Monday, July 6, 2009

The Store (1933) - Reviewed by AK

I couldn't do it. I tried and tried to finish The Store and I just couldn't. I realized about halfway through that I just didn't care at all what happened to Colonel Miltiades Vaiden and his fellow citizens of Florence, Alabama. I know I should have persevered, but I just felt like I was wasting valuable time. Please don't judge me - this is the first Pulitzer Prize winner in the Fiction category that I have not finished. I promise I will try not to make it too much of a habit.

I discovered, after reading a good chunk of the book, that The Store is actually the second book in a trilogy by Stribling about the Vaiden family in the post-Reconstruction South. That in itself explained some of the problem I was having connecting with the characters - they had been developed in a previous volume and, therefore, Stribling felt we could skip the preliminaries that might have given me some sort of attachment. I was just so disappointed because when I started the book I had such high hopes for something different in the Pulitzer winners for fiction. This book was clearly no love story. It addresses issues that were prevalent in the South in the decades after the Civil War. What place did the former slave have in society? Where were ruined plantation owners to turn for employment when they could not function without slaves? How would the South rise up above the ruins after the War and Reconstruction? Who would be their voice in government? These issues are vaguely touched on, but mostly the story focus on things that I found to be insignificant and petty. I also did not enjoy the story enough to be willing to put up with the excessive (though culturally common at the time) use of the "N" word and derogatory comments about freed slaves. I won't rail any longer. I simply did not enjoy this book.