The First Fig Tree

Vivian Glover, Author St. Martin's Press $15.95 (222p) ISBN 978-0-312-01762-0
Enhanced by the gentle cadences of black Southern speech, this quiet story episodically unfolds in rural South Carolina during World War II, when a quick, keen-eyed little girl of about seven begins a fruitful relationship with her great-grandmother Ellen, a wise and matriarchal woman whose memory can still evoke sharply painful images of the Civil War. The somnolent summer days, the lush rural setting, the deeply religious overtones, the apparent prosperity of Ellen's extended family, all serve as a muted screen through which the author views the harsh, bitterly segregated society of the 1940s, a society which in many ways parallels Ellen's days as a slave on a plantation. Black children are cruelly harassed by townspeople; a lynching is barely prevented by the area's black doctor on the condition that the innocent 18-year-old prisoner never return home. Black soldiers discharged from the armed forces, including the little girl's father, will reluctantly move North to find better opportunities for their childrenbut the move will be a painful uprooting for the child. This lyrical and evocative first novel is well balanced by the interplay between two disparate but strong personalities. (May)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
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