Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel

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A PBS Great American Read Top 100 Pick

“A deeply soulful novel that comprehends love and cruelty, and separates the big people from the small of heart, without ever losing sympathy for those unfortunates who don’t know how to live properly.” —Zadie Smith

One of the most important and enduring books of the twentieth century, Their Eyes Were Watching God brings to life a Southern love story with the wit and pathos found only in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston. Out of print for almost thirty years—due largely to initial audiences’ rejection of its strong black female protagonist—Hurston’s classic has since its 1978 reissue become perhaps the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature.

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  1. Gwendy

    I enjoyed reading the novel of Zora Neale Hurston “Their Eyes Were Watching God” also knowing Florida with its pleasant Southern atmosphere. By Janie’s side are two pivotal influential women: Nanny (her Grandma) and Phoeby Janie’s best friend. Nanny gives advices on her choices of a husband. Phoeby is on Janie’s side all the way. She means to the reader to follow Janie’s adventure as passionately as she does.The protagonist is her own antagonist if any as she (Janie) is the only heroine of her time living intensively three marriages and no one to defeat her lifestyle. In the thirties a woman claiming freedom in a large sense, astonishes her community and clearly the reader.In a cheerful and fascinating way Janie is revealing true and passionate love. In a crescendo, she handles her relationships pragmatically. She leaves the first husband because she does not love him anymore; She is faithful, for thirty years, to the second `phallocratic’ until his death; She melts into a third relationship with a much younger man who makes her discover a new way of happiness and fun. This third romance ended dramatically after the turmoil of a hurricane where one had to end the life of the other to survive. In other words, gradually, the first marriage fails in a lost relationship, the second ends in disappointment, and the third cries out dramatically with accidental death. Per say, life is a struggle.Nora Neale Hurston is ahead of her time with her novel superbly drawn with her main character embraced by the other characters in the story. The African-American English adds spice of the Southern living.In her novel, the fundamental message of Nora Neale Hurston is to envision more freedom for women and the right to personal development in relation with love, marriage, work and fulfillment.A must read several times around.

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  2. W Perry Hall

    This novel should be more highly revered as an American classic than it now apparently is. Italo Calvino defined a “classic” as “a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.” THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD, then, is an absolute classic.Zora Neale Hurston’s decision to achieve verisimilitude by using the lively vernacular of African-Americans in the early 1900s American South transformed this book from a great novel to the lofty status, attributed to very few in the Western Canon, of “transcendent.”Her piercing and prismatic prose entrances the reader like Etta James singing the blues to the rhythm and flow of Janie Crawford’s journey from a young teen given by her grandmother as wife to an old man (after being caught kissing a boy) to her 17-year-old self being swept away by a fast-talking and dapper traveling salesman who turned out to be an abusive, chauvinistic husband, and then to a mid-to-late 30s widow finding love, passion and zeal for life in a man named “Teacake,” more than a decade her junior.Ms. Hurston then brews up and heaves upon the reader a hellish hurricane crossing south-central Florida and breeching the banks of Lake Okeechobee. The passage from which the book’s name was derived is both profound and symbolic:“It is so easy to be hopeful in the daytime when you can see the things you wish on. But it was night, it stayed night. Night was striding across nothingness with the whole round world in his hands . . . They sat in company with the others in other shanties, their eyes straining against cruel walls and their souls asking if He meant to measure their puny might against His. They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God.”Another reason for the transcendence of THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD is its place as pioneering in speaking out for, and celebrating the voice of, African-American women, especially those in the South. She masterfully conveyed her message that these women were oppressed not only by whites but also by others (especially men and, maybe more significantly, by other women) in their own segregated communities, and that these women should not be defined by these oppressive labels. Perhaps most telling of all is the mainstream’s rejection of the novel (after its publication in 1937) because it did not play its part in “racial uplift.”And so it is that Zora Neale Hurston’s novel, even today, hasn’t “finished saying what it has to say.”

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  3. T. Owla

    I decided to reread this book after being assigned it (but not really reading it) in high school many years ago & I am so glad I did. Hurston’s way with words, weaving nature into nearly every sentence, using metaphors in ways that seem real, the depth of beauty and sentiment and human experience, what people are really feeling, it’s lovely. I love the female main character and going with her on the journey of her life through growing up with her grandmother to 3 husbands, traveling to other places, finding community, love, joy and strength in herself. The vernacular used is an intricate part of the story & I loved figuring out the meaning of certain expressions & appreciating the apt colorful way certain ordinary things are described. I highly recommend giving this rich story a read. One to be savored.

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  4. Lindsay

    Watched the movie before I read the book and I got to say it played out in my mind again as I read this book. I loved both the book and the movie. Words can’t explain the love Jainee and Tea Cake shared, that man loved her like no other, he gave her life and purpose.

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  5. XReviewer

    My daughter read this for her AP English class and I thought I should read this classic piece of literature as I had never had the opportunity. So I bought it and could not put it down. Months later, I am still thinking about this book, envisioning the cast of characters and events in the novel. Zora Neale Hurston was such a beautiful storyteller. I can see why this book is a classic piece of literature and in my mind, it stand heads above many of the other pieces of literature of have read from this period. I cannot recommend it enough to people.Hurston opens up a space for us to envision life shortly after Emancipation – where African Americans were freed but not free. She illuminates an early Black community (true) and one of the strong women (fictional) in that community. The trials and tribulations of the many characters and the barriers they encountered – the moments of joy, happiness, and pain all grip the reader and help the reader to not only imagine but to feel what it might have felt like to live during this time in the community with the people. A masterful work.

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  6. Jace

    I had seen the movie on TV starring Halle Berry some years ago. Somehow it didn’t quite move me all that much. (It might now, now that I have read the book, but I’m not so sure.) Reading the book and her eloquent phrasing and how well she writes the vernacular is a touching experience. I think perhaps that Richard Wright did not appreciate the book because he was not a woman. This book is about HOW WOMEN FEEL and survive circumstances over which they have no control. Truth is, it was way ahead of it’s time. We all know the politics of racism now, but how much are we in touch with what a female experiences on thisdamn planet of testosterone. Janie realized that we create our own reality and what the price for that was. Nobody is going to applaud her efforts at self-sufficiency and independence because she’s a woman, a 2nd class citizen, who is unwilling to play by someone else’s rules. She makes her own rules and unlike the male gender doesn’t leave a trail of corpses. And…..she still has a gratifying relationship when she decides to follow her own desires and not those of someone else. I think this Zora Neale Hurston deserves further exploration. I find her thinking very intriguing and very intelligent.

