Walker won the Pulitzer
and American Book Award for The
and became known as one of the most important American writers
in the twentieth century, she was very active in the Civil Rights movement. While
working door-to-door in 1966 to register voters in Mississippi, Walker met Jewish
law student Mel Levinthal and the two married not long afterward. Their union
met with formidable resistance both publicly and in private; interracial marriages
were illegal at the time and Levinthal's own mother declared him dead and sat
shiva for him [more details are available in their daughter Rebecca's memoir
The two divorced in 1976, and Walker, heartbroken, moved on to explore human relationships
of many kinds. The Way Forward Is with a Broken Heart
is a lyrical and
moving collection of stories that sprang from her freedom and grief. Autobiographical
in part, the collection is deftly narrated in many voices (a technique that Walker
employs like few authors can) and pays homage to communication, passion, love,
and the complex emotional toll extracted by each. Fans of course will not be disappointed.
Readers unfamilar with Walker's unflinching yet compassionate gaze will likely
emerge with newfound respect and the urge to pick up another of her books.
Synopses & Reviews
"These are the stories that came to me to be told after the close of a magical marriage to an extraordinary man that ended in a less-than-magical divorce. I found myself unmoored, unmated, ungrounded in a way that challenged everything I'd ever thought about human relationships. Situated squarely in that terrifying paradise called freedom, precipitously out on so many emotional limbs, it was as if I had been born; and in fact I was being reborn as the woman I was to become."
So says Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker about her beautiful new book, in which "one of the best American writers today" (The Washington Post) gives us superb stories based on rich truths from her own experience. Imbued with Walker's wise philosophy and understanding of people, the spirit, sex and love, The Way Forward Is with a Broken Heart begins with a lyrical, autobiographical story of a marriage set in the violent and volatile Deep South during the early years of the civil rights movement. Walker goes on to imagine stories that grew out of the life following that marriage a life, she writes, that was "marked by deep sea-changes and transitions." These provocative stories showcase Walker's hard-won knowledge of love of many kinds and of the relationships that shape our lives, as well as her infectious sense of humor and joy. Filled with wonder at the power of the life force and of the capacity of human beings to move through love and loss and healing to love again, The Way Forward Is with a Broken Heart is an enriching, passionate book by "a lavishly gifted writer" (The New York Times Book Review).
"Infusing her intimate tales with grace and humor, Walker probes hidden corners of the human experience, at once questioning and acknowledging sexual, racial and cultural rifts. Though a few stories tip into self-indulgence and read less like fiction than personal testimony, this is nonetheless a strong, moving collection." Publishers Weekly
"Brave and passionate, audacious and wise, this is Walker at her best." Library Journal
Fictional stories based on Walker's life, "The Way Forward Is with a Broken Heart" is a wise and moving treasure about love and life by the author of "The Color Purple" and "By the Light of My Father's Smile."
About the Author
Alice Walker won the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award for her novel The Color Purple, which was preceded by The Third Life of Grange Copeland and Meridian. Her other bestselling novels include By the Light of My Father's Smile, Possessing the Secret of Joy and The Temple of My Familiar. She is also the author of two collections of short stories, three collections of essays, five volumes of poetry and several children's books. Her books have been translated into more than two dozen languages. Born in Eatonton, Georgia, Walker now lives in Northern California.
Table of Contents
To my young husband. To my young husband -- Kindred spirits ; Orelia and John. Olive oil -- Cuddling -- Charms ; There was a river. There was a river ; Big sister, little sister. Uncle Loaf and Auntie Putt-Putt -- Blaze ; Growing out. Growing out -- Conscious birth ; This is how it happened. This is how it happened -- The brotherhood of the saved ; The way forward is with a broken heart. Epilogue : The way forward is with a broken heart.
Reading Group Guide
1. Consider the title of the book, The Way Forward Is With a Broken Heart. Why do you think Walker chose it for this collection of short stories? To what do you think she intended the title to be applied: her own life, relationships in general, political action? Do you agree with the statement that the way forward is with a broken heart? Why or why not? When does this sentiment seem particularly true in her stories? How are hearts broken in these stories, and more importantly how do the characters move on after their hearts have been broken by betrayal, lies, and disappointment?
2. These stories are fictional, but inspired by Walker's own life, in particular her marriage at a young age to Jewish man and their life together in the Deep South and later their divorce. What is the relationship between fiction and memoir in general, and why do you think Walker chose to intermingle the two? As a result of this mingling does the book feel more like memoir or fiction, and does the distinction matter? What does it say about the nature of storytelling that fact and fiction are so difficult to distinguish between? Do you think a mixture of fact and fiction reveals the truth more readily than pure memoir?
3. The book itself seems to be in part Walker's own attempt to recover from a heart that was broken many years ago in her divorce. The writing of the book seems to be an attempt at healing, moving forward, and also a redefining of her relationship with her ex-husband. What importance does Walker place on healing in these stories for individuals, couples, and communities? How does healing take place in these stories? Part of this healing process seems to come about throught the telling of her story as a means of coming to terms with herself and those around her. How does Walker and her characters define themselves by and against other individuals in her stories?
4. Walker seems to give us an idea of many different ways in which a heart can be broken, but at the same time she reveals many different types of love and passion. How do you think Walker would define love, and what are the different kinds of love she explores in these stories? Do you think Walker would say that love ends at some point, or does it transform itself into something else, and if so into what? Does Walker seem to be in favor of unconditional love in these stories, or is it something unattainable?
5. Relationships between people are at the center of all of these stories, and as a result so is love and differences. These differences are racial, political, geographical (Deep South Mississippi and Brooklyn, New York), and sexual--big issues and differences that whole communities cannot seem to resolve. Yet somehow ties are formed between individual. What are some things that join and unite people in spite of their differences? What devices does Walker use in her writing to unite with the reader? She says in the prologue that her husband was "foreign" to her but they were united by the "humor and affection." How does Walker use humor in her book to unite characters and to find common ground with the reader?