Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Mar 15, 2013

When you get to the end of a book you've loved, there’s a sadness that it’s over.  But when I finished Their Eyes Were Watching God I was glad - glad that I had read this again.  I got so much more out of this the second time.  I was amazed at how powerfully author Zora Neale Hurston captures feelings – feelings of a woman exploring her identity, examining her inner worth.  But Hurston was before her time - this novel was written in 1937. Considered a controversial member of the Harlem Renaissance, she wrote so beautifully that her prose captures us immediately.  From the first line – “Ships at a distance have everyman’s wish on board” - we are taken on a voyage of discovery to find ourselves.

Fifteen year old Janie begins her journey in West Florida when her grandmother arranges for her to marry the much older Logan Killicks. Nanny is worried.  Janie needs to have a husband to be safe and cared for.  This begins Janie’s saga of love, pain and unhappiness until she finds Tea Cake, her soul mate.  Not only are Hurston’s characters alive with emotion, you are clammy just reading her descriptions of the Florida setting.  Author Karen Russell, in a recent interview in The New York Times Book Review, says   “Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston has maybe the best depiction of a wrathful hurricane in literature.”  That a current author is still inspired by this classic work is a tribute to our past wealth of literature.  So re-read an old favorite or something you had to read in school and look at it with more experienced eyes.  I think I might try Their Eyes Were Watching God again.

Reviewed by Library Staff