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Four Spirits (2003)

de Sena Jeter Naslund

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461939,873 (3.79)20
In Four Spirits, Sena Jeter Naslund weaves together the lives of blacks and whites, racists and civil rights advocates, violent repression and peaceful protest to create an epic tapestry of American social transformation. At the heart of the novel is a sheltered young white college student, raised by genteel aunts, who first witnesses and then joins the freedom movement in the racial hotbed that was Birmingham, Alabama of the 1960s. Stella's life is forever altered by her new friendships with black women and by the dangerous conflagration engulfing everyone and everything she has known.… (més)

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Stella Silver, at five years old, stands with a gun in her hand. Her father, over her shoulder, teaches her how to pull the trigger. He wants her to know "what happens to a bullet fired" (p 4). Welcome to Four Spirits. Sena Jeter Naslund sets out to tell the story of a group of ordinary people trying to live their lives in the deep south during one of the most tumultuous times in our country's history, the early 1960s. Amid the pages of Four Spirits you will meet civil rights activists, racists, musicians, students, families. You will watch relationships fall apart while others thrive. Sacrifices made, lives taken, hope clung to, and most importantly, resilience take root. There is power in courage as the characters of Four Spirits will show you. Five year old Stella grows up to be a passionate intelligent young woman whose world is rocked when President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Texas. But, she is just one character in a host of others who will break your heart. Amidst the turmoil and violence, people went about doing ordinary things, trying to live ordinary lives.
This is a tough book to read. For me, the domestic violence between Ryder and his wife was the hardest to take in, but be warned, his violence as a Ku Klux Klan member is far worse. The Klan is one of those realities of Birmingham, Alabama; their existence is something you wish you could pretend was not part of the historical fabric of our nation, but there they are.
As an aside, it gave me great joy that Ryder was afraid of Dracula.
( )
  SeriousGrace | Dec 30, 2018 |
Powerful book, set in Birmingham in the racial-torn 60's. The story is told from several points of view, including white students from Birmingham Southern College, liberal in their hearts but with no real understanding about how to make changes in their lives; black women determined to make a stand, as well as some just as willing to sit by quietly. The violence is told matter-of-factly, which makes it even more horrifying. The "Four Spirits" are the four girls killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, and they serve as a thematic element in the story as their spirits appear and reappear at different time. As a Birmingham native, I can attest that Naslund sets an excellent and accurate sense of place. I can't say that it was really an enjoyable book, but one that put my mind and my heart to work. ( )
  wareagle78 | Mar 19, 2014 |
Sena Jeter Naslund knows how to craft a very beautiful sentence. There is a cadence to the words she puts together that can be no accident. And though Four Spirits suffers from being the follow-up to Naslund's brilliant Ahab's Wife, it is this beautiful rhythm coupled with her heart for the subject that provide this novel with its strongest qualities.

What harms Four Spirits most, I believe, is the author's attempt to present so many perspectives. It works, but it doesn't necessarily add to the story. It's like adding all kinds of gears and levers and such to a machine that works great without them. Naslund does a masterful job writing from the viewpoint of so many characters, but their stories add nothing to little to the story. ( )
  chrisblocker | Mar 30, 2013 |
This is a novel of The Civil Rights Movement. In particular, it deals with the bombing of a Birmingham church that killed four little girls, and the effect this had on many people, especially the main character, Stella Silver. Stella Silver is a young, white college student for whom the bombing created a conflict between the compulsion to act on her conscience and concern for her personal safety and the safety of her friends.

The stories of so many others tie in as well. Naslund does an outstanding job of fully embodying each character, so that no character seems just a one-dimensional sillhouette, trivial, or unimportant to the whole of the story.

I wouldn't list this book among my favorites, but I am glad I read it. ( )
  bookwoman247 | Aug 17, 2011 |
One of the worst books I have ever read. Don't buy it or waste your time reading it. I only read it because our book discussion group read it and I find it hard to go to a discussion and participate without reading the book. The group picked it because we live in Alabama and thought it would be of Alabama interest. It isn't. The entire group disliked this book. The group thought that perhaps it was rushed into publication hard on the heels of her first book because of the great unexpected success of that book, so little care was taken with it during the editing process. Also it is poorly written with a plot that is to scattered to hold the readers interest. The Alabama natives also thought it was very unrealistic for the time period in which it was set. Not recommended. ( )
  benitastrnad | Jul 21, 2010 |
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The past isn't dead; it's not even past. - William Faulkner

We were spirit people, see people; no matter how bleak the terrain looked out there, we were planted for a rich harvest. - Victoria Gray
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IN MEMORIAM Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley

Killed Sunday, September 15, 1963, in the racist bombing of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama, as they prepared to participate in a Youth Worship Service.
Jesus loves the little children, All the children of the world; Red and yellow, black and white, They are precious in his sight; Jesus loves the little children of the world.
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In the woods, a child is firing a pistol.
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In Four Spirits, Sena Jeter Naslund weaves together the lives of blacks and whites, racists and civil rights advocates, violent repression and peaceful protest to create an epic tapestry of American social transformation. At the heart of the novel is a sheltered young white college student, raised by genteel aunts, who first witnesses and then joins the freedom movement in the racial hotbed that was Birmingham, Alabama of the 1960s. Stella's life is forever altered by her new friendships with black women and by the dangerous conflagration engulfing everyone and everything she has known.

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