The Color of Thunder is about the life of a pastor family in the Deep South of the USA in the 1950s, seen through the eyes of Faith, the eldest daughter. The author is at pains to describe the various settings and the small community is shown in assiduous detail, from unstable racial relationships to the almost claustrophobic family home around Faith. There are many occasions in the book when the reader feels that things are so slow and dragging, but this is an essential part of the story and its setting. This sluggishness reflects the Summer heat and stiflingly slow pace of life surrounding the main protagonist in Jackson, Mississipi at that time.
We are led through many of the events through Faith’s coming of age, from about age eleven when she witnesses a KKK incident that affects her for the rest of her life. No further detail here – it would be a spoiler. The story is full of emotion throughout, with family illnesses, arguments, tantrums and death. Faith and her siblings, particularly sickly Grace and temperamental, but passionate, Hope constantly tug at the reader’s heartstrings. You find yourself smiling and laughing, and shedding the occasional tear regularly as the story weaves its way towards Faith’s maturity. To a modern reader there are times when the dutiful Faith seems content to be just a “doormat” to everyone, but her inner strength and conviction come through and you root for her particularly after her encounter with Ruby, a black girl. There are frequent references to real events as a background to the story, such as the rise of the Civil Rights Movement, and when Rosa Parks boarded a bus to sit in the “white seats” to add shocking context to the story.
The book is well written and I found many of the descriptions wonderful, some even breathtaking, with vividly drawn characters that you feel you have met. This from one who is normally impatient with too much exposition! I was reminded of authors like L M Alcott, Harper Lee and L M Montgomery in various parts of the book. I would definitely recommend this book if you enjoy coming of age stories, with a little recent history during a time of civil strife and unrest in the USA. There are some editing issues present which prevent me rating it with 5 stars, so it wound up with 4. I hope that the writer picks up her pen/wordprocessor again soon. She will have many admirers waiting.
Rating: 4 stars (WOW Blog)