Book Review - Jackie K Cooper
Where the Souls Go by Ann Hite
Book lovers usually read as a minimum a book a week. In those fifty-two books there is generally a familiar pattern to the stories. For some this sameness increases the comfort of the reading experience; but for others it increases a hunger for something different. For all you "hungerers" let me introduce you to Ann Hite's Where the Souls Go, a generational saga about strong women. If that isn't different nothing is.
In the pages of Where the Souls Go you meet AzLeigh, Grace Jean, Pearl and Annie Todd. AzLeigh is the mother of Grace Jean and Pearl, and Annie Todd is Grace Jean's daughter. Each has a story to tell of hardship, passion and promise. And in each of these stories the men with whom they are involved are merely side characters. The women dominate the book.
Hite's story spans the years from 1925 thru 1993. The moments of these women's lives flit back and forth rather than being laid out in a linear manner. This can be confusing for the reader but it does allow for certain mysteries to remain unsolved until the end of the book. It is all a part of Hite's plan to involve the reader with the characters; interest the reader with the mysteries; satisfy the reader with the solutions. This three pronged attack does work and the final feelings of satisfaction are worth the inconvenience of passing back and forth through time.
Ann Hite adds two other aspects to the story. Number one is her decision to make this a "ghost story." Yes there are spirits who commune with these ladies and who add just a smidgen of the supernatural to their lives. They are also part of the overreaching mystery that haunts three generations of women. Although some may be put off by this inclusion of ghosts, the book is enjoyable even without a belief in the possibility of those things. The character of the women is the heart of the story with the addition of the ghosts being a small trimming on the family tree.
The second aspect is that the story is set in the South. The legends and characteristics of this locale helps make the women who they are. They are victims of their social standings and the caste system which they must endure. Their southerness is as much a part of their being as their gender. Being a woman during these times was one thing; being a southern woman was another. The women of this book endured the bad things and embraced the good things about being born southern.
Once you start the stories found in Where the Souls Go you will be entrapped. Oddly you will not want release. You will just want the story to go on and on. Hite is that good a writer and she creates a world of darkness and light that is endlessly alluring.
So if you are hungering for something a little different but totally entertaining get Where the Souls Go. Here you will find characters unlike any you have met before.
Where the Souls Go is published by Mercer University Press. It contains 400 pages and sells for $17.00.
Jackie K Cooper