Book Review: Push

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How that is so I don’t know. How Mama and Daddy know me sixteen years and hate me, how a stranger meet me and love me.

Push, by Sapphire

I finished Push in a day. It’s a book that’s both surprisingly easy but also heartbreakingly difficult to read. I picked it up at the library, already familiar with the story thanks to the 2009 film adaptation. At less than 200 pages, I expected to speed through it, and I did. But now I’m sitting here not exactly sure what to write.

To be honest, Push is beyond the scope of my experience and, in some ways, my understanding. While reading, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat disgusted by my own level of privilege. When it’s revealed that Precious’s mother doesn’t even understand the basics of how HIV is transmitted, or when Precious takes for granted the sexual and physical abuse she’s been subject to her entire life, even blaming herself for not taking action, I felt sad for the characters, but also shocked. The world that Precious lives in, which she unquestioningly accepts as the only world that exists, is one that I could barely fathom. There were many passages that I had to read repeatedly to be sure that I was actually understanding what was going on.

When I was in high school, I was assigned to read Alice Walker’s The Color Purplewhich share a similar premise with Precious: a young, illiterate African American woman is repeatedly raped by her father, leading to multiple pregnancies. I remember struggling to understand the narration of The Color Purple, as the writing mirrors the protagonist, Celie’s, illiteracy. I was worried the same issue would make Push difficult to read. However, other than a few words here and there, the novel retains the original spelling of most words. In passages that showcase Precious’s original writing, the spelling does get spotty,  however many of these contain corrections from her teachers, a convenient plot device that makes it easy to read. The novel contains many of Precious’s original poems. I tend to skip poems and songs when they are included in novels, but here I read all of them, and felt that they actually contributed significantly to the work as a whole. The Color Purple is also addressed in the novel, which I personally loved.

Despite the difficulty of reading about Precious’s world, what I loved about the story was Precious herself. She is a uniquely lovable character throughout the novel: earnest, thoughtful, and undeniably clever, despite her level of education. I couldn’t help wanting the best for her, and not simply because I felt sympathy for her unfortunate situation–I genuinely liked her as a character and wanted her to succeed.

YES OR NO?: YESPrecious is an important story at helping us confront certain truths about abuse, family, and poverty. However, it is a graphic story that made me feel queasy at times, so I would hesitate to recommend it to everyone.

 

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