Yulonda's Reviews > Sounder

Sounder by William H. Armstrong
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's review
Feb 01, 2012

did not like it
Read from January 21 to 31, 2012

This was a book that I wanted to like, but it was clear from the start that this was going to be a difficult task. The author's note at the beginning states that Sounder is really a story told to him by "a gray-haired black man who taught [at] the one-room Negro school." While the author remembered much about the old black man and the stories he told, he did not mention his name. I found this strange.

This namelessness continued in the novel, as none of the characters, except for the dog, Sounder, have names. We read about "the boy," "the child," "his father," "his mother" and so on. The setting is also unclear--this story about black sharecroppers could have taken place at any time between the end of the Civil War and the 1930s. The author's approach was frustrating and awkward. For example, at one point when "the boy" goes to visit his father in jail, the jailer asks who he wants to see. The character can not and does not answer because the author has not given the characters names. Although the boy's mother has several children, she constantly refers to the main character, "the boy," as "child." Things like this make these characters seem less than human; they wander through this novel aimlessly with no real knowledge of themselves or their surroundings.

Mostly, these characters seem to have no deep thoughts, but there was one exception. When "the boy" went to visit his father in jail, he daydreams about violence against whites (the jailer, the deputy) in what I can only describe as a lynching fantasy. This was quite disturbing, as there is no other indication that this simple character is violent.

I am glad that I checked this out from the library and did not spend my money buying it. (FYI: Author's name left out on purpose.)
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Reading Progress

01/21/2012 "So, Armstrong got the story from an unnamed, old black man from his childhood? You mean he remembered this story enough to publish it, but he doesn't remember the man's name? That old black man got the shaft."
01/25/2012 page 35
27.0% "50"
01/29/2012 page 66
52.0% "1) I have problems with the language--seems inauthentic and stilted. 2) Dude needed a thesaurus. He used grieve/grieve at least seven times between pages 63 and 66."
01/29/2012 page 77
60.0% "Why doesn't "the boy" know how old he is?" 1 comment
01/31/2012 "I'm finally done with Sounder. Shall we all join hands and sing the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last, free at last. . ."" 1 comment
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Christie Williams Lol! I thought that was strange, too. Btw, what's a "coon dog"? I don't think I like the sound of that!

Yulonda Oh, you city girl! It's a hound dog used for hunting, not necessarily for raccoons though.

Christie Williams Lol! Now, you know I was confused.

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