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By The Light Of My Father's Smile: A Story Of Requited Love, Crossing Over, And The Sexual Healing Of The Soul

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  2,480 Ratings  ·  142 Reviews
The Mundo are a new tribe, created by the intermingling of escaped Black slaves and native Indians in the Mexican Sierras. Ineligible for academic funding, a husband-and-wife team of African American anthropologists pose as Christian missionaries to secure sponsorship to live among the Mundo and study their culture. This soul-stifling deception underlies the family tragedy ...more
Published (first published 1998)
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(showing 1-30)
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Daryl Leyesa
Sep 24, 2012 Daryl Leyesa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"When life descends into the pit
I must become my own candle
willingly burning myself
to light up the darkness around me"

This poem is the last entry of the novel. It tells about the next best thing to "hope" for – creating one's self, not without sacrifice such as getting burned, but also not without gain such as transforming into a flame - a light of hope. Whether by burning or transforming, life is being created; creating is living. This only shows how powerful the novel's chant is: We are closes
...more
Penelope
Mar 29, 2009 Penelope rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
holy crap, i say!

all right. i had to let this one sit and rumble around before i can get my mind around. i'm not all the way there yet, by any means. however, i have made progress with walker's point about it being not only crucial that parents are honest with their children about sex but that it's soul important to teach them the joy of sex. even further, to give them our blessing to be loved in the way our bodies are meant to be.

i think about what our kids are exposed to on a constant basis
...more
Indrani
Aug 09, 2012 Indrani rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lyrical, honest, sensual, beautiful, harsh... all of these words could be truthfully applied to this work. Alice Walker's exploration of sex, love, life, and relationships through the eyes of those who surround us, both living and dead takes the reader on a journey that spans not just the physical geography of the world, but a strange geography of the soul.

There were moments that were uncomfortable for me; the beginning chapters were almost too voyeuristic. However, I am certain this was done wi
...more
Dustin

All right, perhaps someone can help clarify something. As part of the creative writing course I'm taking, we had to read the first chapter of Alice Walker's By The Light Of My Father's Smile, which I did. I loved enough to look for it here, but the synopsis sounds nothing like the excerpt. Like, not even remotely similar! The characters and setting are different, the themes don't line up at all, from what I can tell. Yet, the cover and title, even the copyright date are the same.

Here's a link
...more
Nicole
Jan 29, 2011 Nicole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
I have found another literary spirit animal in Alice Walker, and have again developed another of my creepy-strong fan-girl crushes. Wow.

First of all, this woman can WRITE. She writes sentences that knock the wind out of you, or have you scrambling for a pen to write them down. Her writing is so supple and fluid; it was such a refreshing read.

And the themes she raises were so relevant and meaningful and gut-punchy. I had so many moments of those head-noddy-uhuhuh moments - you know the ones I'm t
...more
Virginia
May 01, 2010 Virginia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Delightful, unusual--I loved the structure and perspectives of the narrators. I think there are fabulous pieces of prose on nearly every page...so, I just flipped to a random page and will cite a sample here:

"At one point Manuelito mumbled something about needing a drink. I would have died for a burger and fries. But we persevered. I thought I had to find on his body those few remaining places where he could still be quickened sexually. He thought he had to battle to find my center by pushing as
...more
Susan Fetterer
Aug 12, 2011 Susan Fetterer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have great admiration for Alice Walker----as a writer, as a humanitarian. Like many others, the title drew me but titles aren't enough to keep readers turning the pages. This unique story was compelling and honest; the characters also compelling. They had much to say and much to offer to each other and the reader. Good character development leaves one wanting more and simultaneously feeling satisfied. Odd how that works. Characters with failings and strengths, idiosyncrasies, growth and change ...more
Brenda
Apr 06, 2013 Brenda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Alice Walker is one of my favorite authors and this is one of my favorite Alice Walker novels.

She's a brave author. She's insightful. She's poetic.

If those are words that appeal to you... try this.
Threasa Jenkins
Feb 07, 2016 Threasa Jenkins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is so spiritual and beautiful. It is filled with love, sensualness, life, families. It is told in such a lyrical way that I read it all in one day. I loved it!
Dominic
Dec 26, 2011 Dominic rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the best books I have ever read because it is practically breathes. It is so profoundly human, and returning to it again is its own timely meditation. It speaks to me on several levels--that as a man, as a soon-to-be-father, as a lover of women and justice, as a broken heart, as a healing soul. No story I've ever read speaks more to human health than this one--sexual health, forgiveness, healing personal wounds, finding peace.

