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Cathyyy's picture

Getting Mother’s Body written by Suzan-Lori Parks traces the life of the Beede family and the main character, Billy Beede, how she searched for money for abortion and how she tries to get away the influence her mother had on her while can never get rid of it, which the book title implied “getting mother’s body” that she became Willa Mae to some degrees. I was impressed the way Suzan-Lori Parks tells the story that each chapter of the book is from a different character’s perspective and reveals the progress of the story.


The author’s subjective influence in the novel is not apparent. The characters in Getting Mother’s Body have different personalities, styles of speaking, there’s no positive character nor negative ones. Some believe Susan has her own voice in the characters of her novels that she uses them as tools to speak for herself, but I think she is not connecting to the characters that much and they are not used as ways to explore her own personage. The way that the novel is laid out allows the reader to experience the events from many different perspectives and discover the different aspects of events or secrets behind. The plot, or the structure of the novel is hence well-rounded and three-dimensional.


After reading “Getting Mother’s Body”, I get the idea that the past lingers and continues to influence the present and future. On the bus, the girl who sits next to Billy named Myrna Carter says when passing through an empty desert landscape, “I wonder if this land round here was ever crowded,”Myrna goes, “You know, if like, millions and millions of years ago this part of the world was a busy place. Sorta like Dallas, or New York City, you know. Bustling with Stone Age activities, Stone Age skyscrapers, cave people, you know, in they animal skins, hurrying hither and yon, shoulder to shoulder. You know there’s a place in Mexico where they got evidence of the visits of spacemen.” (61) We always have impacts from the past and impacting the present at the meantime, other’s influence on the earth also influences us. The past is powerful and inescapable, especially on Billy who wants to escape her mother’s fate and although trying hard to get rid of the past, could only escape it through getting her mother’s body and repeating her mother’s fate. In other words, she can’t have the future she wants without returning back into her past for assistance. Billy is a kind of woman that is tough, resourceful and powerful, “hot and wild” according to the novel, she can navigate it in such a difficult circumstance. She is different from other Beede but also in every way reflecting the traits of her family, like every Beede does.



Anne Dalke's picture

Parks was very clear in Thursday night’s discussion that she doesn’t start writing with an idea she wants to explore, but rather with characters, which makes your building a paper about the ideas of the novel a pretty challenging task.

What you’ve written so far is less an outline for an analytical paper than a review of the novel, which you find “impressive,” “well-rounded” and “three-dimensional.” (I’m glad you liked it so much!)

But then, in your last paragraph, you find a passage that really offers an intriguing start for an interesting essay; I wonder if you might develop the idea you posit there, about the influence of the past on the present and future? The long quote from Myrna Carter is a very striking one, imagining a far distant past very different from the present. How do you get from that to reflections about the similarities of past and present, and the impact of the former on the latter? Certainly Parks’ novel explores the ideas of inheritance to a great extent, as we discussed in class on Tuesday: how much is Billy Beede’s life determined by her family (see Bdragon’s draft @ /oneworld/changing-our-story-2016/who-beede), especially by her mother (see Calliope’s draft @ /oneworld/changing-our-story-2016/3pp-rough-draft-getting-mothers-body )? Myrna’s reflections, delivered just after she’s had an abortion (and so refused to have her present life dictated by the past?) seems a great place to start such an exploration.

Looking forward to seeing where you might go with this,


P.S. Getting Mother’s Body is Parks’ title; you’ll need to find another one for your own essay :)