Book Review: Brown Glass Windows
Publication Date: Apr 01, 2002
List Price: $18.95
Format: Paperback, 200 pages
Imprint: Curbstone Books
Publisher: Northwestern University Press
Parent Company: Northwestern University
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Book Reviewed by Thumper
I've been waiting a long time for this and it is a privilege and a pleasure to
state that Devorah Major's new novel Brown Glass Window is out and it is
wonderful! I read Major's An Open Weave many years ago and loved it! I
longed for another novel by Major, then along comes Brown Glass Window, a novel
that features an African-American family going through drama; not just any
drama, but my favorite kind of drama -- family drama! Brown Glass
Window, in a word, is magnificent.
Brown Glass Window is the story of the Everman family. Jamal, a.k.a. Sketch is a 16-year-old manchild and neighborhood graphic artist. He spray paints walls, garages, or any flat surface with his moniker (or tag) and designs. Jamal's father, Ranger, is a Viet Nam vet, and a recovering crackhead who has not completely healed from the horrors of his tour in Viet Nam. Ranger loves Jamal and tries his best to raise him through Jamal's budding manhood while at the same time dealing the monkey on his back and rebuilding bridges that his addiction and junkie behavior have long since destroyed. Gently, quietly, forcefully what unfolds is the life of a family. Despite the changing times, neighborhoods, and social atmosphere, the relationships of a parent-to-child, brother-to-brother, and neighbor-to-neighbor remain steadfast and unaltered.
On the outer perimeter of the Everman family lives Victoria Cheevers, an old woman whose life mission has been to walk in, become close to the light. Victoria dresses in white, all over, everything white. She wears white powder to cover her skin in an attempt to become invisible; thereby, obtaining true light. Victoria has a spirit, a ghost that keeps company with her. Victoria and the spirit will play an integral role in the Everman family tale.
Brown Glass Window is a small tapestry of a novel. It is multi-layered in terms of plot, social significance and has different textures that stand proudly in their uniqueness yet but when viewed as one all are in perfect balance.
Major introduces each section and/or chapter with a poem that foretells the main character of the section/chapter. I found the poems fantastic. As you know, I don't usually review poetry. Not that I don't care for it, or dislike it, nothing could be farther from the truth. I find poetry subjective. Who am I to tell a person that their emotions, feelings, and how they choose to express them is wrong or invalid? Either I like it or I don't. Sometime I find the groove and am able to ride it; other times it's a futile gesture. With Major's poems I found the groove and rode it. Major successfully pulls off integrating her poetry and the story, each enhancing the other.
A dimension Major added was the spirit that accompanies Victoria narrated half the novel. The spirit is a fascinating character that possesses the tone, wisdom and humor of an excellent storyteller and bossy grandmother combined. I could have listened to the spirit speak, telling stories all day long. The remaining characters were equally as well developed and three-dimensional as the spirit. I found the fusion of the mysticism and realism complimentary. Frankly, Major did not hit a wrong note; her sense of timing, grace and emotional delivery was near perfect.
Brown Glass Window is an exceptional novel that interweaves the mysticism and realism, producing a story of an everyday African American family. Major crafted a fine story that illuminates the hard jagged edged hostility, sticky sweet love and the powerful weightlessness of dreams, wishes and regrets of family and its ties that bind. I laughed, I cried, talked to, and talked about all during the reading of the novel. I couldn't help but be moved. Brown Glass Window is a damn good novel.