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  7. lmc

    For centuries, marriage has evolved into a contract rather than a proclamation of love; it dictated the roles the man and woman would play and suppressed the woman under the influence of the stronger man. In the brilliantly-written novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston explores whether marriage could be built on trust and love rather than submission and negotiation by detailing the intricately woven life of Janie Mae Crawford and her experiences with marriage.In the beginning of the novel, Janie is quickly ushered into an arranged marriage with Mr. Logan Killicks, a rich and older African-American man. Janie only agreed to the marriage because she had thought that eventually “she would love Logan after they were married…Husbands and wives loved each other, and that was what marriage meant. It was just so” (Hurston 27). Ever since the day Janie was sixteen and sat underneath a pear tree and gazed up at the bees merrily buzzing in and out of the blossoms, she believed that a marriage could be one of love and self-fulfillment. She tried to have that love but quickly discovered that she was never going to love Mr.Killicks the way the bees loved the pear tree’s blossoms: “She knew that marriage did not make love” (29). One cannot simply walk into a marriage without loving the other person first. Love already has to be present in the relationship for there to be love in the marriage. Love does not grow from unfamiliarity; it stems from trust.When Janie married her second husband, Joe Stark, he became infatuated with power rather than with her. As the mayor of Eatonville, he left her to do the chores around the house and would yell at her for making mistakes in their store. Janie’s personality remained hidden inside of herself; she could not do as she pleased and obeyed her husband’s commands like a slave. Joe “wanted her submission and he’d keep on fighting until he felt he had it” (64). He also believed he was “building a high chair for her to sit in and overlook the world [but] she [was] pouting over it” (57). Because there was no true communication between the husband and wife, both were left unsettled by the other. In order for a marriage to last, there has to be honesty between the two partners. Both of them would have needed to drop their pretenses in order to fully accept and understand the other person. However, because Janie kept a part of herself locked away from Mr.Starks and because Joe kept demanding her submission rather than allowing her to be herself, she could never truly love him nor would he ever know her.It was not until Janie’s final marriage to Tea Cakes that she began to feel happy and loved. Tea Cakes always wanted to be with her. He taught her to play checkers, made her laugh, and provided anything for her. He was even the only man Janie compared to her pear tree: “He could be a bee to a blossom-a pear tree blossom in the spring” (90). Though their relationship had its flaws, there was trust and honesty between the two. Their marriage may have been the briefest, but it was the only one that left Janie truly grieving when it was over: “No expensive veils and robes for Janie this time. She went on in her overalls. She was too busy feeling grief to dress like grief” (149). In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Hurston expertly weaves the truths behind marriage through Janie’s experiences with failed and lost love. In the end, marriage is a contract; it does have its rules and obligations, but it is also about working together to build an open and caring relationship, not a dictatorship.

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  8. the judge

    Fantastic book for all women to read written in 1938 but as up-to-date as if written yesterday. So glad I was told about itRead it.

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  9. Rae

    Amazing. Beautifully written. An excellent depiction of the complexity of a newly freed community’s quest in seeking to liberate their own soul’s.

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  10. Omni

    Beautifully written! A woman and her evolution in womanhood and life and love and The hardships she goes through. A must read!

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  11. Jocosa Wade

    THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD is just one of the many books that have come into my life thanks to The Great American Read on PBS (2018), and I’m ever so grateful.❤️It took time to get used to the dialect. But I was comfortable by the end of the first chapter. I found Janie’s rhythm soothing because, even in the beginning, she speaks directly from her heart. Her honesty heightened my curiosity and awakened my own frustrations with womanhood.❤️Janie is a role model thanks to her courage to find ways out of the “rocks and hard places” she ends up in, and the seemingly effortless way she shares the weight of the unpleasant. She refuses to be self-critical. Pure inspiration.❤️Zora Neale Hurston wrote THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD in 1937, but it’s a timeless story that shows the delicate awakening of personal empowerment

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  12. Kelsey

    Felt like I was there and able to see it! Great read

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  13. Placeholder

    I first read this book in AP Lit class, when I read the first chapter it didn’t hook me but as I kept reading I fell in love with it. We read the physical book along with the audiobook which was the perfect way a to do it. After we finished the book I immediately purchased the audiobook through Amazon’s Audible and then after research I settled for the physical hardcover version, which is BEATIFUL the cover sleeve has great colors, the covers are a beautiful minimalist white. Definitely read this, and if you have trouble read it along with the audiobook which does a great job capturing the personalities and helps portray imagery in your mind.

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  14. Dr G.

    Finally re-read this acclaimed novel from my youth. I have a far greater understanding now than I did then. I feel I know Zora personally through her main character, Janie. The lyrical flow of prose swings you hypnotically through nearly 30 years of Janie’s life.For many, this novel will be incomprehensible due to the extensive use of dialect and idiom. Read it anyway. Understand the richness of life that shines through the difficult life of all of the characters – Janie at 16, her grandmother who ran away from slavery under the threat of the overseer’s whip; her second husband, who founded a town; to husband #3, the love of her life.And while you are reading, remember the author graduated from Barnard, and was featured in a major news magazine of the 1950’s, yet died penniless. Understand that the more things change, the more they stay the same.Brava!

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  15. H. Cormier

    Zora Neale Hurston got criticized for writing her dialogue in black dialect. But one of the great pleasures of reading this book is feeling the texture of its language. Don’t leave the earth without reading this book.

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  16. JJRJJR

    But, why isn’t the author, Zora Neale Hurston, listed on my Kindle download?I loved this book, learning the language, the characters and through the language, I learned parts of myself that longed for expression; longed to be heard in the ways that a woman thinks. Just read it out loud and discover. Brilliant! A journey. Extraordinary. yes.But why doesn’t Kindle show the author in the “library” display??

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  17. Zenguy

    This is a timeless classic work of literature, and there has been a lot written about it over the years. I can’t add anything particularly new or insightful. It’s a vivid portrait of black life and culture just a generation after slavery ended, where the seeds of modern day inequality were being sown. Sure black folks were free, but building a life was a struggle nonetheless without access to the kinds of resources white folks had. Against this background the protagonist Janie struggles to live a life that is fulfilling and meaningful, experiencing misogyny and cultural conditioning which shapes her experiences. This has been described as a proto feminist work and I can see that, given how the main point is to show the vivid inner life of the female lead and her persistence despite great adversity. It’s also just a very engaging story, with characters that feel very real and interesting. I can’t say enough good things about this classic and hope you enjoy it too.

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  18. Kyle L. Rhynerson

    Their Eyes Were Watching God is a book I wanted to read based on the title alone. I wondered whose eyes they were, why they were watching, and what they hoped would happen. I found the answers to all my questions in this beautiful story that follows the life of Janie Crawford, a fair-skinned black woman living in Florida in early 1900’s.Hurston did a masterful job of drawing the reader in with her use of language and vivid descriptions. Here is a passage that I added to my Goodreads’ quotes as an example, “Love is lak de sea. It’s uh movin’ thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore.” At times, I had to slow down and reread portions of dialogue to make out what people were saying because the author used words that uneducated people would have spoken at the time, such as `de’ (the), `dat’ (that), `wid’ (with) `dem’ (them), etc.While resting beneath a blooming pear tree, Janie observes the natural course of a bee pollinating a bloom, and she decides this is what marriage is supposed to be like as a woman opens the petals of her heart and body to her husband. Unfortunately, Janie learns the hard way that life isn’t always as beautiful and poetic as the natural world, and her “petals” close for a time.It might seem strange for a white man to enjoy this story so much, but Hurston’s description of the relationship between Janie and Tea Cake is inspiring! It makes me want to have that kind of relationship with my bride, and it is a book that I recommended to our oldest daughter to read before she ever decides to get married.

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  19. elexis

    i read this in school and i feel like it’s a really important book that everyone needs to read. i bought it so i could write in it and what not

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  20. Zippitydoodah

    This is a classic, very good book. Your heart will sympathize, laugh with, and love the characters in it. I loved the writing and wish this author had written more.

