Review: Meridian

Book cover to Meridian by Alice Walker

Meridian by Alice Walker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Meridian is a complex and fascinating novel; one that not just warrants re-reading but also revisiting by fans of Walker's The Color Purple and other powerful works by African American women. I stumbled across it in a used book store and took to reading it.  The novel starts toward the as a character, Truman Held makes his way into Chicokema, a southern town, where he quickly learns that Meridian Hill is still up to her resistance tactics, fighting on behalf of African Americans and suffering the debilitating illness that follows such resistance (her body near gives out on her).  From there, readers are guided through a disjointed timeline of the evolution of Meridian's and Truman's relationship over the years.  It is, of course, not the typical story of love but it is a story that includes more complex and nuanced forms of love (something that Walker will also do in The Color Purple) and teases out the messiness of relationships and how long they influence or even haunt people long after. In particular, it covers the strange three-way love story among Meridian, Truman, and Lynne, a white woman deeply involved in the Civil Rights movement but also carrying her share of racism. Each character must grapple with their own sexual identity in a world that ties such identity strongly to their race and class.  At the center of the novel are questions of purity (sexual, ideological, racial), betrayal (bodily, relational, racial), and resistance (bodily, sexual, political) that is squarely situated in the 1960s but has strong reverberations to today.  Walker gives us characters that we empathize with, are frustrated by, and yet also wonder more about the other foundational elements of how they became who they are. The novel isn't so much something to enjoy as it is something to witness and ponder about the lengths people go to enact the change that the world needs.

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