“This story of a young woman’s confrontation with death and her past is a poetic study of human relations. The Optimist’s Daughter is the story of Laurel McKelva Hand, a young woman who has left the South and returns, years later, to New Orleans, where her father is dying. After his death, she and her silly young stepmother go back still farther, to the small Mississippi town where she grew up. Alone in the old house, Laurel finally comes to an understanding of the past, herself, and her parents.”
I don’t often read realistic adult fiction, mostly because I find almost every other genre more interesting. It’s not that the genre is bad, but it’s too close to real life, and I have to live in those settings every day. But I digress.
The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty is not what I would call a happy, escapist paradise. It is very much rooted in dealing with grief and the realization that your parents were not who you thought they were as a child. The characters are difficult and complex, and some you might not like, but you can’t deny that they feel like real people. You’ll like some, you’ll strongly dislike some, but I couldn’t help but admire how quickly Welty can pull out these feelings in the span of a few sentences.
I like stories about learning to understand yourself before you can try to understand others, because its an experience that everyone must go through at some point in their lives. There are parts of yourself that even you don’t want to look at or explore, events of the past that you would rather forget than face. That is a very human experience, and is handled expertly by Welty.
What the book might lack in action, it makes up for with truly beautiful writing. It’s not complex, and its greatest strength lies in that simplicity. This was the first of Welty’s work that I was introduced to by a good friend, but I’ve since sought out her other works. I just really enjoy her storytelling, and the peace you feel while reading her words.
No, The Optimist’s Daughter is not the most thrilling book I’ve ever read, or the most complex, or the most fun. But it is one of the most beautiful, and it’s stayed with me. It won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, so I must not be the only one who thinks so. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what has endeared Welty’s work to me, so I would just suggest reading and deciding for yourself.
You can check out The Optimist’s Daughter by following this link: https://more.bibliocommons.com/item/show/1284422164
~~Lindsey, Library Aide