Alice Walker, who I've said before is a sort of guru or
...more
Eric Susak
Jun 24, 2016 Eric Susak rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Part of the brilliance of Alice Walker is how intricately she weaves themes and concepts into her characters' lives. When she sets out to illuminate a social issue, it never overbears; instead, it presents itself naturally as an intrinsic part of human life, so rather than reading like a textbook set out to teach you about a certain concept, you feel it as much as intellectually understand. I've probably learned more about the lives of those who are different from me from Walker's books than I h ...more
Tracey
Jan 29, 2012 Tracey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have been at a loss for expression regarding this book. I do not feel I can do it justice. It was with much trepidation that I began, not really certain that I would truly enjoy it, given what I read on the jacket. I was compelled and in the end rewarded. It is worth another reading. More than a hint of magic, less than a full on spiritual guide. Soup for the soul, perhaps?

I should add to this that there are sexually explicit moments which are a bit too much for this reader and I would like fo
...more
Juna
Jan 06, 2009 Juna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
for the longest time if you asked me my greatest fear i would say..death. so reading this book really shook me out of that and for that im really grateful. like it shows death as just another transition in life just as growing and maturing in adulthood is transition. and so you cant have one without the other. but focusing on the end makes it impossible to appreciate the journey
Tanmayee
Nov 13, 2011 Tanmayee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing lessons to learn about illusions that stem out of our intricate personalities and to be aware that pain you inflict on others is actually the biggest punishment you can ever give to yourself.
Renisse
Feb 16, 2017 Renisse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful. Alice Walker is a seamstress. ❤
Zoë
Feb 09, 2010 Zoë rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"By The Light of my Father’s Smile is held together by a construct that at first seems artificial initially: a father is looking down on his daughter after his own death.

She was not even aware at the time of my death that she missed me. Poor child. She did not cry at my funeral. She was a stoic spectator. Her heart, she thought, was closed. (3)

As an atheist, I found the idea of an afterlife from which the father was speaking a little disappointing. However it becomes far more interesting when r
...more
Caroline
I can't say I loved the way 'A color Purple' or 'Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart' read. However, I LOVED this book. I don't know much about Walker, but I'm guessing she is a bit of a free spirit, unrestrained by societies ideas on love and wealth.


I never expected this book to be so...liberating. In America, as well as so many other countries in the world, a woman's sexuality isn't hers. It is something commandeered by men. Men that have women gyrating in music videos. Who have women, naked a
...more
Jen
Oct 07, 2011 Jen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club-books
I hate to say it, but I was quite disappointed in this book. It actually bored me. I felt that Alice Walker was all over the board in this book, with the multiple points of view, the multiple stories, the various references to random cultures' historical and symbolic practices that keep women subordinated. I feel that her writing here plus all the above-mentioned tactics stole the joy of watching a linear plot unfold and puzzling out for myself the characters' development. But she would tell us ...more
Ilyhana Kennedy
May 31, 2013 Ilyhana Kennedy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This little novel is a delicious read. What a treasure is Alice Walker's writing, such a gift of wisdom and fresh insight.
The storyline is of journeys home to the heartself along diverse paths linked by a common betrayal. It has the power to touch upon and stir the reader's own life journey.
I found it crafted in a very interesting and clever style, moving in first person from one character to another. Often it would take several paragraphs to identify who was speaking.
Sexuality is at the core of
...more
Stacey
Oct 14, 2014 Stacey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I really enjoyed By the Light of My Father's Smile and recommended it to my book club. There is a graphic sex scene in the first chapter, with a ghost watching, that may surprise the more conservative reader. This book is about sex, but it's not about sex. It's not 50 shades. It's about the role of sex in our lives and our cultures. Embracing sexuality in human-kind, and our growing adolescents. How to accept the intertwining of sex, love, and happiness. Being true to yourself. Learning yourself ...more
Coco
Aug 27, 2011 Coco rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Preachy. A different writing style from the author. I suspect it was intended to sound like musing; instead, the narration was messy. All of the characters in the book seemed to be whining for their own reasons, but all but one seemed difficult to relate to. My lack of compassion for the main character made the entire book rather unreadable.
Sara
Mar 27, 2007 Sara rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
i don't know why but i really did not like this book, which was disappointing as i usually really like walker's work. something just didn't click with me.
Susan
Mar 08, 2011 Susan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
No matter how hopeful I am, lightning is not striking twice.
Lorraine
Mar 31, 2013 Lorraine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
A few books have made me to exclaim "Huh?", this one falls into that category. I don't know what went on in "By the light of my Father's smile".

