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Criminal Trespass

By (author) Helen Hudson
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Vintage Publishing, London, United Kingdom
Imprint: Chatto & Windus
Published: 19th Jun 1986
Dimensions: w 150mm h 230mm
Weight: 508g
ISBN-10: 0701139730
ISBN-13: 9780701139735
Barcode No: 9780701139735

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Kirkus US
Hudson, author of the sensitive Meyer, Meyer (1967), now offers a warm, intimate, yet curiously dated chronicle of a black woman's survival-struggle through the Fifties and Sixties. Rannee Simms is the second of eleven children born to an Alabama mill-worker in Simms Quarter, a poor rural family compound. The Simms' three-room pineboard cabin is ruled over by Mama, "stronge and tall - head high over a mess of Simms." But no one has time to listen to Rannee - to ease her fears of Mama's switch, of hard times, of Klan rumors. Only Uncle Floyd relieves her loneliness - the mysteriously appearing and disappearing uncle who's always singing or whistling, his "big head stuffed with chapter and verse" (slave stories, Army humiliations, the doings of a vicious white God). So, eager to leave terrifying school-days behind, Rannee marries shy, thin Ward Peters, father of her baby Lance. But Ward will be shot to death by a white man for "trespassing." A second, happy marriage - to handsome, grand Jarvis Lyle - will be similarly blighted: Jarvis, sent to jail for aggravated assault of a white man, returns a different man, violent and paranoid; Rannee eventually leaves him to take her four little boys to a northern city - where she finds grinding labor, housekeeping work for callous-to-silly white women, and a welfare slum. And though she also finds the public library, the joys of reading, and a loving black policeman, Rannee will again face the crossroads of anger and activism - after white-induced violence, a church bombing, and her gentle son's arrest for "criminal trespass." Rannee's saga often seems a throwback to the many earnest, simplistic dramas of black suffering and courage that proliferated two or three decades ago; it has none of the character-specific richness of Alice Walker's The Color Purple or Paula Fox's A Servant's Tale. But Hudson delivers the familiar story with empathic commitment - making this a well-meaning and modestly inspirational message-novel, even if too narrow and predictable for sophisticated readers. (Kirkus Reviews)