Published: Mar 15, 2004
Toni Morrison's highly acclaimed novel Sula is as gripping on audiotape as it is on paper. The Nobel Prize-winning writer narrates the unabridged version of the book in a rich, soothing voice that mesmerizes listeners with its relaxed and methodical cadence. Sula revolves around the relationship between two little girls growing up in a poor, black neighborhood nestled high in the hilltops. "The Bottom," as the barrio came to be known, is brimming with eccentric residents but sadly deprived of human warmth. (The town actually takes pride in celebrating National Suicide Day.) However, out of this bitter, abrasive environment grows a beautiful friendship between Sula and Nel. Their shared secrets and dreams blossom through childhood, but their special bond suffers after the two separate. Sula leaves the Bottom to conquer the unknown cities of America, while Nel becomes a homebody, settling down as a wife and mother. When Sula returns to her hometown, she feels like a stranger; she repels everyone, even the only true friend she ever knew. Morrison's vocal range evokes an extraordinary atmosphere of survival in a harsh and unforgiving world. (Four cassettes; running time: aprox. four hours)
Hearing an author read her own work creates a special ambiance. To hear Morrison read a short, unabridged novel published 24 years ago, to hear in her voice how much she still values the writing, well, who could ask for more? The only drawback is that Morrison, while very much in tune with her characters, often lets her voice drop to a whisper, making these tapes difficult to listen to while driving and almost impossible on a highway with the window open. On the page, Sula is one of her more clearly defined novels?the friendship and later hatred that envelopes the lives of two black women from "the bottom"?but the imagistic nature of the writing means listeners may have to replay passages if they want to follow the action. A small price to pay for a masterpiece.?Rochelle Ratner, formerly with "Soho Weekly News," New YorkCopyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.