The House Behind the Cedars

The House Behind the Cedars - Charles W. Chesnutt I must say, this book turned out to be quite more of an adventure than I expected it to be! It started out one way completely, and then before you knew it, our main character had completely dropped out of the picture while everything went on without him. It's a very intriguing book, and it's written well and flows so smoothly! You can read it like drinking in fresh air after being cooped up inside a stale house for days! It's enjoyable, it's pleasant, and it's a charm to read. In fact, I was more than surprised by many of the events and concepts that this book played with. While I'm sure it's not an old idea that the intermingling of races--especially on a romantic front--can lead to problems, it's still interesting how they brought about much of the interplay here in this book.

In fact, the most shocking thing to me is that the book started out one way and changed at multiple times to be something completely different. It's not a linear read at all. It's got characters in it that are pure and single-minded, and others that are confused and wandering in circles. Everyone has either objectives to follow and meet, or has emotions tugging at their heartstrings so deftly that they cannot help but listen to them and fly madly into fits of logic! Logic! Not passion! How impressive and singularly strange this book was! For the first half of it we were following the story of John, who was our main character by all respects and standards, and his objective was pretty simple enough: "Come with me my beautiful sister! For I can make a better life for you than in our shoddy hometown!" And thus WHOOSH he speeds her away and she becomes a lady of respects and manners, beautiful and intelligent and desired by one man in particular. It becomes a case of courtship, and then it all BOOM. Grows complex! As romances do.

I know this is hardly an explanation, but let's just dabble into the second half, and the ODDEST shift of any book that I've EVER seen! Somewhere, somehow, our main character, John, just drops completely off the face of the earth for us halfway through the book. He's there, and then suddenly, we realize, "Heyyyy... we started off reading about John. But now we're constantly reading about his sister Rena." And mind you, I was NOT upset about this. I think that John came off as a narrow-minded character, with a singular view and purpose in his mind, and that he was acting along a path that followed only what he was attempting to achieve. Once that succeeded or failed, he didn't care beyond that. If it began to mess with his plans, he left it and moved on, which is essentially what he did throughout the entire book: with his mother, his sister, and anyone else he ever worked or interacted with. He's not a person who cares beyond the objective. He has a mind set on a goal, and that's the end-all and only source of concern in his life. *Shrugs* I don't quite hate him, but neither can I say that I exactly fully like him either. He doesn't do anything particularly EVIL in my opinion, even if he is something of an ass. But when he fades away towards the middle of the book, and we start following Rena's life and what she's going through, then I can't be bothered with John anymore.

Rena is a much more honest, emotive, and relateable character I feel. Her voice is strong throughout the book, and her feelings aren't some stupid whining patheticness like most girls today are written up with. She's not a shallow character. Not at all. She has so much depth that it makes the second half of the book almost a torment to read about at times! In a good way. When she's feeling agony and pain, then we do too. And when she's thrilled or annoyed, we feel it too. We right there empathizing with her all the way, and it's a lot of fun to do so! Even if it brings out a lot of emotional feelings in us. I mean, for a character as strong and beautiful in heart and soul as in her features, she's a woman that goes through so much that it's terrible. But that's what makes you love her all the more. Because she's tough enough to keep on trying and fighting in whatever way she knows how, so that she can keep on moving forward. And if she's not fighting, she's finding ways to outsmart others, and she's considering how others are acting and feeling. God she's such a wonderfully complex and thought-provoking woman!

And things are compounded by the two side characters that I love, love, love, love, LOVE! FRANK AND GEORGE. I love them both SO MUCH. George is the epitome of the olden knight figure, glorious and noble, brave and charming in every single way. The way that the speech even in the book changes when we're having the story narrated to us whenever it's following his part of the story, it's GORGEOUS. Words and phrases are used that would make ANY woman's heart SING! He's absolutely magnificent in heart. The only thing that makes me sad, is that it takes him a long time in order to realize the fullness of his own power. And it's a shame, because even though I love seeing how he grows in beauty and strength by doing exactly as he wants, no matter what others say and what the repercussions might be, it all comes a little too slowly and late. And that just causes so many problems in the book that it's not something I can really talk about. Yet even then, I admire the growth and potential for beauty that George has. And then there's Frank. And oh God, Frank. He... makes my heart throb and ache, and I can only say that I love him the more every single time that his name is mentioned, and with every additional thing that he does. He is... so selfless, devoted. He gives every last shred of his love--his pure and undying love--to Rena, and he doesn't ask for a thing in return. He loves her, and he doesn't ask for her to love him, doesn't ask for her to ever even consider loving him. He is merely glad to be friends with her, to hear her speak, to know that she is happy--and that she is with someone who deserves her and her beautiful heart, her intelligence and warmth. Frank is the ultimate selfless and magnificent character in this story just for his own ability to give up everything except for the supporting of the one that he loves more than anything, without ever wanting to incriminate her or ask from her the slightest thing besides her own happiness. How can you not love a character of this worth? Of this merit? He is the ultimate supporting character, epitomizing it in perfection. And that's why I love him so dearly.

Overall, this book was absolutely impressive in how readable and enjoyable I found it! I think it conveyed the thoughts of interracial relationships amazingly well, as well as having a relationship at its central focus that was actually enjoyable to read about, even at its worst moments. The weird thing is that it still doesn't read like a romance book when it starts out, and that's the shocking thing! Usually romances have dead give-aways that they're going to eventually become a romance, but this started off as something so completely different that when it eventually progressed into what could be called almost a full romance--and even then tentatively since there are so many other issues constantly going on--that it was enjoyable still! I was surprised by the progress of the story, but that was the good thing about! Being surprised was pleasant, and even though the ending left me with something of a terrible hole in my heart, I think that's what made this story so... beautiful and profound all at the same time.

Although I bought this book for a class, I love it. I can say it confidently and proudly: It was a GREAT book. And I'm HAPPY I have it in my collection, because it's going to be worth keeping, and has been worth more than every last cent I spent on it. I absolutely advise you pick up this story and read it. Because of the type of story it is, I think it's very susceptible to not being liked by others. But I feel it's a story that has so much else behind it and to it, that it's a beautiful and really thought-provoking read in itself. It's worth it, just for the experience. So if you're afraid you'll read it and end up hating it, then definitely don't go and attempt to buy it. Take it out of a library or find it second-hand first. But at the very least, I recommend it as one of those books you just have to give a shot. Who knows! You might find it more valuable than the sum of its parts, or maybe the end is what makes it for you. But definitely give it a try.