Gonna Lay Down My Burdens


Author: Monroe, Mary
Title: Gonna Lay Down My Burdens
Genre: African-American fiction
Publication Date: 2002
Number of Pages: 295
Geographical Setting: Alabama, Mississippi
Time Period: 1982, present day
Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Set in the small southern town of Belle Helene, Carmen finds herself intervening to help out her friend Desiree into an argument with her love interest, Chester. But what should have been a simple act turns into a life on the run as Carmen uses a handweight to kill Chester in a heated confrontation. After Carmen and Desiree go to Carmen’s house in an attempt to sort things out and get a plan of attack, Carmen reflects back on her life growing up in Alabama and her first encounters with Chester, her experiences with friends and townspeople and how she accidently helped put her fiancé Burl into a wheelchair. It’s this analysis of how these characters have affected her life and what she should do after Chester’s apparent murder that make up the bulk of the novel and intrigue the reader to the end.

Told with a little bit of sass and laden with pop culture references, Morrison writes an articulate, slow developing piece with short chapters to help readers feel like they are reading the book quickly. The pace is slower and spends time examining the relationship of the characters and periodically, Morrison will make sure to mention TV shows, magazines and other items associated with black culture in order to show the book’s appeal to the black audience. The vocabulary is conversational, but can have longer sentences and doesn’t contain much slang. The most attitude readers will pick up is some verbosity with Carmen saying “Girl…” before talking with other characters in the novel. Heavy on characterization, this character-centered African-American novel can resonate easily with the African-American community, especially females, but might take some time to connect with readers from different racial and gender backgrounds.

Subject Headings: African-American fiction; Female friendship fiction; Man-woman relationships; Alabama fiction

Appeal: Character-centered; contemporary; methodical; conversational; reflective; engrossing; introspective; realistic; emotionally-charged; dramatic; vivid; flamboyant

Three terms that describe this book: Contemporary; Introspective; African-American

Relevant Fiction: Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby (woman dealing with relationship of preacher husband)

Midnight: A Gangster Love Story by Sister Souljah (trip of mother and son from Sudan making it in America)

Just Too Good To Be True: A Novel by E. Lynn Harris (mother dealing with relationship of her son becoming an adult)

Relevant Nonfiction: Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy and Commitment by Steve Harvey (self-help book dealing with relationships)

Alabama Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities and Other Offbeat Stuff by Andy Duncan (unusual things to see in Alabama)

The African American Church in Birmingham, Alabama, 1815-1963: A Shelter in the Storm by W. Wilson Fallin (examining the black church in Alabama)

Name: Matt Woronko


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