Life Is Short But Wide
By J. California Cooper
Doubleday, Hardcover, 9780385511346, 336pp.
Publication Date: March 24, 2009
List Price: $24.95*
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Beloved writer J. California Cooper has won a legion of loyal fans and much critical acclaim for her powerful storytelling gifts. In language both spare and direct yet wondrously lyrical, LIFE IS SHORT BUT WIDE is an irresistible story of family that proves no matter who you are or what you do, you are never too old to chase your dreams.
Like the small towns J. California Cooper has so vividly portrayed in her previous novels and story collections, Wideland, Oklahoma, is home to ordinary Americans struggling to raise families, eke out a living, and fulfill their dreams. In the early twentieth century, Irene and Val fall in love in Wideland. While carving out a home for themselves, they also allow neighbors Bertha and Joseph to build a house and live on their land. The next generation brings two girls for Irene and Val, and a daughter for Bertha and Joseph. As the families cope with the hardships that come with changing times and fortunes, and people are born and pass away, the characters learn the importance of living one’s life boldly and squeezing out every possible moment of joy.
Cooper brilliantly captures the cadences of the South and draws a picture of American life at once down-to-earth and heartwarming in this-as her wise narrator will tell you-“strange, sad, kind’a beautiful, life story.” It is a story about love that leads to the ultimate realization that whoever you are, and whatever you do, life is short, but it is also wide.
J. CALIFORNIA COOPER is the author of four novels, including, most recently, Some People, Some Other Place, and six collections of stories. She was honored as Black Playwright of the Year, and has received the American Book Award, the James Baldwin Writing Award, and the Literary Lion Award from the American Library Association. She lives in Portland, Oregon.
Accolades for J. California Cooper
“Cooper’s work reminds us of Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston…It is a delight to read.” –Alice Walker
“[J. California Cooper] is my favorite storyteller. What a song she sings.”
“My fifth-grade teacher...one day said, ‘Instead of calling and asking me for advice, try reading J. California Cooper.’” –Halle Berry
“A genius storyteller.” –Boston Globe
“Exuberant…Cooper’s stories reveal a meticulous attention to the nuances of African-American life.” –San Francisco Chronicle
“It is as if [Cooper] is patting the seat next to us, enticing to come sit and listen.”
“What a voice…Cooper celebrates family, freedom, perseverance, life, and…powerful voices finally heard.” –Atlanta Constitution
“Gutsy and familiar… [Cooper’s] power comes from sticking to her instinct, which is to tell a story, plain and simple.” –Washington Post
“Cooper's characters are the folk heroes of black culture.”