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  21. Pamela Hannah

    Though for many, getting used to black vernacular used in this book is difficult at first, that falls away quickly. The story of Janie and the transitions she makes from white world to the muck of the Everglades of Fl, are rich. In early life she is unaware of herself as black–where am I in the picture? She is six years old living with her grandmother behind her Nanny’s white employers home. Worried about Janie losing her virginity to a no good black dandy, Nanny forces marriage to an older black man with acreage when 14. Janey though showing some independent spirit before, becomes bridled with a man she does not love and treated as an object, not a person. She is led astray by a self important young black Joe who she runs away with to escape a loveless marriage. Joe’s view of power is to imitate the white man with his white home, spittoons, etc. He bridles Janie by forcing her to tie up her lovely long hair and be an object of envy and his possession rather than share in the talk and laughter on the front porch of their store with others. It is only after his death and period of mourning that Tea Cake, her one true love, young gambler and field hand, allows her to develop her personhood: to love, to laugh, to shoot, to move to the glades, to work side by side picking beans, and share fully in life unbridled. These transitions are filled with wonderful language of simile and dialect and inner voice. We move from a third person narrative to a mixture of first and second person reflection during these transitions as she matures from teen to her mid forties and moves from object to personhood fully developed. We move through Florida and different societies where Janie both belongs and does not. She is judged harshly at times by others, both as she returns home to tell her story to her friend, and by other blacks when she must shoot her beloved Tea Cake when he saves her from a ravaging storm only to contract rabies and lash out at her in his madness. The novel is a bit of tragic realism of life in the 1930’s in contrast to Modern day portrayal of Selma. Literary genius Zora Neale Hurston weaves an amazing portrait of evolving feminism and personhood and leaves the reader with a greater appreciation of struggling black males and females in dominance and submissiveness within their own culture. Janie’s dreams and happiness become realized as she is released from the roles of submissive black femaleness of the times.

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  22. Timothy M. Kelly

    In the words of Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston is “a genius of the South.” The book is very moving and an introduction, in a way, to the work of Walker and others who came later, but who may be more widely read, in my experience. The book is set in Florida near an area where I am currently residing, so I thought I would introduce myself to this classic while I was down here. Hurston’s gravesite is in nearby Fort Pierce. Well worth a visit for any looking to honor an author who didn’t receive enough honor in her own life.

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  23. Aran Joseph Canes

    While I don’t describe myself as woke, I hope I actually experienced the growth in empathy I think I achieved while reading Zora Neale Huston.The story is essentially the tale of a early twentieth century black woman’s victory of living a fully human life. Set against the backdrop of a grandmother who saw resting on a rocking chair as the acme of human achievement, Janie gets out of the sharecropper life to work, love, marry who she chooses and have the adventures many a man would envy.What, hopefully, made this a conduit of personal growth is that it’s hard for those who haven’t experienced discrimination to appreciate the sheer joy of conquering the forces that try to restrict you to an ordinary life. To recognize Hurston as a great novelist is simultaneously to recognize as great a work of art where the theme is a personal victory over the forces of age old social mores.A book that certainly deserves it place in the modern American canon. Recommended to all who want an examination of racism that goes beyond the catchphrases and buzzwords of today.

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  24. Molly

    This book has a slow start but builds up to a blasting crescendo. The dialogue was hard to read, almost like a foreign language, until I learned it. Janie recounts several years of her life, two unsatisfactory marriages, and then Tea Cake. Everyone loves Tea Cake and everyone loves Janie; it is an unparalleled love story. The story culminates with the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane which resulted in at least 2500 deaths, making it the 3rd deadliest hurricane in American History. How Tea Cake and Janie survive, and not, left me shaking. A lot of the witty phrases were familiar to me, having heard them from my mother, but some I had never heard before. I was surprised at how the lighter skinned people ridiculed and hated the darker skinned people. I was not aware of that. I’m glad I read it, and I’m glad I read it now. I’m glad schools are requiring it. I recommend it to everyone.

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  25. L. Veney

    I could not put it down and I could not get this book out of my head. It kept me turning the pages for more. It is an incredible story of one finding thyself and being happy.

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  26. Donna T. Caldwell

    I loved this story. It is so full of emotions, sadness, hope, joy, fun, irony all fused into a beautiful story of life. I love the language the author uses and how all her characters are so real. It enriched my soul.

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  27. Amazon Customer

    I first read Their eyes were watching god 40 some years ago — and now more recently again. If you haven’t read this treasure, you must.This short novel (189 pages) .. is one of the most important books I have ever read (and reread ). A richly authentic narrative that moves in and out of the voice of its protagonist — Janie Crawford — whose spellbinding story moves from her own grandmother’s enslavement and her deepest wish, to care for her granddaughter in the best way she knew how — to Janie’s growing into her own person, outside of the middle class expectations and mores that bound her. It is a story of taking ownership of the self — of the essential nature of finding love, outside of the boxes into which we are cast — and the enduring value of real intimacy. Of how Janie, first married off at 16 by her grandmother to achieve middle class respectabiilty, leaves her first marriage to find a new life — only to find herself trapped in a loveless constricting marriage to a town’s Mayor…yet yearning yearning to be free of the constraints — and who upon her husband’s death, finally meets and takes the turn in the road that life has offered, finding joy and the rainbow of what it means to be alive along the way…all told in the earthy vernacular of the south…SUCH a voice, SUCH a heart, SUCH a writer…who does with words what few have only tried since.. her brilliance illuminating; her life wisdom touching your heart in a way that is direct — compelling you to think and live just a little more openly.

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  28. Bernard M. Patten

    This is one of the best books that I have read – and that encompasses a lot of books. I see it as a travel novel where someone (Janie) goes on a trip and along the way discovers something, in this case she discovers herself. It takes three husbands and lots of suffering, but Janie does discover herself and in discovering herself she also discovers love. It’s not an easy life with Tea Cake. He’s not perfect. His flaw, a fatal one it turns out, is that he gets jealous. But the relation Tea Cake-Janie is based on equality. Janie can and does grow there. Hurston speaks to us about these issues with multiple authorities: That of her personal experience as a black woman, that of an anthropologist and folklorist and that of an excellent modern and post modern novelist who grew up in Eatonville, the venue of her book. Yes, she got a degree from Barnard in anthropology studying under and with the famous Boas. Yes, she did original research, real research, and wrote papers on blacks from the point of view of a folklorist, and yes, she is a great novelist with remarkable range and control of language. What more do you want? Under attack from the black literary establishment because of her realistic and mostly unfavorable depictions of black men and the southern black community, she became obscure and died penniless and alone. Alice Walker, almost single handedly, rediscovered her and now she (Huston) is almost as well regarded in literary circles as she had been during the height of her career. Read this, her best book. Find out why.

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  29. Bruce Parker

    Best book I’ve read in a while. Lulls you for a while then wakes your soul to its beauty. Lovely language throughout and a moving story. The narrative dialect style kept attention and gave the characters personality and depth. I was not ready for it to end.

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  30. Border Corsair

    What a great novel, full of life and hope and love, and what a great story. Once the rhythm of the vernacular grabs you, the story rolls right along, and the thought patterns expressed are wonderfully fresh and exciting. Every culture has its genius, and this author captures the wonder of the persevering humanity of the Deep South black culture perfectly in the tale of one strong and beautiful woman making her way in it. I read it in one afternoon, because I was captivated from the first page and couldn’t put it down. This is a literary classic of the first order.

