Monday, May 09, 2011

Gripping Story of Friendship in the Middle of Segregation and Violence

Book Title: Viola—Fields of Flowers
Author: Jeffrey D. Barbieri
ISBN: 978-1-4327-6948-2
Genre and Target Market: fiction; history; sociology
Publication Date: 2011
Book Length in Pages: 230

Reviewed by: Sarah Moore

Have you ever sat in a movie theater as the closing credits rolled, not because you wanted to know the name of the guy who held camera number three, but because you were processing your reaction to what you had just watched on the screen and you simply couldn’t move yet? I hope you have also had a similar reaction to books from time to time, when the back cover is closed and you remain in your favorite chair and think. This is the reaction I had to Viola—Fields of Flowers, the new release by author Jeffrey D. Barbieri. Like the previous work by Barbieri, this novel is gripping in its emotional rawness and the way in which it captures the need we all feel to be loved and accepted.

Viola tells the story of two young girls, one black and one white, who are growing up in segregated Savannah, Georgia in the 1920s. Living on opposite side of the tracks and essentially in two different worlds, the two come together in a beautiful field in which they share their love of the different blooms they discover and discuss their lives and how much they treasure the true friendship they have found. Unfortunately, when the girls have to leave the flowers, they are confronted with the ugly and often violent truth of racism. Both Viola, the black girl for whom the book the named, and Ruth, her devoted white friend, have experiences in hate that have shocking consequences and left me physically affected long after I finished reading the book.

What Barbieri continues to do so well with his writing is speak to that longing for a human connection. He uses the lenses of two girls, and Viola in particular, to show us a world that is isolating and judgmental and terrified of anyone who is perceived as being different but also the way in which children can ignore all of that and simply want to be friends. The conversations between the two girls offer a purposeful contrast to the harsh encounters with those who have outgrown or maybe never had a chance to enjoy the pure acceptance of childhood.

There are several instances of violence that are unnerving in Viola but Barbieri captures these moments in a way that is not gratuitous or solely explicit, but that asks his readers to consider a sadly real depiction of a time that was not as long ago as people would like to think. By using Viola and Ruth as the centerpieces in these scenes, the author magnifies their brutality and senseless nature. Barbieri’s decision and then subsequent ability to juxtapose innocence against evil is an important theme of his work.

Viola by Jeffrey D. Barbieri is a powerful new book that I believe will have readers captivated and forming quick connections with the title character and those who make up her fragile world. If you have not read work by Barbieri before, I believe that this release will have you returning to his previous publications to discover the wonderful ways that he has prompted emotions and reflection with his words through all of his writing. For those who are already fans of his work, you will find the same thoughtful and sensitive approach towards the human condition that you have come to expect.

Viola by Jeffrey D. Barbieri can be purchased through the Amazon website.

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