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Ain’t No Mountain
ISBN: 0-7642-2885-4

By Sharon Ewell Foster
Review by: Abigail D. Engel

12/01/04

When I finished this book, I had to place Ain’t No Mountain in the same category as Soul Food and How To Make An American Quilt. Sharon Foster’s circle of friends and family keep this community of women alive as much as the Bible keeps a Christian reading.

In the beginning, this story reminded me of William Faulkner’s, A Light In August, as Foster presented each of her main characters through their own chapter, making the connection between personalities more difficult. However once their traits began to link, a few chapters in, the story began to flow much better. It is set in Baltimore where one street had the “manicured lawns” of a “working class neighborhood” right next to “abandoned apartment buildings” that “sat like something dead in the middle of the life of the street,” reflecting on the variety of people who came together in this contemporary fairy tale.

The sisterhood Foster weaves into this modern slant on an age-old love connection is something that we can all relate to. Today, we all know at least one person who has or dreams of finding their potential mate online. Puddin, the “Hip-Hip God Mama,” is the link that will either open their eyes to love or warn them of potential heartbreak. The problem is the clients are not necessarily paying any attention to her advice. Puddin, like her clients, seeks advice from her circle of friends, however, their responses bring to bear the question of whether women should bother revealing their deepest angst to a group of friends who live in their same community and attend the same daily functions. Women fully realize that they are taking a chance when they reveal their deepest thoughts and emotions, making themselves vulnerable to advise that, in the end, is nothing more than another person’s advice based on their on experiences and surroundings.

Puddin is pressured by her friends to explore problems in her marriage. She must decide if she should go with her heart or listen to her friends and give up her marriage over a rumor of infidelity. She struggles with his infidelity and her inability to tell her husband that she has taken a job as an online matchmaker. She is extremely upset over a videotape collection that her husband sneaks into his room and watches almost every day. Both are being dishonest and not communicating with each other. He uses church functions as excuses to escape his responsibilities to her. One day, he calls in late for dinner as Mary is cooking it. Puddin is so overwhelmed with her frustrations that she devises a plan to get back at her husband’s need to keep her at home cooking and cleaning for him while he has a life outside of the house and church. She fries all the chicken in the house and dumps it in his car. She is arrested and becomes front-page news. Her insane gesture reveals the truth behind her husband’s exploits. As soon as her “friends” discover the truth about her husband they quickly forget that they fed into her madness.

Puddin’s internet job leads her to the lives of two souls in search of happily-ever-after. They are leaders within their community who are under pressure from others to not give in to the innate needs of the body. Abstinence is a difficult subject to broach in a society where sex is everywhere. Ms. Foster fabulously approaches this topic through her introduction of Mary, a teen group leader, and Moor, a prince from Lesotho in South Africa. They are virgins guided by the wisdom of their ancestors. Mary, grew up with her grandmother’s strong values, “Be happy with who you are baby.” “The man that’s looking for you will recognize you when he comes.” “Just keep dancing in the skin you’re in. Wait on the Lord, He’s got a good plan.” She was faced with the dilemma of teaching her students the traditional ideals on abstinence or telling them about her personal struggle with a life without sex or the prince charming she was told about her whole life. Moor was also guided by his grandmother’s wisdom,

I have been thinking this thing you are doing- ‘I do not need a wife!’ –is no longer obedience, but maybe now an issue of pride. “ “You have proved you are a strong man. Now, you must prove that you are a wise man – for to do even a good thing longer than the Lord intends is not wise.” “Search your heart and see if what I am saying is true. I think you are ready for a wife. You are a great man, but do not be foolish and think that even a great man can tell the Lord God when He is ready for the great man’s heart to turn to love. Trust God, and do not try to fight Him on this thing – your arms are too short.”

He is also struggling with choosing a wife that his brothers would accept or choosing a woman that his heart and soul are connected to. Mary and Moor are also pressured by a community of friends who have ideals about who they are and who they should spend the rest of their life with.

In the end, the community comes together to help Mary and Moor connect. It does not work, as only fate can determine the true path of the heart.

The biblical references in this story always seemed to be right on target with my own life beginning with the initial quote:

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger forever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. – Psalm 103:8-10 KJV,

and we must always be mindful of this if we insist on airing our dirty laundry to our community.

I must admit that the ending, like all fairy tales, was missing the details of the happily-ever-after that I always long for. I am never satisfied knowing that fate reveals the path of the heart. I need details on where fate took them once it won out. I will keep this book among my rereads.

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