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  31. mary jill hardin

    Deeply philosophical and much poetic translation of feelings, thought, and wisdom in a divided humanity such as Black and White, pointing out and characterizing the innate wisdom of the Black culture, which has so strongly, faithfully, thankfully, and beautifully clung to their wise and intelligent self respect. A profound, poignant offering for her people … black AND white, by Zora Neale Hurston, in a time when men did not dare acknowledge such a gift in a woman, and so, cruelly ignored her for the sake of their own patriarchal and still racially based power. Thank you, Zora … May your visit to Heaven there have given you even more ammunition for next time around here … where you probably already are, busily, steadfastly, and honorably pushing the truth into the faces of those who are still too ignorant to allow it into their minds, for fear of the very fundamental change that IS occurring, in spite of the ‘power’ that has slowed this process down. YOU, and all with Truth on our side, HAVE THE POWER!!! Thank you, Zora.

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  32. tmcm

    I won’t get into the story line, but I love this book. Have purchased many copies for friends. I read it for the first time as an adult, it was not required reading for me in school.

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  33. Peter Riley

    A really beautiful book, what a writer Hurston is. Once you get used to the dialect it flows magnificently; a must read ❤️

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  34. Kindle Customer

    I don’t really have anything to say that should convince you behind the book’s reputation. It’s really really good. The narrative is cyclical, and I very much wanted to start reading it all over again the moment I finished.It feels – to my eyes – like an attempt to just tell a beautiful story about a black woman’s life in America, unencumbered by the need to feature politics and promote the cause of liberation. A decision which, in its own right, feels truly radical for the time.When I got to the last chapter, I wept. What greater endorsement does any book need?Random practical note: the language used in the narration is truly beautiful, but the dialogue is vernacular and can be hard to read as a result. The first few chapters are told almost entirely in dialogue, but once you’ve made it past that point the ratio shifts significantly – so it may take some work to get that far, but it’s very much worth it.

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  35. Yasuke

    Excellent storytelling with an incredible ending.Spoiler alert!!!!!!Rip teacake thankfully it didn’t end with Janie in jail . ,

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  36. Hazzelle

    So much captured through this story. About all the loves and lives we encounter in our life; the misunderstanding that breeds in diversity and the peace and calm that comes from an understanding, forgiving perspective. Janie is a true example of what it means to be a woman to this very day. The uncertainty of youth. The misperception of your wants and needs. Shadowing your true self for a man and love that you thought you wanted. To finally breaking free from societal and self inflicted shackles of expectation. And living the life that you want and finding the love that makes you feel alive. From a ethnic perspective this book delves into racism, colorism and classism in a really down to earth manner, giving so much of a better understanding of the times. Definitely worth a second read to pick up all those points and perspectives that may have been over looked.

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  37. Linda Martin

    This book is such a great classic. It is written mostly in Ebonics dialect, which some readers may find challenging, but once you get past the first few pages it seems very natural and I had no problems understanding it or enjoying the book. Of course, the narrative sections are in ordinary English but the dialogue between characters is done in Ebonics, and really, this is the only book I’ve read that’s written like this. I’m a writer, and these days we are warned not to write in dialect, but this book, written in the 1930’s, has gained in popularity and now is considered an important classic. I really liked it. The characters are believable and sympathetic for the most part. It is set in Florida and follows the life of a woman who is telling her life history to a friend.

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  38. Kindle Customer

    I wasn’t sure what to expect, a lot of times ,”must read ” books have disappointed me. Not this one! I think most women can relate to what Janie dealt with. This really is a very good read!

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  39. Alyssia Mutcherson

    Hadn’t read this in years and I am still in love with The story and the character…Zora Neal Hurston created a work that literally transcends time…😁

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  40. Virgie Alexander

    A fascinating story of blacks who live a world away from my life. The characters are “real” and suffer, love and live life to its fullest. it’s a world of high feelings and strong actions to back them up. The truth rings clear and I can’t help but think that anyone who reads this story will grow and be changed by it.

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  41. Patsy Glenn

    Zora Neale Hurston fell into oblivion until Alice Walker reintroduced her work. Their Eyes Were Watching God is, probably, her best known work. It is a novel that works on so many levels. It’s a story about love and hate, about blacks and whites, and about strong women and justice. Hurston’s protaganist, Janie. a black woman, married three times, and finally put on trial for murdering her third husband. In beautifully lyric language written in the dialect of southern blacks in the earl 20th century, Hurston puts her readers there. We are with Janie as she leaves her first husband to marry her second. We discover at the same time Janie does that having money and prestige doesn’t make up for a lack of self-worth, and being treated as little more than chattel by the man who promised to love her isn’t happiness. The God their eyes were watching turns out not to be the one you think it is. Add this to your permanent collection to be savored and appreciated and thank Alice Walker for rescuing this important author from obscurity.

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  42. LP

    This is a fantastic story. I loved the plot. It’s complex, yet easy to understand (once you get used to the colloquial dialect).SPOILER ALERT -I like how the story unfolds. All the poor black people are finally done with work, so they sit on their porches and watch Janie as she comes home. Everybody gossips and wonders where she has been and what has happened to her. Her friend Pheoby goes to ask her, and Janie tells Pheoby all about what has happened in her life. She tells Pheoby about what Nanny said.What happened was that when Nanny saw Janie kissing a boy, she (Nanny) decided to tell Janie that she always wanted to see Janie get married, instead of ending up like her (Nanny). She tells Janie that she (Nanny) was a slave, and that the overseer was the father of Janie’s mom, and that the overseer’s wife said she was going to see her (Nanny) punished for having a baby with her husband, the overseer. So one night Nanny and the baby (Janie’s mom) escaped.Eventually they were taken in by nice white people who helped put Janie’s mom through school. Then Janie goes on to explain that one day her mom literally crawled back home to Nanny. It turns out she (Janie’s mom) was molested by a schoolteacher, of all people. That’s how Janie ended up coming into the world (she never meets the schoolteacher, who is her natural father. He’s out of the story. He’s just barely mentioned).Anyway, Nanny said that she didn’t want any of that sort of thing to happen to Janie. So Janie met Logan Killicks and married him. At first he was nice to her, but then he treated her like dirt, so she left him for another smooth-talking guy named Joe Starks, who was also called Jody.Joe was very ambitious. He married Janie, then made himself become the mayor of the town, and of course, Janie became the mayor’s wife. At first, Jody was nice to her, but then he was less and less kind and sweet as time went on. For example, he didn’t let her wear her hair down. He scolded her about every little thing. They ran a grocery store, but he always told her she was doing everything wrong. Also, he didn’t like to see her talking to anybody. He was very bossy and controlling.After about 20 years, Janie became hardened and eventually told him off. She didn’t hate him or anything, but she didn’t let him mistreat her anymore, especially when she noticed that he was not as handsome as he used to be, and he had begun getting saggy and flabby and frail and weak. He soon died from poor healthAfter about eight or nine months, Janie was visited by another smooth-talker whose nickname was Tea Cake. They started hanging out together, and cooking fish and corn bread and eating together, and going hunting and fishing and to the movies. Eventually Janie and Tea Cake got married. Tea Cake wasn’t a bad guy at all, although he was mainly good for only gambling (and winning), and growing beans. Growing beans is what he did when they moved to the Everglades in Florida.Then there was a terrible hurricane. Tea Cake and Janie seemed to be watching the sky (but “their eyes were watching God”, to see what God would do about the hurricane, and to see whether God would let them live).While trying to escape the hurricane, Tea Cake got bitten by a dog when he was trying to prevent the dog from attacking Janie as she hung on to the tail of a cow in order to survive the hurricane floods. Eventually, Tea Cake ended up getting rabies (it wasn’t specified in the book, but the symptoms of rabies were described—for example, Tea Cake could no longer tolerate water). When he lurched toward her with a gun in his hand, she had to end up shooting him dead.She went to trial and was found innocent. After the trial, she picked herself up and went back home, and the story ends with her telling her friend Pheoby that this was the way things happened.

