Life Is Short But Wide
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Life Is Short But Wide

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  875 ratings  ·  116 reviews
Beloved writer J. California Cooper has won a legion of loyal fans and much critical acclaim for her powerful storytelling gifts. In language both spare and direct yet wondrously lyrical, LIFE IS SHORT BUT WIDE is an irresistible story of family that proves no matter who you are or what you do, you are never too old to chase your dreams.
Like the small towns J. California C...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published March 24th 2009 by Doubleday (first published 2009)
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Mocha Girl
Author J. California Cooper takes us to Wideland, Oklahoma to chronicle the lives, loves, and losses of two families in her latest offering entitled, Life Is Short But Wide. A 91 year-old narrates the story and immediately espouses Cooper's signature edicts of loving life, yourself, one another, and God. The "do right," work hard, save money, importance of education, etc. lessons are also overtly and repeatedly layered in the stories of Val and Irene, Joseph and Bertha, and their children. Their...more
Vern
Now that I am a J. California Cooper junkie, I had to squeeze in another book by her this year. Prior to me reading anything by Cooper, Life is Short but Wide, was on my Amazon Wish List. Cooper is such a phenomenal storyteller that I could not wait to read a novel by her.

Cooper begins this story with a blossoming love story between Irene and Val. Irene is a young woman “running from a motherless home” (14). Val is a hard working man that happens to be part Indian and part African. Val meets Ire...more
Dana Moate
Maybe I shouldn't have purchased a reader, but just kept borrowing from the library....I feel I have to finish a book I don't even like, just because I have purchased it! Crazy, I know. I really do love "folksy" books ("Cold Sassy Tree" and "Enemy Women" are two of my all-time favorites). This book, however, was disjointed, inappropriately folksy, and boring. Added to that, there were a lot of outright comments against conservatism, and in the end a long "commercial" for the Jehovah Witness Chur...more
Kecia
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jelahn
Although this book is well written, and at times interesting, I found it to be tedious (very repetitious) and I found then ending to be very preachy. It was as if the author was trying to convert readers to become Jehovah's Witnesses! It's too bad because I have long enjoyed many of her books-- they have been some of my favorites of all time! I'll stick with her earlier works!
Christina
J. California Cooper is a phenomenal writer. She inspires and motivates inside her short stories and novels, through her characters. This book was no exception. Unfortunately, I still enjoy her short stories better than her novels.

This book discussed how these families lived, how lives came together through the journey of life, and how love never grows old or dies. This book was very depressing and stressful in some parts. Having to read about how a young girl was sold away from her family beca...more
Amanda
I like a good character study, and was looking forward to this story of the lives of a small neighborhood of family (biological and "lifelong friend" family) in Oklahoma. The beginning of the book was adequate to keep me interested, but nothing that really stood out as outstanding. In the middle, I did come to care for the characters and was engaged in their stories and what would happen to them.

I personally felt like things fell apart in the last quarter or so of the book. All of the sudden Co...more
 Gen
This was an interesting story. I liked the style in which the story was told. I felt that there was a lot of sadness, loss and grief in this story, but the happy ending made the story worthwhile. I liked the fact that the story had a nice theme of love, family & friendship. It helped to balance out the sadness and misfortune.

I liked that the setting of this story was in Oklahoma. I lived there for almost ten years. I finally moved to another state in 2009. Like some of the characters in the...more
Cassandra Hawkins-Wilson
I cannot believe that I finished this book within one day. Feels good to be getting back in the grove of reading like I have done this week. I am proud of myself. Just like when I lived with my parents. Now to this book...J. California Cooper has yet to disappoint me. I would classify this book as being a complex romance novel. So many times the pain was too much for me to bear. The poison, the grief, the misuse would make me cringe. I even found myself, "How can people be so evil, so selfish, a...more
Paula Hebert
written from the perspective of the poor black community beginning in the 1930's on, this is the story of one family "just livin'". wonderful vocabulary and cadence bring you into the heart of their experiences; their heartbreaks and victories, their loves and losses. I say read it to open your mind and heart to a world most of us will never know.
Ja'nai
Growing up my mom had just about all of J. California Cooper's books and I happily read them. I was excited when I found out there was a new one out and it more than lived up to my expectations. I could barely put it down for want of finishing it. Nobody spins life lessons and love stories into 1 quite like this author.
Colleen
Really enjoyed this book at the outset but as it went along I felt like the author spent way too much time on a lot of unnecessary narrative. It ended on a bad note for me when the author rambled for pages on a completely disjointed character epiphany. It was a nice story but needed some fine tuning and EDITING!
LiteraryMarie
I have wanted to read a book by J. California Cooper for the longest. This particular book has been sitting in my wish list, then TBR pile since forever and a day. A couple of my bookhearts (Vern and Cassandra) have encouraged my reading this author. What better time to try a new African American author than during Black History Month? So I finally picked up and started reading Life is Short but Wide.

The story is told from different perspectives. Overall, it is about love. That "hard-to-find, h...more
Urs
I am a big fan of J. California Cooper and her short story anthologies. However, this is the first actual novel that I have read of Cooper's.

This book is a historical journey that reaches across a few generations. It tells of two sisters that grow up and take very different paths. The story mostly follows Rose, the sister that stays home. Ultimately, it ends up being a story of how Rose finds her true love.

