Sandy's Reviews > Of Love and Dust

Of Love and Dust by Ernest J. Gaines
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's review
Jul 31, 2010

it was amazing

** spoiler alert ** I've been on an Ernest J. Gaines kick this summer since I read A Lesson Before Dying for The Big Read. After that came In My Father's House. I found the plots of both of these came with foregone conclusions. Gaines's art is not in the plot but how that plot will transform the main character. These books are tragedies.

Third in line for me was Of Love and Dust. I thought this one would be like the other two I had read and the outcome would be clear from the start. It was not. Perhaps it should have been, but this one was too close to the bone for me, so I stumbled along with Marcus toward the conclusion of his story and his life.

Marcus is a black man awaiting trial for the murder of another black man in a brawl over a woman. Marcus says he killed the guy in self-defence. But what would a white jury say? While he is awaiting trial, a plantation owner basically buys him so he can work him on his plantation until Marcus's court date. There he meets Geam, or James Kelly, who attempts to show him the ropes and who narrates the story. James tries to induct him into the White Man's Game.

Marcus won't learn, though. He has his own ideas of what his life is about, and he refuses to submit to a system that refuses his right to decide for himself what is right and wrong, who he is, of what he has the right to dream. Marcus is a misfit, a trouble-maker, just because he breathes.

He is also a womanizer (that's the close-to-the-bone part for me--been there too recently) who will have his needs satisfied--even if the wife of the overseer is the object of his attention, and even if that attention leads to his demise. Better to be led by passion than obedience. In the end, he will settle for the love of a woman who genuinely cares about him, even if he isn't sure he loves her--just because her affection is genuine and that is new to him.

There the story ends. Because it must because he is black and she is the white wife of the Cajun overseer and there are some things the people with the most and the biggest guns just won't let happen.

Marcus is everything you dreamed of and everything you love. Gaines leaves you wondering why you hated him. And that's the story.
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