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  43. Reads4fun

    This is an incredible read about a black Southern woman trying to find love along with her own independence. Married young and finding herself disappointed with the lack of love in the relationship, she runs off with another man who promises her more. Sadly, he only sees her as an object, someone he thinks he can keep under his control. When he dies, she meets a gambler named “Tea Cake”. In Tea Cake, she finds more love than she possibly could have imagined. The poetic prose of this book is beautiful. “Love is like the sea. It’s a moving thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from the shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore.” So many passages like this will endear you to Janie and make you want to read it again just to savor every word.

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  44. Book lovers

    Good

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  45. R&P

    This was a reading assignment for my 13-year-old son for school, and while he thought it was moderately interesting, my wife and I read it also (ages 62 & 55 years old) and we found it quite entertaining; like so many classic books assigned to school-aged kids, the historic context in which they were written is not appreciated by the youngsters, who have such short life experiences to draw upon.As others have said, it’s not a preachy book about race relations; in fact, given the politically-correct climate of today, I would not be surprised if some school districts do NOT recommend this book, given the words used and lack of an agenda.There were a few colloquial expressions that even I nor my wife nor my dad (age 91, he read it too) did not understand, but could put into context easily enough.We got such a kick out of the nick-names of some of the characters, we now call our pet dog by one of them…Understandably, there is a serious undercurrent that reflects the harsh way of life that these folks went through in those days, and it gives the opportunity for parents to add a little perspective to the story, when their kids have read it.

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  46. KAT

    This author and another of her books was mentioned in another story I just read that takes place in Haiti. I was curious about her writings so picked this as my first Hurston to read.This is an incredible story of a black woman’s life, from before her time to her 40s. It takes place in early 1900s Florida with the beginnings of Eatonville near Orlando to a devastating hurricane off the keys. The spoken words are written in the vernacular of the time and can be a bit rough to understand, but once I got into the flow it became a minor issue. This is a story of great disappointment and love, hate and friendship. It was first published in the mid 1930s, and evidently wasn’t well received. I am mightily glad it was resurrected for a more modern world to enjoy.

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  47. Kate Bell

    I can’t remember the last time I read a book that moved me as deeply as ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God.” But like all “great” books, it may not be for everyone. A Millennial reader, for example, might be inclined to lose patience with a woman who spends 20 years of her life with a couple loser husbands before meeting her one true love. Even though there is no story without that context. It’s also possible that an older generation of women readers, Baby Boomers, for example, may be more inclined to sit quietly and say nothing, while nodding and smiling gently in response to a Millennial reader’s impatience.The man who finally enters Janie’s life and steals her heart is not without flaws. But. He knows how to love her. Deeply, unconditionally, joyfully. There is no “happily ever after” for Tea Cake and Janie, but what he gives her in the brief time they are together is life: fully realized, fully lived.A remarkable work of literary fiction by a skilled and soulful writer who knew stuff.

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  48. Raymond G. Harder

    This book truly deserves a place among the great books in American literature. It is well written in wonderfully rich, lyrical prose with frequent quotable epigrammatic insights into our lives. (“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”) It is the fictional biography of a poor black woman written by a brilliant, black, female writer which speaks so universally to our individual human needs that it appeals even to an old white male like me! It is a book about life and about people which just happens to have a poor, black, female lead character.The language of the book may be off putting to some because Hurston attempts to graphically reproduce a rural Floridian dialect just after the turn of the 20th century. At first it helps to read aloud –even while alone, but it isn’t too difficult to master and soon becomes part of the book’s character and charm. It would be a fun book to read aloud with others as part of a book club or drama exercise. Despite her dialectical storytelling, her prose are brilliant and lyrical, and her use of imagery and metaphor is as ingenious as any of Garcia-Marquez’ best stuff. She has a similar ability to sum up a whole character in a few well chosen images. E.g. her description of mayor Joe Starks, “He can’t help bein’ sorta bossy. Some folks needs thrones, and ruling- chairs and crowns tuh make they influence felt. He don’t. He’s got uh throne in de seat of his pants.” A whole character summed up in one brilliant image! You feel you know the man and could predict his behavior based on this one word picture!This story is wonderful and wonderfully told from start to finish. Hurston’s characters are rich and human and Janie, the main character, is well developed and grows from each of her significant relationships over the course of her life. The storyline serves to develop the characters who exist to show what it is to be human; to love, to lose, to feel and to be both crushed and exhilarated by simply living our lives as they come rushing at us.

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  49. bak4

    This is a beautifully written, lyrical yet genuine story of the life of a strong Black woman in the 1930s. It is a gorgeous story of the times. There are so many difficult subjects addressed within the book but they are laid out for the reader without trying to send a political or cultural message. It reads so true that it cuts to the heart. The beauty of the language is indescribable: “So she went on thinking in soft, easy phrases while all around the house, the night time put on flesh and blackness.” Much of the book is written in vernacular, which some readers have complained of difficulty understanding, but for me it became very natural as the story progressed. And when the title phrase is revealed it is soft and exquisite: “The wind came back with triple fury, and put out the light for the last time. They sat in company with the others in other shanties, their eyes straining against crude walls and their souls asking if He meant to measure their puny might against His. They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God.”

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  50. A

    I don’t even know where to start with my love for this book.It is one of the greatest novels I have ever read: technically perfect, incredibly deep and poignant, never less than enthralling, never short of poetry. Hurston describes the racism and sexism faced by African American women accurately and, at times, graphically, but as a reader I never wanted to look away.You don’t have to care that this was a new kind of storytelling at the time. You don’t have to be black. You don’t have to be all about social justice. And you don’t have to be feminist to enjoy this book. That’s because, at its heart, there is a gorgeous love story, while all around it is a novel of learning to take care of oneself, to listen to one’s own instincts, and to live an authentic life. This is one to re-read on the regular.

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  51. schmendrake

    Funny how trendy people can be, since the author fell out of favor during her life, but her work has had a major resurgence in the last 4 decades. The benefit of independent thinking is a major theme of Hurston’s- no doubt she’d be pleased to know her early detractors are the ones now being ignored.It took me a few pages before I settled into the verncular, but it proved to be one of the strengths of her storytelling- Her dialog & main characters are wonderful.

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  52. Leigh Ray

    This story drew me in like a bee to a sweet flower. I loved journeying through Janie’s life with Tea Cake and couldn’t put the story down. These characters were very well developed by the author, so much so that I felt I was with them until the very end–an end that made me weep true tears. The tale is forever embedded in my heart and soul.

