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[189] And This Too Shall Pass – E. Lynn Harris

shallpass“Why do we spend so much time hurting each other? I want to know why we all can’t have the same amount of joy in our life, and if we must have sorrow, then why can’t that be equal, too? I know you’re the boss and maybe something else is going on in heaven that I don’t know about. … Why do some of us love different? Why do some of us feel things that people we love can’t understand? Would it be too much for us to know?” [335]

First impression—that the novel reads like pulp fiction must be lacking in depth—has proven me wrong about And This Too Shall Pass. E. Lynn Harris’s is more accessible than Toni Morrison (they belong to different genres), less contriving than James Baldwin, but what is not missing in this book is the complicated dilemma that he weaves subtly and seamlessly through the lives of the four protagonists, all of whom—a sportsman, a newscaster, a lawyer, and a journalist—as the novel opens, find that their star is rising.

Gay and closeted Zurich Robinson, the up-and-coming rookie quarterback for the Chicago expansion team, is being sued by Mia Miller, a sportscaster with her own sights of fame, for sexual harassment. But truth is that he has refused her sexual advances and finds himself accused of her rape. Haunted by the death of his gay twin brother, Zachery, Zurich has stayed celibate while he figures out his sexual identity, a process complicated by the fact both his ethic root and the sports league are homophobic.

The lawyer who handles Zurich’s case, Tamela Coleman, is also coiled up in personal drama. She is afraid to put her heart on the sleeves because of the past hurt. When a policeman begins courting her, Tamela finds excuses to not fall in love with him. Harboring a secret from the past, she guards herself from all notions of love and sentimentality.

“The reason I think I’m giving Caliph such a hard time is because I’m afraid. I’m afraid of falling in love and being hurt again.” [318]

As the defense action for Zurich zips along, the novel also adopts a new course that worms into the heart of these troubled souls. When Zurich copes with the compromising situation that jeopardizes his career, he’s got two different men interested in him—one just for sex, and one for the love. Basil Henderson uses his liaisons with sexually compliant women as a smoke screen to his gay affairs. Sean Elliot has developed a strong crush on Zurich after he interviews the quarterback for an article on black football players. But he feels lost in a deep sadness, knowing that love is gone before he’d even had the chance to enjoy it. He knows best that love is a terrible gift to offer when unwanted.

“We never what’s going to happen when we deal with emotions. The only control you have when it comes to love is how you have another person; you can’t control how they feel about you.” [320]

Some of my African American peers call this novel a cliché, completely cheesed out by the conventional , soapy plot of some big-name athlete in the closet whose journey to self-enlightenment is complicated by a scandal. A catch-22. E. Lynn Harris really nails it for me in how I view love and fear of hurt. This might not be the greatest classic but it certainly touches me. It also shows how when religion doesn’t work, faith will. 347 pp. [Read/Skim/Toss]

4 Responses

  1. You do read some very lengthy books: Gone with the Wind and now this one! It’s a matte rof finding the time. I sense however that this is one I might give a miss?

  2. I’ve seen Mr. Harris on the shelf at the book store but have never read his work. I’m impressed that you did, actually. It’s good to branch out. I also like that you’ve found what works in his book instead of taking shots at its pulpier aspects. It’s easy to put things down, and sometimes they deserve it, and sometimes it can be fun. But I think it’s more worthwhile to find what it praiseworthy and then to praise it.

    Mr. Harris’s books must be speaking to someone out there on some level.

  3. I always thought he is the gay Danielle Steel! LOL But I’m glad his novel speaks to you.

  4. […] by African American writers. Beloved, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Another Country, Sula, And This Too Shall Pass and Like Trees, Walking were read. On to the highlights of some of the best […]

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