Praisesong for the widow

by Paule Marshall

Paper Book, 1983


Checked out



New York, N.Y. [u.a.] : Plume, 1983


From the acclaimed author of Daughters and Brown Girl, Brownstones comes a "work of exceptional wisdom, maturity, and generosity, one in which the palpable humanity of its characters transcends any considerations of race or sex"(Washington Post Book World).   Avey Johnson--a black, middle-aged, middle-class widow given to hats, gloves, and pearls--has long since put behind her the Harlem of her childhood. Then on a cruise to the Caribbean with two friends, inspired by a troubling dream, she senses her life beginning to unravel--and in a panic packs her bag in the middle of the night and abandons her friends at the next port of call. The unexpected and beautiful adventure that follows provides Avey with the links to the culture and history she has so long disavowed. "Astonishingly moving."--Anne Tyler, The New York Times Book Review… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member tobagotim
This is an important book for me because the main character ends up in a search for herself in Grenada -- at some locations that I had recently walked in search of family members. The widow meets an old man on the beach and joins him and others from the island of Carriacou for an annual pilgramage to Carriacou. I continually give this book to family members and buy it back into my library. See if you like it.… (more)
LibraryThing member whitewavedarling
This story fell a bit flat for me. The flashbacks and memories were the most engaging and driving portions of the book, but they were few and far between. And unfortunately, there just weren't enough of them to give real meat or believability to the narrator or focus of the story. The beginning and the end especially dragged, and in general I just have to say that I found myself bored for much of the novel. Certainly, it's an easy read and doesn't take much time if you're curious...however, I'm afraid it's not one I would generally recommend.… (more)
LibraryThing member cbl_tn
"What's your nation?" he asked her, his manner curious, interested, even friendly all of a sudden. "Arada . . . ? Is you an Arada?" He waited. "Cromanti maybe . . . ?" And he again waited. "Yarraba then . . . ? Moko . . . ?"

On and on he recited the list of names, pausing after each one to give her time to answer.

"Temne . . . ? Is you a Temne maybe? Banda . . . ?"

What was the man going on about? What were these names? Each one made her head ache all the more. She thought she heard in them the faint rattle of the necklace of cowrie shells and amber Marion always wore. Africa? Did they have something to do with Africa?

Sixty-something widow Avey Johnson is on a Caribbean cruise with a couple of friends, an annual event since the death of her husband some four years earlier. Something happens to Avey on this cruise. She has a sudden urge to leave the ship and take the next plane home, so she disembarks at Grenada, the ship's next port of call. Instead of flying home immediately, Avey is drawn into the annual excursion from Grenada to the out island of Carriacou - a sort of ritual homecoming for the islanders who now make their homes on Grenada. The experience becomes a spiritual and cultural homecoming for Avey.

This novel explores collective memory as expressed through religious and cultural rituals and oral traditions in the United States and the Caribbean. Recommended for readers with an interest in African American literature, Caribbean literature, the African diaspora, women's studies, and religious studies.… (more)
LibraryThing member nkmunn
A sob caught in my throat as I finished this book today.


Original publication date



0452267110 / 9780452267114

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