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  53. Dotty

    I enjoyed this classic even though the language was hard to read at times.Still a great story and I was glad of how the author brought the story to its close

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  54. Angie Rena

    The story is one of growth from childhood to womanhood. Janie learns about who she is through the trials of two marriages. She finds freedom in her third and last marriage to Tea Cake. She loves the beauty of living and not just existing as she had been for the majority of her life. When tragedy hits and she is forced to protect herself by killing Tea Cake it is tragic. Yet it is not as tragic her life before him where she had not experienced love. I love this novel, even though as a woman in our current modern society, I cannot agree with some of the actions of Janie or Tea Cake. For example when he beats her, not for anything that she did, but because someone else may show her attention. He wanted to send a message. Also, when Tea Cake takes the money that Janie stashed. His reason was that he never had that type of money before.That aside I strongly recommend this book.

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  55. Kindle Customer

    From the always colorful conversational language between the characters, to the descriptions of the men and women and how they play, dance, love, and die together, this novel is truly magical from the first moment to the end.

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  56. SS

    In my high school literature class we watched this movie and the movie stood out to me, I never forgot it. I didn’t pay to much of attention to what the teacher was saying the movie had my best interest. It wasn’t until a few months ago I was searching for a new read and out my favorite high school was a book. Just like the movie my interest is satisfied again.

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  57. Jason Adams

    I truly enjoyed Hurston’s novel. It powers forward, sweeping our protagonist through the drudgery of stifling marriages to the freedom of a true and respectful lover. Though I had initial concerns about the Southern patois, it ultimately worked for me, helping to capture the familiar strains of hot southern nights.

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  58. Anthony Holder

    I hope whoever comes across this one doesn’t set eyes on another review and just proceeds to purchase this book and read it now. I am often left wondering how ordinary people can criticize great people, works or accomplishments like they could have pulled off anything resembling the same. But some people are just like that. They could never be satisfied or freed from the habit of complaining no matter what is laid before them. It could be God’s own angelic choir performing in divine harmony and they still would comment they’ve heard better and a couple notes were off key. After reading all the history surrounding this book, pondering the provocative title and drawing up my own assumptions on what the nature of it’s message would be based off of those two factors .. Then reading people’s reviews, which I despise doing BEFORE I read or watch something but like I stated in my headline I didn’t expect much from this book so I didn’t feel as though I stood to lose anything by doing so.. I went into this ready to be left underwhelmed. But instead what I discovered was a masterfully written page turner that I blazed through in a few days. A story with life in every page. Throughout Their Eyes, Ms. Hurston handles a metaphor as well as the best of them and it felt as though her analogies worked for her and not the other way around as if she had a million more hidden up her sleeve. I saw a lot of the same comments on Amazon saying the dialect was difficult to pick up on at first but to put it bluntly, if you have any trouble understanding the characters in this book then “you ain’t black” as our commander in chief would say. This was in all honesty a masterpiece and I was left blown away. The affinity I developed for Janie and Tea Cake by the end felt as if it were for family. The plot didn’t try to do too much .. Nor was there any unnecessary character development or exposition that dragged on. I don’t think anyone could have given this particular story this flavor and I can’t say enough about how impressed I am and appreciative of the style found in the late legends’ writing. I loved every second of it. What more can I say? What are you waiting for? Go find out for yourself.

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  59. Jan R. S.

    such a gorgeously written book. At first I was not sure how to read this book; the vernacular of the African American people was not familiar to me and I had to slow down my usual fast pace of reading to allow my feeble mind to translate and understand what was on the written page. After a while, I got it, and then it was so familiar to me that I could not stop reading! It was beautiful. And when I got to the last paragraph, my heart broke and all I knew was that I wanted Janie and Teacup back in my life. I am a senior white woman (80 years old!) and while I have known many African Americans in my life and have many who are relatives, I have never been submerged into the language of the people as I was here. This is an amazing story, especially given today’s climate. I know I read that some people had difficulty with the language, but if you allow it to sweep over you., kind of like music, you will be all the richer for it. I appreciated the forward and afterward also, although it is so difficult to learn that Hurston’s works went ‘hidden’ for so many years and had to be ‘rediscovered.’ As did her grave, by Alice Walker. I almost collapsed when I read that. Hiding her work and her burial place was beyond criminal. I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to read this book; I have read others by her, but this one was magnificent!

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  60. Elite Reader

    *spoilersThis book deserves 5 stars for the language alone. Hurston’s lyricism and use of the African-American vernacular of the period is just brilliant. I’ve never read a book where the characters and time are so vividly rendered through speech. The blending of the narrator voice and characters perspectives is masterful.While race is very important in the book Hurston was not overtly political and this was one of the reasons she fell into obscurity. Her themes about freedom and love are universal but she also provides many insights into different forms of oppression, particularly of women. Her characters are not defined by the relationship to white society and she explores life in a black community in all its facets, showing both the positive and negative sides of this community. I thought it was very poignant when Janie admitted to herself that she hated her grandmother because her limited worldview, shaped by the experience of slavery, meant she couldn’t dream of anything more for her granddaughter than a loveless marriage.Janie wants more from life and she’s willing to risk everything to find it. It’s ironic that her first attempt at freedom lands her in a gilded cage and it’s only after her second husband dies that she finds real love through Tea Cake. Their time together is the happiest of her life and his terrible death confirms how much they meant to each other. I did find it a bit annoying that they had to do manual labour in the Everglades because Tea Cake refused to live off her money and his conversation with the other men about beating her was very disturbing but realistic.Throughout the book Janie is defined by her marriages and I really wanted to know more about her life after Tea Cake died. Did she carry on as an independent woman or was she infected by rabies when her bit her and destined to follow him to the grave? There was never any mention of her taking serum but as the doctor knew about the bite maybe we are supposed to assume that she did.Overall a fascinating, enjoyable read.

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  61. Amit Bhagat

    Good reading for school teenagers.

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  62. Paul

    good

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  63. Captain Howard

    My education in literature had omitted Zora Neale Hurston. What a loss that would have been, as she is one of America’s greatest 20th century writers, male or female, black or white. Their Eyes deepens one’s understanding of and appreciation of life, especially blackAmerican life. -An 85 year old white man

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  64. Chris

    In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston creates a fusion of characters and storyline that when combined together, yields one of the greatest books I have ever read. Hurston introduces Janie Crawford, the result of two generations of conception by rape. Janie is fostered by her grandmother, a survivor of the Civil War, exceedingly, yet understandably, paranoid about the future of her granddaughter. Without giving away too big of spoilers, we as the audience have the ability to see Janie evolve from a young, naive girl into a strongly independent woman. Without a doubt, this book deserves a full five stars. Within the novel, Hurston touches on issues with both race and gender, two very prominent issues today. From being considered “uh pitiful thing” for not marrying, to being judged as “sorter hypnotized” for marrying a black man, many the issues in Hurston’s novel still resonate decades after this book was first written. Hurston states it best in a letter to her companion, where she writes “I know I cannot straighten out with a few pen-strokes what God and men took centuries to mess up. So I tried to deal with life as we actually live it-not as the sociologists imagine it.” While reading this book, I felt as if I was a bystander to Janie’s entire life, watching her struggle living in 1930s Florida. No character–not even Janie–is idealized; everyone in Hurston’s narrative contains flaws and makes mistakes that only contribute to the three-dimensionality of their personalities. Yes, this book begins as difficult to read. But if you stick with the characters and take the time to understand their Southern diction, you will truly understand why Alice Walker considers “no book more important to [her] than” Their Eyes Were Watching God.

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  65. ome

    Words and language are the medium of a book. Just like a singer needs air and a sculptor needs clay writers need words. But for Zora Neale Hurston, the very material she uses is like nothing I have ever read before. It’s as if she dipped her paintbrush in a rusty soup can and dabbed the firmament to make a living, singing Milky Way.

