Magazine article The Crisis

A Novel Approach to a "Memoir"

Magazine article The Crisis

A Novel Approach to a "Memoir"

Article excerpt

ALSO OF INTEREST

A Novel Approach to a "Memoir"

Now is the Time to Open Your Heart

By Alice Walker (Random House, $24.95)

Alice Walker has been known to refashion the term "novel" in her own image, and she continues in this vein with a book that, although crafted in third person, reads like a memoir. In an explanatory paragraph, Walker writes: "This novel is a memorial to the psychic explorer [Kate Nelson] might have become." Thus, the book's protagonist shares the name of Walker's murdered paternal grandmother, as well as many of Walker's own sentiments, as she embarks on a spiritual odyssey along the Colorado and Amazon rivers. Simultaneously, Kate's lover, Yolo, sets out on an introspective Hawaiian pilgrimage. (They are both successful artists - he a painter, she a writer - so there are no monetary or workplace hindrances.)

Alternating chapters inform us of both characters' progress. During their parallel journeys, Kate and Yolo encounter various obstacles and numerous personalities. Yolo's adventure is more plot-driven and consequently more compelling than Kate's. This is because Walker has saddled Kate with heavy messages.

Upon learning that bombings have occurred in eight different places in the world while she and YoIo were traveling, Kate muses, "It did not seem possible that people would bomb one another rather than talk. What fear was this, that kept silent until announced by the loudest sound on earth, the sound of worlds being destroyed?... What would happen if our foreign policy centered on the cultivation of joy rather than pain? …

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