two-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
11-July-Aug-2004
By: 
Alice Walker
user_rating: 
0

A-NowTimeOpenHeartWhen successful African-American author Kate Talkingtree, 57, dreams of dry riverbeds, she realizes she must dislodge the unhappiness that has crept into her life. Leaving her young artist lover, she sets out on an elusive spiritual quest that leads her to two rivers: first on a rafting trip down the Colorado and then on a hallucinogenic-influenced ride through the Amazon rain forest. Along the way, she encounters former lovers, victims, and gurus who all, like herself, are hoping that the "Earth Mother" will give them a little peace of mind.
Random House. 240 pages. $24.95.

Charlotte Observer 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Despite the naysayers who contend she is anti-black man, Walker explores the lives of black women and men in a range of interesting and enlightened relationships. Nowhere is this creative pattern more apparent than in her new novel…." Jeffrey Leak

Dallas Morning News 3 of 5 Stars
"[Walker] tells an ambiguous tale that sharpens with every page. ... [T]his fluid novel examines themes of aging, family and how to live with the choices we make." Meta G. Carstarphen

Chicago Tribune 2.5 of 5 Stars
"The book itself is a dream of the future; the whole story, not just the main character, is in the process of searching for meaning in days past and days to come…. [U]nfulfilling interactions are perhaps balanced by moments of gorgeous wisdom—about humanity…about liberty…about death." Emily Bernard

Miami Herald 1.5 of 5 Stars
"…declarative, dogmatizing fiction… . The gravity of sensual existence is missing." Lois Wolfe

Rocky Mountain News 1.5 of 5 Stars
"…it’s disheartening that the latest novel by Alice Walker, an author and storyteller of distinction, is a jumble of forced metaphors and half-baked philosophical lectures." Jenny Shank

NY Times 1 of 5 Stars
"If this novel did not boast the name of Alice Walker, who won acclaim some two decades ago with The Color Purple, it’s hard to imagine how it could have been published. ... a remarkably awful compendium of inanities." Michiko Kakutani

Critical Summary

Walker’s 10th novel, with its occasionally lyrical writing and idealistic narrator, resonated with a few reviewers. But most critics remained decidedly uninspired by the flat characters, insubstantial plot, and suffocating politics. Walker, apparently, has "forgotten how to tell a story" (Rocky Mountain News) and inflates the novel with "a cloying collection of New Age homilies, multicultural pieties and trippy Carlos Castaneda-ish riffs" (New York Times). Admittedly, the idea that a dream can be the source of creativity, change, and power is interesting, as is the novel’s basic question: is it possible to create peace in a brutal world? But in execution, the novel fails.