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House of Light.

House of Light by Joyce Carol Thomas Hyperion, March 2001, $22.95, ISBN 0-7868-6606-3

In Joyce Carol Thomas' novel, House of Light, Dr. Abyssinia Jackson is making a house call. The readers are her patients. The message her patients draw from the book is her cure. In the spirit of Alice Walker's, The Color Purple, Thomas seeks to tell a story about the depth, infinite grace, and ups and downs of the souls of blacks. While Thomas was on the right track with her idea to create a well-written novel, with the potential to ignite inspiration, the novel, in some respects, falls short of the idea.

House of Light is the story of three wounded women who, with the help of Dr. Jackson, the town healer, are able to renew their strength and hope. Thomas successfully develops her characters and gives them traits that are consistent throughout the story. The singer, Zenobia is stubborn and strong. Pearline's scars, caused by her husband's abuse, have made a recognizable scar on her spirit. And in Vennie, through the course of the story, we recognize the existence of a quiet determination, despite her overworked, worn body and soul.

The novel's weakness lies mainly in the plot structure. While the reader is capable of empathizing and sympathizing with the characters, part of the emotional connection to the characters is lost due to an unclear plot structure. Dr. Jackson is meant to be the binding force of the story. While the significance of her role is initially evident, she eventually becomes buried beneath the unexpected focuses on other characters. This causes a shift in the fluidity and theme of the entire novel.

Thomas' story would have been more effective had she put more focus on fewer main characters and limited the number of subplots.

While Thomas's writing at times lacks a natural flow, her language is among the strongest qualities of the book. Ideal for anyone capable of gaining hope from the obstacles overcome by others, House of Light may encourage enough perseverance in its readers to make up for what the novel is lacking.

Althia Gamble is the Short Fiction Editor of Inner City Magazine in New York City and works as a freelance writer.
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Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Gamble, Althea
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:May 1, 2001
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