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  66. Amazon Customer

    Hurston’s way with words is like no other author I have ever read. So many of the lines in this book I read over and over again. Poetic and poignant, almost moving me to tears with their beauty, I will cherish the moments spent inside this masterpiece.

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  67. Seeking quality

    (This review is not a synopsis of the book; others can do that much better.)This is one of my top ten books – ever. Ms. Hurston’s writing is deep, lyrical, flowing, and so rich that I had to mark many sentences which normally I never do. It is the uplifting story of a young, sharp, independent girl, Janie, with few options as was typical of women in the first half of the 1900’s and especially African-American women in the US. This story covers about 25 years of Janie’s life until age forty as she chooses her path with self-confidence and honesty. The characters and setting are so developed and consistent that I could feel the heat and the humidity, the stress and the ambivalence.I had the audio version which was beautifully read. Some others in my book club had trouble reading the vernacular speech. In contrast, hearing the book eliminated that task and allowed me to enjoy the language and story.I have read many reviews about this story describing it as a quintessential paean to African-American women. I think it speaks, in addition, to all women.

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  68. Nicholas Velasquez

    This book was very heartbreaking and heartwarming all at once. The story Janie’s life is very intriguing and one that you wouldn’t want to miss out on.

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  69. Donna McLean

    Book arrived when expected and is in very good condition.

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  70. Florence P Poupore

    Hurston weaves the story of life and death as an intricate pattern of horrors then laughter. Joy needles it way through the warp and woof

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  71. M. Gilmer

    A truthful, unique picture of black folks living in the 1920s in northern Florida. In poverty, lack of education,and in the setting of inevitable white-supremacy ruling, they found ways to enjoy life. This is the story of a tender love and a small expansion of horizons in spite of tragic burdens. It’s a view of a history almost forgotten today.

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  72. Tonya

    Great book deal for my teen for school.

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  73. Salad-al-din

    Zora Neal Hurston was a black writer in the 1930s-1950s who was hailed as a brilliant talent in her time, but who towards the end of her life fell into poverty and obscurity, working as a maid even as her books were winning awards. She had grown up in a reasonably prosperous all-black community in the Florida swamps and so rejected the notion of blacks as victims seen through the prism of white abuse — which is likely one reason why her books fell out of favor during the Civil Rights era. The writer Alice Walker restored her reputation and recognition of her importance in American literature. This book has richly realized black characters who fully live for their own ends, and speak in their own vernacular, in a world where white people barely intrude on the margins. The characters will stick with you, and the story is compelling. In between, Ms. Hurston offers beautiful meditations on the meaning of life and the movements of the human heart.

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  74. Mimi

    Its such a unique book, I feel totally inadequate to review it. Just so Amazon will quit interrupting my reading by “forcing” me to to write a review, i will say that i think her ability to describe a place and time and experience has no peer. My head went totally into that place and that life’s. Never mind all the current books lecturing about Jim Crow or systemic racism, it”s all here. None of it really was news to me, but the quality and subject matter wasBut then there’s the love story–choosing poverty for love and “play,” yay!!Mimi

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  75. Lucy Stasi

    good book, fast shipping

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  76. Mariah Dent

    Because it was from back then some of the slang terms were hard to read, but over all such a a great book and fast read. She had many hits this is a top on

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  77. Amazon Customer

    I don’t like the fact that this book seems to be always classified as first and foremost a work of African-American literature. It certainly is that, in fact it’s one of the most natural, poetic, subtle and unapologetic celebrations of black culture I’ve ever read. But it goes way beyond just being black writing. Even more than being about blackness, it’s about being a woman, and even more than that, it’s about being a human being and the perpetual quest for self-realization in the midst of an imperfect world.This book was widely criticized when it was published for not directly taking on the issue of black-white relations. But in a way, it is what makes this book more universally meaningful in the end than, for example, the writings of Richard Wright or Ralph Ellison. The incredible rage and disillusionment present in some other black literature of the time is absent from this book and it gives the book a much more timeless feel.Her characters were also accused of being racial stereotypes, but in fact, because they are not stuck in the role of being pitted against their white counterparts, Hurston’s characters are allowed a freer range of identity, action and emotion. At liberty to be more than just “black people” they are a full spectrum of human beings.Beyond all the literary reasons to read this book, is the fact that it is a beautifully moving story of a woman searching to answer the calls of her soul for love, freedom, happiness and self-expression in the midst of the people around her who don’t seem to value these things. I recommend this book to any woman who has ever felt the tug of longing in a relationship, or wondered if the chance will ever come to express the fullness of your womanhood. I resist calling this a feminist book. I guess you could say it is, but I think it’s more of a book written by a woman with a lot of wisdom about her own heart. I would also recommend it to men, but I can’t speak to what it might be like to read it as a man. I imagine men feel the same longing for fulfillment and self-expression and so it might be just the same.I absolutely wept at the ending, because the ending is so beautiful, but also because the experience of this book as a whole is so rich and full and funny and generous and wise. It’s a treasure and a classic of American literature and you should buy it, read it, pass it on to your children. Enjoy!

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  78. C. P.

    A story about a woman who had an interesting life, good and bad. A story about a great love. Ms Hurston wrote they way the people talked so it was a slow read but a very nice read.

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  79. Geniya

    i needed this book for my 11th grade year it came in prefect condition nothing was wrong with it 10 out of 10 i would recommend

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  80. Xjidis

    Excellent book! Impressive author.

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  81. Lary schiller

    This beautifully written book with unforgettable characters will be difficult to forget. Janie is a beautiful light-skinned black woman; raised by her grandmother, who forces her to marry an old man. She runs away with a man who pretends to love her but treats her with disdain and forces her to work in his store, and is dismissive of anything she wants. When he dies she is left wealthy and meets a much younger man, Teacake. The love they have for each other is rare, and they find a life together in the Everglades. Hurston’s language and the authentic rural voices of the characters draw you into their world. The resolution leaves one breathless. I think this is a masterpiece that will survive.