At first, it seemed to be about the metamorphosis of Magdalene AKA Mad Dog AKA June, then her sister, Susannah, waltzed in with her free-spirited thinking which spilled into everything she did. In Susannah's life, there's petros, her husband, Lily paul, her lesbian lover, Irene, her friend, June, her sister, and Anand, lover then friend.

Basically, in my
...more
Dray
"Manuelito loved you, said my sister, sighing.
That is why I was screaming, really, I said. I knew what being loved felt like, and then because of some religious bullshit I didn't even subscribe to, enforced by my own father, who didn't really believe it either, I didn't have it in my life anymore." 123

Alice Walker is totally fascinating to me. She travels the world protesting all sorts of shit, and she writes novels full of intriguing ideas, to say the least. By the Light of My Father's Smile
...more
Joan
Feb 28, 2014 Joan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I understand that this book was a bestseller at some point - that's why I bought it. I understand that the book is supposed to be a touching tale of forgiveness. I also understand that it is supposed to be a deep exploration of the spiritual nature of sexuality as well as the family background's influence upon its development. Indeed the subtitle is "A Story of Requited Love, Crossing Over, and the Sexual Healing of the Soul." Understanding all that, I (usually a pretty perceptive reader and thi ...more
Stuart
Feb 01, 2013 Stuart rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This was a disappointing book by an author who I deeply admire. Alice Walker has written some wonderful literature, but this book really doesn't stand among them, and it's only redeeming feature is the symbolism of the title. I feel I'm being generous by giving it two starts.

I got the feeling that this novel was written deliberately for the purpose of trying to convey a particular ideology, and consequently the characters seem two dimensional; they don't have lives or personalities beyond what p
...more
(a)lyss(a)
"I wanted reparation, I said, not apology."

This is very different from the other book by Alice Walker I've read, and was racier than expected.

It's not so much that I was put off by the sex, but I don't think it added as much as I expected either. There's a lot going on in this book. I thought this book would be stories about family, and it certainly is in a way, but it's about dysfunctional families and how terrible things happen to 15 year old girls and it wasn't what I was expecting to read.
...more
Suze
Jun 26, 2014 Suze rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Alice Walker’s writings are beautifully poetic and have a spiritual sensibility that is grounded in raw life. At the heart of this story is sexuality, as we observe a number of human relationships and the pain unwittingly caused, particularly due to patriarchal father-daughter situations. And yet, I couldn’t let myself get swept into it, having the sense that Walker was using the characters as her mouth-piece for her ideas. I normally like shifting points of view in a story, but in this case it ...more
Natlawsongmail.com
Thoroughly enjoyable. I always thought this book was the sideways apology for the color purple. In a way it was much more mystical and deranged then the color purple. I loved the theme and the characters. Actually, I think Alice walker is a victim is her own success. I read, Castle in the Forest by Norman Mailer and i couldn't help thinking Alice Walker would be well served to do the shadow biography of George W. Bush. It is definitely a treatment for a story teller, such as Alice Walker. Again, ...more
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Alice Walker, one of the United States’ preeminent writers, is an award-winning author of novels, stories, essays, and poetry. In 1983, Walker became the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for fiction with her novel The Color Purple, which also won the National Book Award. Her other books include The Third Life of Grange Copeland, Meridian, The Temple of My Familiar, and Possessi ...more
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“We do not believe in heaven or hell...; we do not believe in eternal damnation. We believe only in the unavoidable horror of hurting others and of likewise being hurt.” 29 likes
“The only way to solace anyone who loved you in life is to be a good memory” 19 likes
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