Sula was set from 1919 to 1965 in Medallion aka the Bottom where only black people lived.
The book is named after one of the characters.
It is about two best friends “forever” (Sula and Nel) who shared such an admirable strong bond where they practically have one mind.
Some of the other notable characters include Helene Wright (Nel’s mother who eventually gave up on getting people to say her name the right way. Apparently, that’s the only battle she’s ever lost), Shadrack (the crazy suicide advocate), Eva (Sula’s grandmother, who people claim cut off her leg for insurance money), and Hannah (Sula’s mom, I call her the beautiful village whore although the daughter topped her game).
Nel was raised by her mother, Helene. Her father, Wiley Wright was never around due to his occupation. She thought her great grandmother was her grandmother until she passed away and she finally met her grandmother who didn’t seem to have the best of relationship with her mother.
Sula was raised by her mother and grandmother. Her grandmother, Eva became the rock of the family and her community after her womanizing, alcoholic and abusive husband, BoyBoy left her with 3 young kids. Eva was known to provide shelter and food for people of Medallion both young and old.
Her father, Rekus died when she was 3 years old which forced Hannah to move back in with Eva and also led her to become a woman with many lovers.
Both Eva and Hannah were known to sleep with lots of different men. To them all men were available irrespective of their marital status.
There were some tragedies that befell Sula’s family. Like when her uncle Plum (a self-destruct veteran) was burnt to death by Eva. And when her mother burnt herself to death while she watched.
Sula and Nel were very good friends who would take a bullet for each other. Nel was the calm, think-before-she-acts friend while Sula was the risk taker and the act-before-she-thinks friend.
One time Sula cut her finger to scare away some white thugs who tried to attack them. She told them if she could do this to herself imagine what she could do to them. The poor white bullies ran off scared for their lives.
Sula eventually went away for college. By the time she came back to Medallion Nel was married to Jude Greene.
Their relationship took a big hit after her return. The best friends forever became best friends never.
Sula also became the most hated person in her community. She did hurtful things that women before her already did but for some reason the Bottom people had a special kind of hatred for her. It could be because she was prideful, stubborn, arrogant, didn’t need a man, didn’t care about love and only cared about herself.
Her character to me, was a hardcore feminist. She was in total control of her body and mind.
I will say my favorite character in the book was Shadrack. He’s energetically crazy and never gave up on his passion of encouraging people to kill themselves peacefully on National Suicide Day. A special day he created and honored alone but which became part of everyone’s lives. He taught me the true meaning of never giving up on your dreams even if you don’t have any supporters.
The book didn’t completely capture my interest. There were times I would go back a page or two to make sense of a current page. Some things were left unsaid or unexplained. Like the first interaction between Sula and Shadrack – I didn’t know what he meant by “Always”. And also Sula’s illness – There wasn’t much detail about it.
Will I recommend Sula? Most likely. It’s Toni Morrison!