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  82. Marie-Jo Fortis

    To appreciate this novel one has first to place it in its historical context: the 1930’s, at the core of the Harlem Renaissance, known then as “The New Negro Movement.” Or does one? Nature speaks to Janie Crawford, Hurston’s heroine, nature and its open spaces; so when her grandmother forces her into an arranged marriage, Janie feels locked into a place that turns her dreams into ashes. Leaving her husband in order to widen her horizons and following her vision is indeed a revolutionary act in the Black America of the 1930’s. What if I sliced off the adjective in the sentence? Would that make the act revolutionary? How about the country? Indeed any woman leaving her husband in the 1930’s would commit an act of undeniable courage. But Janie assumes this dream is linked to another man, that she cannot dream alone. At the time, that may be true. Still, if her ambitious and authoritarian second husband uses her as the continuation of his dream, he also makes her a rich widow. What has been crushed and repressed in Janie has not necessarily died, however; there is a phoenix somewhere ready to fly out from these ashes. At first, this phoenix looks like Tea Cake, a charming man younger than Janie as well as a gambler not keen on rational thinking. With him she will let her hair free, assume her womanhood. Although Tea Cake is the winner in this trio of husbands, he does hit her, if only once. Hurston could have chosen to have a completely gentle character here. Her lucid eye, albeit compassionate, compels her to honesty. There is a lot of progress to be made when it concerns respect toward women, be it in Black or White culture. Even the best men are prisoners of that culture. Although Janie discovers love with all the moments of joy that passion can convey, she never completely finds herself while living her adventurous epopee with Tea Cake. This said, during all these years of struggle that will culminate with the flood that eventually kills Tea Cake, Janie builds herself. And her return to her place in men overalls and amidst waves of female nasty gossip is a triumph of sorts. They can say what they want. She has finally found herself. Because she dared to take the journey. And so did Hurston. For the novel, with its subject, metaphors, and singular pacing, makes for a great act of valor. The author does not hesitate to portray a black racist among her bunch, a business owner who would rather serve white or light colored people than people her own color. A woman in constant need of bleaching out her own identity. This is a profoundly tragic character, brainwashed by the domineering culture and denying her own self. One can understand why the great Alice Walker played the phoenix here, that is brought Hurston back to life in the mid 1970’s. With her flowing use of the vernacular, her compassionate yet perspicacious view of human nature, Walker is a brilliant Hurston inheritor. What Hurston brought to the literary scene can make the Harlem Renaissance proud, but like Janie herself who despises limits, her work goes beyond borders, as the universality of Watching God in undeniable. Women know Janie Crawford the minute they meet her. They understand the way she talks to nature, the way she dreams her space, the way her reality is beyond definition. Defining the undefinable and universalizing a theme while maintaining the identity of a culture, is a tour de force that only a central author could achieve. So thank you, Ms Walker, for kicking unjust oblivion you know where and placing Zora Neale Hurston right where she should be.

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  83. Anne Sweeney

    So I read this book because I saw the reviews and i had this feeling I should read it. For me it was a step into a world of black culture but more it was a story about finding love and learning about oneself. The author has a seamless way of changing from third to first person. The narrative at first was hard for me to read. The old southern speak was awkward and I thought I might quit but it became easy to read after a time. The story pulled me in. This author has an amazing yet sad story herself so if you aren’t familiar with her or black literature in general the afterword is a must read.This author is one that will help form your literary point of view. Her writing was for everyone but chronicles the lives of African Americans during a time well after the end of slavery and focuses on the everyday life of a human. Not a black human viewed from the eye of a white human. But of the actual life of black people in that time..Hurston did not want pity in her writing from the white point of view. She wrote stories about life from her point of view and she believed in the strength of her race. Her writing also set the stage for feminism black and white. In the book Janie grows from one type,of woman into another.Look at this author as one that must be part of your library. I plan to read another of her books next.

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  84. StylishCurvyGirl

    Janie Crawford grew up in Eatonville, Florida with no Mother or Father. She was the product of a rape and her Mother was nowhere to be found after she was born so she was raised by her grandmother. After her grandmother witnessed Janie’s first kiss, she decided it was time for her to marry. Because her grandmother was ailing and no in good health, she persuaded Janie to marry a guy in her Church that had 60 acres of land and a home because she wanted Janie to be well taken care of in the event of her death. Janie realized soon after that marriage doesn’t “make” you happy and that you can’t make yourself love someone no matter what they do or provide for you. She ran off and married a second time to a rich and ambitious guy who ended up being the Mayor of the town they settled in. He wanted a trophy wife that didn’t speak her own mind, that submitted to him, and didn’t want to be associated with “common” people. She lost herself in this marriage and after his death she was free for the first time in life. She relished her freedom and turned down many a suitor that is until she met Teacake. Teacake helped her rediscover herself and rediscover life. They married and moved off. Teacake never took advantage of her money and treated her like the Queen she was. At the end of the book, a big Hurricane comes and Teacake and Janie are trying to escape…..Teacake gets bitten by a rabid dog trying to save Janie’s life and 4 weeks later she ends up on trial for Murder after a turn of events. This book is the tale of one woman’s search for love and peace. Please read this book. This was my second time reading it…at 32 I appreciate it much more than I did when I read it the first time in college. A true Masterpiece!!!!

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  85. Sasha Lauren, Author

    This story about Janie Crawford, a black woman in the South who wants to love and be loved, is spectacular. In Zora Neale Hurston’s capable hands, the reader vicariously experiences several incarnations of Janie’s life from poor to rich, disrespected to loved, and desperate to satisfied. Steeped in the Black vernacular of the times, a ripe understanding of people, and told in brilliant poetic prose, Their Eyes Are Watching God is a lush read.A simple sentence by Hurston transports me to Janie’s world, “The morning road air was like a new dress.”Her descriptions gift us with a character’s essence, “Daisy is walking a drum tune. You can almost hear it by looking at the way she walks. She is black and she knows that white clothes look good on her, so she wears them for dress up. She’s got those big black eyes with plenty shiny white in them that makes them shine like brand new money and she knows what God gave women eyelashes for, too.”Her deft portrayals of life enthrall, “The wind came back with triple fury, and put out the light for the last time. They sat in company with the others in other shanties, their eyes straining against crude walls and their souls asking if He meant to measure their puny might against His. They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God.”Her takes on humanity resonate, “Then the band played, and Tea Cake rode like a Pharaoh to his tomb. No expensive veils and robes for Janie this time. She went on in her overalls. She was too busy feeling grief to dress like grief.”Her many memorable, quotable lines shine bright, “Rumor, that wingless bird, had shadowed over the town.”In 1973, Alice Walker had a headstone placed at her gravesite with this epitaph: “Zora Neale Hurston: A Genius of the South.”Indeed.

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  86. Amelia Barnes

    I first read this book in my high school English class. I reread it for a college literature class. Now, as a high school English teacher myself, I love teaching this book to my students. Teens can relate to the protagonist, Janie, as she tries to find independence and personal power while still pursuing romantic relationships. They tend to have strong feelings about her interactions with her various lovers, and it has opened the door for thoughtful discussions of racial and gender inequality (and the ways that it permeates society), healthy vs. abusive relationships, and self-interest vs. the expectations of a community. There are a few references to violence and sexual encounters, but these are done in passing and are not explicit or graphic in any way. Usually, the violent or sexual event is hinted at beforehand and then skipped over by the narrator, or mentioned after the fact in passing. This is age-appropriate for upper-level high school students (my students are 11th grade, ages 16-18). The prose is beautifully constructed, and Hurston makes use of southern black dialect (which can pose a challenge for students but is often helped by reading out loud). The narration alternates between an omniscient third person narrator and Janie herself.

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  87. Ella Mc

    I’ve set a goal to reread the classics I read when I was way too young to appreciate them. I first read THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD because my older friend, Becky, told me it was “great” when I was about ten. I remember thinking it was a nice story, and that’s about it. Coming back to forty years later, I can agree that it’s great, but there’s so much more here.The most special part of Zora Neale Hurston’s writing is that she takes subjects that society wants to segment into “good” or “bad” and makes them human — thereby making them complicated. Subjects like infidelity, domestic abuse, killing for self-protection, killing as an act of mercy, colorism, white savior complex, poverty, female pride, female submission, moral relativism… You name a tough topic, and Hurston handles it in this book with a deft touch rarely found in today’s world.NOW I understand why it’s a classic & don’t just have to take everyone else’s word for it. Definitely worth a read or ten.

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  88. dforadora

    Written amazingly the descriptions hit a different spot in your brain, making all of the pictures come together in such an elegant, gritty, and beautiful way. It makes you understand the story in a way another writer could not have. This is a must read!

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    Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel
    Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel

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