This was an interesting enough story with a lot of people and situations to follow throug...more
V Dixon
Sometimes you read a work of fiction that makes you think and want to be better, this is one such book if you read with a combination of an open mind and a sense of historical times.
First character that I felt let down by in a sense was Val Strong. His double stron(Val in Latin) and yet his wife's death makes him lose his will to live. I am also disappointed in this because he was raised as an Indian Warrior/Brave. I am rather certain they do not teach give up and die but this is my assessment....more
Arianna
shelfnotes.com

January 10, 2014

Dear Reader,

This was an another audiobook find that I stumbled across on my local library's Overdrive site. I don't know that I would have come across it otherwise, but I am glad I did - and that I gave it a fair shake, because it almost immediately turned me off with religious talk: I thought it might not be my kind of book. But, ultimately, the God talk was pretty limited, and did all work with the theme and feel of the book, so I am glad I stuck with it. Cooper i...more
Elizabeth
The book is written from the perspective of a narrator who is personally telling you a story while sitting next to you. Some may find this charming, I found it hokey. the "oh mys," etc, felt forced to me.

The narrator weaves a tell of two people/families who blend together - I enjoyed the latter half of the book, but felt that the first section gave short shrift to the early characters.

It's a nice easy read that went on about 5 pages too long. The story ultimately about love and how it can buil...more
Marci
When I read the comments on the back of the book and saw the line, "Cooper's work reminds us of Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston...It is a delight to read," by Alice Walker I had to read the book (loving Hurston and Walker as I do). The book did not disappoint. I loved that, like "Their Eyes Were Watching God", it didn't focus on white people's oppression of blacks but rather told the story of people. It gave me new insights into another segment of society and gave honest feelings to the c...more
Melissa
This is another book that I found in the library's "new" section. I picked it based solely on its' title. I didn't really love it at first, but in the heart of it, I really started to enjoy it. There seemed to be too much history and too many people at the beginning. And I still don't really understand the narrator's place in all of it.

The story takes place in Wideland, OK in a predominately black area. Irene and Val are deeply in love. The have two daughters, Tante, and Rose. They also have a...more
Stephanie Hill Alexander
The this like the last book of my favorite author got off to an extremely slow start. It took me several chapters to get my enthusiasm up for the characters-juliet, herman, rose, tante, mine, tonya. I eventually got into it and really liked how the arthor wove together their stories. There were a few story lines that got on my neves like how Mine never bothered to try to escape the cafe;Juliet wouldn't marry because of her mom and she'd been sleeping with him for over 20 years; how no one said a...more
Jerry Daniels
Some stories are told to teach a moral lesson, like Aesop's fables. Or they merely capture a snapshot of life and dramatize or celebrate it. But it is those extraordinary stories that pose a question about the human condition and leave it unanswered, while not making positive or negative judgments. Life is Short, But Wide, written by J. California Cooper, is told in the manner of only two of these stories, with an elderly mother and daughter team narrating to teach about love found, lost, and de...more
Susan Yasuhara
This was pleasant reading about a black family growing up in Wideland, Oklahoma. Sisters growing up, wanting more out of life, to become educated, go to college, to help others who have less than them and dealing with those who take advantage of their goodness. The author would add her commentary in parentheses and italics through out the book, but I'm not sure why. As an example, it wasn't necessary to explain the ages of the characters at a particular time. One could assess that by reading. Th...more
Marilyn
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nancy
This book takes place in Oklahoma. The story teller tells a story about several people, and follows them through their lives. It tells a little bit about how white people treated the indians and blacks. It tells of terrible poverty, and the importance of education. There are people who take advantage of those who are trying to do the right things. There are those who prostitute themselves, and are addicted to drugs and alcohol. There are those who seek love in their lives, and finally find it wh...more
Kimberly
Like the title implies this is a lovely story about life told like an oral history. Everything isn't tied up neatly with precision, but it is communicated like a friend would recount a story. So some characters aren't fully developed, timelines aren't perfect and there are some loose ends. But the beauty and grace in these friendships and family relationships makes the story a wonderful experience. I was confused at the end by the discussion of character's involvement with the Jehovah Witness fa...more
Jan
Its a 90 something black woman telling the story of her family's past to explain about love and it comes across very childish instead of a simple black woman and who the heck tells about the sex in the bedroom between relatives or friends in a story like this?!? I mean if it had been left to the imagination it would have been okay but to be graphic just didn't fit imo. Then near the end it is so drawn out it got boring to read and repeatative like the author was trying to stretch it out. Plus if...more
Jean Barrington
Cooper is a great story teller, no doubt about it. Her characters are interesting and she makes you want to find out where their lives are going. Let me just say without giving away the ending; chapter 43 was a little over the top - more; well read it for yourself. The rest of the story was just great! I like her style and will read more of her writing. I appreciate here glimpse in African-American life in Oklahoma during the 20th century through the lives of the families she writes about. I don...more
Hafsas Mom
This is my first J. California Cooper book and probably my last. This is a multi-generational story with two families eventually growing into one family.
Dana Brown
Love this author. There are always statements in her books that I have to write down. Important little truths.
Lynn
This story, told by a ninety-something woman follows a group of poor Black people for almost a century. I enjoyed the first part as I am a sucker for well-drawn period pieces. The last part, not so much. I guess I expected more. It just seemed to take forever to get to where it was going, which wasn't all that far. As a "slice of life" it works on the level that most people's lives aren't all that thrilling so if that's what you are looking for, here's the book for you. If you want things tied u...more
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J. California Cooper first found acclaim as a playwright. The author of seventeen plays, she was named Black Playwright of the Year in 1978. It was through her work in the theater that she caught the attention of acclaimed poet and novelist Alice Walker. Encouraged by Walker to turn her popular storytelling skills to fiction, Cooper wrote her first collection of short stories, A Piece of Mine, in...more
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