Nominated for the National Book Award, this rich and moving novel traces the lives of two black heroines—from their growing up together in a small Ohio town, through their sharply divergent paths of womanhood, to their ultimate confrontation and reconciliation.
Nel Wright chooses to remain in the place of her birth, to marry, to raise a family, and to become a pillar of the tightly-knit black community. Sula Peace rejects all that Nel has accepted. She escapes to college and submerges herself in city life. When she returns to her roots, it is as a rebel, a mocker and a wanton sexual seductress. Both women must suffer the consequences of their choices; both must decide if they can afford to harbor the love they have for each other; and both combine to create an unforgettable rendering of what it means and costs to exist and survive as a black woman in America.
Hailed by critics for its stunning language and its original, honest depiction of the black way of life after the Civil War, Sula is a lyrical blend of myth and magic, as real as a history lesson, and as enchanting as a fable.
"I wanted certain kinds of books, and since they weren't available, I would write them. I wrote Sula so that I could read it when I got through." — Toni Morrison
Her work is larger than life, bigger than the pages on which it is written. It's the type of writing readers relish and critics applaud. Her words are so perfectly formed that other writers weep.
"Her stories are fiction, but nowhere will you find greater truths about life. She laid the foundation of my love for reading, and for all those who asked the question, 'Toni Morrison again?' with my fourth selection of her work, I say with certainty there would have been no Oprah's Book Club if this woman had chosen not to share her love of words with the world." — Oprah
Toni Morrison has received nearly every writing award possible, culminating in her being awarded the Nobel Prize in 1993.
View printable version
Begin your discussion with these questions—in your own book club, on the message boards or in the Book Club Chat Wednesday's at 1 p.m. ET.
- What is the significance of the quote at the start of the book, "Nobody knew my rose of the world but me. ... I had too much glory. They don't want glory like that in nobody's heart"? How does this set the stage for the novel?
- The novel begins by telling the reader that the Bottom, the neighborhood above Medallion, will soon be gone, replaced by the Medallion City Golf Course. How does knowing that the Bottom will soon be gone influence the rest of the novel? How does this description imply that things are not what they appear to be on the surface?
- What are some possible reasons Eva's decision to go downstairs and light the fire, "the smoke of which was in her hair for years"? How does this make you feel about her character? Was this an act of sacrifice or selfishness? Can Eva be described as 'good' or 'bad'?
- Eva gave her children to a neighbor and returned 18 months later, minus one leg. What is the possible symbolic significance of Eva's missing leg? How does it tie into the theme of deceptive appearances in the novel?
- Sula contains some adult language and themes. Is this book appropriate for high school students? Are African Americans portrayed in a positive or negative light in the book? What about the portrayal of white people?
- Sula and Nel become friends and later seem to be each other's alter egos. How does Nel's decision to marry inform Sula's life? How does Sula's leaving influence Nel?
- One reviewer commented that Sula is "a complex story of friendship and disappointment, death and sex, desperation and vulnerability" (Gayle Sims, Knight-Ridder Newspaper). How would you characterize the novel?
- The novel takes place over the course of 45 years. How do relations between the races change over the course of the novel? How are the inhabitants of the Bottom and Medallion changed by what's going on in the world around them?
We want to know what you think of this book! Read the suggestions for writing a review below, then post your review on the Oprah's Book Club message board. Bookmark this page and check back here often to see if your review has been featured!
1. How did this book touch your life? Can you relate to it on any level? What do you believe is the message the author is trying to convey to the reader?
2. Describe the character development in Sula. How does Toni Morrison use language and imagery to bring the characters to life?
3. In your opinion, is the book entertaining? Explain why or why not.
4. What did you learn from this book? Was it educational in any way?
5. In conclusion, summarize your reading experience with Sula. What grade would you give this novel?
6. If you enjoyed this book, what other books would you recommend to fellow readers?
Above all else, have a good time putting your thoughts and opinions down in print! The best reviews are those that you would like to listen to or would give a friend.
Posted by mtoobo:
Sula changed my life. But it's not a change I can gush about. Sula sobered me, forced me, a white woman, to confront my own denial of the horror of the black experience in America. As a 44-year-old Southerner, I became conscious in a world that still bore signs for White and Colored bathrooms, White and Colored water fountains. But I sailed through my childhood hardly noticing the disparity between black and white conditions, the brutal vengefulness against civil rights workers or anyone who dared challenge the white gentry's total monopoly of power. Sula shocks the reader out of such complacency. ... Was I going to close my eyes to this yet again? It is a testament to Morrison's rendering of the relationship between Sula and Nel that their disaffection is the most haunting tragedy in a book filled with tragedy.
Learn more about Sula