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By the Light of My Fathers Smile

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  2,130 ratings  ·  121 reviews
By the Light of My Father's Smile is Alice Walker's first novel in six years--a stunning, original, and important book by "one of the best American writers of today" (The Washington Post).

A family from the United States goes to the remote Sierras in Mexico--the writer-to-be, Susannah; her sister, Magdalena; her father and mother.And there, amid an endangered band of mixed-

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Broché, 243 pages
Published September 1st 1999 by Ballantine Books (Mm) (first published 1998)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Daryl Leyesa
"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
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Penelope
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
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Indrani
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
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Susan Fetterer
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
Dominic
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
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Jen
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
Tracey
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
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Virginia
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
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Joan
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
Juna
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
Coco
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.
Tanmayee
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.
Brenda
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.
Sara
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
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
Stacey
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
Susan
No matter how hopeful I am, lightning is not striking twice.
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
Caroline Alicia
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
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Zoë
"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
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Lorraine
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
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Stuart
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
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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
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HeavyReader
Feb 11, 2014 HeavyReader rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Alice Walker
Recommended to HeavyReader by: Tania
Shelves: feminist, fiction
I enjoyed this book so much!

Sometimes it was hard to read. Women are abused and hurt, taken advantage of, in this book. But that happens in real life too. The hardships women face in this book are not gratuitous, they reflect real life hardships that women face.

It was so cool that some of the main characters are ghosts.

The writing is gorgeous. The story is one of redemption. This book is Alice Walker soaring.
Lester
Oh my..Alice Walker!! A magnificent work of life story.
I believe that I will purchase this book to have to share. I marked off so many pages to refer back to that it was almost like reading the book over again!
The chapter 'Anyone Can See That the Sky Is Naked' and the following chapter 'Crossing' are ones that I treasure for now. Wonderful. Of course the previous and following chapters are wonderful too!
Thank you Alice Walker.
Ilyhana Kennedy
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
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Melinda
I love all things Alice Walker. I don't know that this story was super memorable, but she writes sentences so beautifully - I love being engrossed in her words.
Winter Sophia Rose
Emotional, Captivating & Enchanting!
Hani
out standing book
Belle
endlessly orgasmic.
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Alice Walker (b. 1944), 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, an ...more
More about Alice Walker...
The Color Purple The Temple of My Familiar Possessing the Secret of Joy In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose Meridian

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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.” 28 likes
“The only way to solace anyone who loved you in life is to be a good memory” 19 likes
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