have happened back then, and see the way everything got to him, eventually breaking him.
We have the voice of Andrea, Marshall’s wife, and all throughout the novel I lived with the impression that her voice in the book is present only to even out, complete and show the other side of Lisa Adams’ part of the story. Lisa Adams is a white woman who was Marshall’s trusted aid and mistress.
From the two women’s point of view this novel is actually about a love story, and this is also how I saw it. Maybe because I’m a woman. However, I was mesmerized by the way Lisa loved Cal, the deep physical bond and intimacy that existed between them. It is the kind of love most women only dream of. Unfortunately, Andrea, Marshall’s wife, was one of those women. She never had that kind of bond with her husband. As the voice of Marshall says in the novel: “I had married a bright and articulate young woman, well read, someone who would be able to talk with me about anything, and we talked brilliantly as long as it was about something out there in the world. We had insight into everything except ourselves. We had compassion for everyone except each other. For each other all we had was love, and love was not sufficient.” However, the love Marshall talks about regarding his wife is very different from what Lisa considers to be love, and to her the only true love that exists is felt the way she felt about Cal. And it is magical. Makes you wonder if you have ever loved, or could you ever love, someone that deeply and totally.
I enjoyed their love story the way one enjoys a dream. Nevertheless, what I most loved about this book were the bits where John Calvin Marshall’s voice is heard. The way he saw the world is amazing. Made me think about a lot of things. It also made me think that this man, while fighting for freedom, was not free himself. He became the prisoner of the image the world had about him. And sometimes felt frustrated for not being able to be totally himself when he was speaking to people. The one time he was himself, people felt betrayed and rejected him. He was not a fighter for the black but for freedom and equality, he did not hate the white man. Because, from his point of view, hatred towards someone because of skin color, religion, or ethnic affiliation meant to make the same mistake that made victims out of everyone who was ever persecuted because of these attributes.
I could talk about this book for days, because though I have finished reading it several weeks ago I am still thinking about it. It is so complex. You should not miss it.
Categorie: Roman istoric | Autor: Julius Lester | Editura: Arcade Publishing
Easy to follow, written in a fast pace which does not leave time for boredom.
For those who enjoy historical novels.