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Life Is Short But Wide

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  1,282 Ratings  ·  153 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
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published March 24th 2009 by Doubleday (first published 2009)
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Mocha Girl
Oct 11, 2009 Mocha Girl rated it it was ok
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
Mar 05, 2015 Michael rated it liked it
The narrator of this beautiful story is a ninety year old woman that is recounting her history. Slavery, love and redemption correlate the story as she takes the reader on a journey on the people that paved the way for her life. Starting with Irene who falls in love with a man named Val in the early twentieth century. Despite the love that she has for him, she makes it clear that she is not going to be anyone's slave. Teaching him how to read and write is one of the benefits of their relationshi ...more
May 05, 2015 Lawrence rated it really liked it
Another great book by J. California Cooper. If you're of fan of JCC, then I would highly recommend reading and/or listening to this audio book.
Jun 08, 2015 Donna rated it it was ok
2.5 stars.

I wanted to like this more than I did. I really thought I would love it. It even had a great title.

I did enjoy the narration in this. It was a story that spanned multiple generations that contained both the good and the bad. I also liked the journey the characters were on. It felt meaningful.

What I didn’t like, is that the plot seemed to be all over the place. I wish it had been reigned in and tightened up. There were so many people in this that the specifics were spread a little thi
Aug 27, 2010 Amanda rated it it was ok
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
Dana Moate
Mar 17, 2011 Dana Moate rated it did not like it
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
Sep 08, 2009 Kecia rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 03, 2013 Jaya rated it it was ok
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!
Aug 12, 2011 Christina rated it really liked it
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
~Gen hearts books.~
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
Cassandra Wilder
May 24, 2016 Cassandra Wilder rated it it was amazing
When I started reading this book, I had no idea that I would finish it in one day. Life is Short But Wide" by J. California Cooper is a complicated romance novel that leaves you wondering so much.

As I maneuvered through "Life is Short But Wide", I felt the pain that Cooper was describing. The grief, the abuse, and the poison are all elements of the book that made me cringe. Cooper forced me to question human nature. How can someone be evil or selfish or uncaring? What motivates someone to be ful
Sep 24, 2014 Jennifer rated it really liked it
I have to admit, I was drawn to this book simply by the title, so simple yet so true. I'd never read this author before and was pleasantly surprised by her storytelling ability. I found myself drawn into each character in the small town of Wideland,Oklahoma. Amidst lifes tragedies there is always so much beauty, if only one is able to recognize it. It was a sad yet hopeful story... and I quite like the story of folks finding a passionate love pass what most would deem their prime. "Life is Short ...more
May 06, 2009 Ja'nai rated it it was amazing
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.
Paula Hebert
Jan 25, 2010 Paula Hebert rated it liked it
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.
Dec 04, 2015 Emily rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Loved the narration, I can see how the storytelling thing wouldn't work for everyone but I really enjoyed that additional "voice" in the novel and the occasional perfectly phrased bits of wisdom it drops into the narrative. A sweet, quiet story but one with a lot of threads, some of which are left unresolved or feel too tangential.
Dec 27, 2009 Colleen rated it it was ok
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!
Mary Dearden
Dec 14, 2013 Mary Dearden rated it liked it
I liked parts of it a lot and other parts not so much. After about 2/3, the book started to drag. Some gritty portrayals of life made me want to slap some people up side the head.
Sep 29, 2009 Jenny rated it liked it
This book was different from what I expected, or maybe it's just that it's been so long since I put it on my list that I forgot what it was about! It kept me interested in the characters though :)
Dec 26, 2014 Trudy rated it really liked it
Shelves: rereading
Dec 25, 2016 Eugenie rated it liked it
Although I love JCC, this was not amongst my favourite reads. The main characters were good, honest and likeable but were beset by way too many misfortunes which resulted in their demise and replacement of the main characters twice. The last two main characters Herman and Mynne were okay - well Herman had the potential to be absolutely loveable and I think opportunities to exploit this promise were missed. Mynne on the other hand, although not a weak character, she did not make any resounding st ...more
Oct 21, 2016 Tasha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Story About Life and Love

Not many times will you find stories woven together in the way that this one is. Two paths that merge, and each has a distinct beginning. Readers are given a clear understanding of how each character came to be; why Myine lives, loves, and believes as she does and how she became so content all alone in the family home, how Juliet and Cloud reach what becomes a pinnacle in their relationship with one another, and where their old friend Herman fits. The history is well d
Nov 03, 2016 Tony rated it liked it
Dulled toward the last quarter, which seemed a bit dragged out and then got preachy at the very end. This book retained some of the strength and depth of her phenomenal short stories until a little past the halfway mark. Not a great read but an enjoyable one.
Janet Whitelock
Dec 18, 2016 Janet Whitelock rated it did not like it
I certainly wouldn't consider this a "love story." Yes, there was love between Irene and her husband (can't even remember his name); Bertha and George; Juliet and Cloud. However, these were all what I would consider 'side stories' and I believe the main love story was supposedly the one involving Mine and Herman. But seriously, did it have to take so long to get to it? The story seemed to focus more on the stupid mistakes of people having sex with or marrying the wrong person until, finally, two ...more
V Dixon
Oct 29, 2011 V Dixon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 09, 2012 LiteraryMarie rated it really liked it
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

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
Apr 14, 2013 Urs rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-w-cw
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
Aug 02, 2014 Olivermagnus rated it liked it
“Life is Short But Wide” takes place in Wideland, Oklahoma from about 1910 to the late sixties. Our narrator and on-looker is 91 year old Mrs. Hattie B. Brown who lives with her 105 year old mother. She wants to tell us a story that follows the shape of a “Y” showing two parallel lives that eventually flow into one another. We meet three generations of men and women, starting with Irene and Val and their two daughters, Rose and Tante. We also meet their neighbors Bertha, Joseph and their daughte ...more
Denise Billings
May 21, 2015 Denise Billings rated it it was amazing
Cooper is the consummate story teller. It's so hard to put down any of her books. You know how you plan to stop reading at the end of a chapter? Well the next chapter is so inviting and the last one flows so smoothly into the next I can't stop reading! I can't stop the conversation I'm having with the storyteller. This story of old love as opposed to new love has so many great quotes that I feel a need to respond to. Like when she stops to narrate the story of Herman, Myine, Bertha, Juliet, and ...more
Pamela Burdick
Aug 16, 2014 Pamela Burdick rated it really liked it
I saw this as a book on tape and listened to the first part of chapter one so many times I decided to get the book version. I resonated with the first chapter, which begins like this......

"Occasionally, actually quite often, someone will refer to a family or person as dysfunctional. Which, I believe is a sign of ignorance, for the obvious reason that 70 or 80 percent of all the people who have ever lived were dysfunctional. The other 20 or 30 percent tried to be, or had enough sense to be, wiser
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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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“Sometimes it's a struggle to get over self-love first. Sometimes in this struggle for love, we give up, or lose everything, and we still don't achieve love. Some people don't even recognize real love when it comes without being called or sought.” 9 likes
“Without respect, there is no love … for long, for anyone, but a fool.” 8 likes
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