Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

August 19, 2013 Classics, Historical Fiction, Women's Studies 53

Hey Bookworms,

It’s Monday, and that’s appropriate, because I feel that I’m in a bit of a slump. I haven’t been connecting with what I’ve been reading lately, which just makes me want to stare off into space. That said, I’m concerned that the following review is going to reflect my humdrum mood as opposed to the quality of the writing. I suppose it’s possible that I soaked up the melancholy tone of the writing more than I realized and THAT is what’s making me all gray…

theireyeswerewatchinggodI just finished reading Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. It detailed the plight of an African American woman named Janie during the 1920s. Janie was raised by her grandmother in a white family’s outbuilding. Her grandmother lives long enough to see Janie married off to what she deems is a safe match. Unfortunately, Janie has other ideas.

Janie is not content to live in a loveless marriage. She is full of vitality and has her own ideas about the life she wants to lead. This energy leads her on a journey that she could never have expected. We follow Janie through several marriages, emotional turmoil, community unrest, high standards, seasonal labor, and Mother Nature’s wrath. There’s even a seriously intense Old Yeller moment that’ll break your heart into 10,000 pieces.

Janie’s trials are heartbreaking. Hurston’s empathy for the impoverished population she writes about is palpable. She points out all their foibles, but also the beauty in their lifestyles as well. The state of African American society in Florida barely a generation removed from slavery was fascinating. However…

I had a hard time connecting with this book. Maybe it was the overabundance of sorrow that put me off. Perhaps it was that even when things were going well for Janie she was still in pretty dire situations. Like… She’s in love with Tea Cake, but he’s occasionally physically abusive and a compulsive gambler… I mean, c’mon Janie! I think my biggest stumbling block was the dialect. Hurston wrote large portions of this book in the thick Southern drawl and colloquial language authentic to the people of the period. Unfortunately, that’s now how I speak. I very nearly had to read the words aloud in order to understand what was being said. I can understand why this book is considered a classic and I can appreciate its inherent beauty. However, Their Eyes Were Watching God is never going to be one of my favorite books.

You’ve got to help me out here, Bookworms. What do you do when you’re in a reading slump? Do you revisit an old favorite? Read something you know will be light? Take a break? All suggestions are welcome!

I should also mention that we have a WINNER in the Blogiversary Giveaway! Leah from Books Speak Volumes (which is a sweet little book blog you should check out) came up the lucky number. Congratulations, Leah! (Send me an email with your address to and I’ll get your package in the mail!)

53 Responses to “Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston”

  1. A.M.B.

    I’m sorry to hear you’re in a slump. I think I’m finally getting over mine, having finally read (and reviewed) something that had been on my Kindle for a month. I just kept putting it off in favor of either very light reads or old favorites. By the way, congratulations on a full year of blogging!

  2. Ashley F

    I totally understand where you’re coming from. I’ve read a few books where the author will write phonetically and yeah, you end up reading out loud to figure it out. I once almost threw Uncle Tom’s Cabin into a lake for this exact reason.

    When I’m in a reading funk I turn to something that I know I will enjoy but not have to connect with on a deep level. A few mysteries and some fluff and by the time I’m done I’ll want something deeper so badly it’s scary. It’s the reading equivalent of creating a blank slate.

  3. deweydecimalsbutler

    Rereading an old favorite is a good start. I’m so sorry you didn’t enjoy TEWWG. It’s one of my favorite books of all time. Her prose is just astounding. “It was the meanest moment in eternity.” It never ceases to blow me away.

  4. Akilah

    When I’m in a slump, I just keep picking up books until something sticks. Sometimes I do take a break for a little while. I’m there right now, actually.

  5. Liesel Hill

    I feel your pain. I’ve actually read this book like three times–each time because it was required for school. After reading it so much, I actually like it more than I used to, but the first couple times I felt the same way–just didn’t connect with it much. Still, at least you can say you’ve read it now, right? Hope your Monday gets better! 😀

  6. JoulesDellinger

    I’m in a bit of a reading slump right now too. And a life slump. Not really sure what it’s about, but I need to figure out a way out too. I haven’t really LOVED a book since the Hunger Games trilogy and everything I’ve been ordering on my kindle has been falling flat. Maybe it’s time for me to do my re-reading of the Harry Potter series again…

    • Words for Worms

      I wish you were here for me to mope around with LOL. Mutual moping seems to speed up the process. That and a bottle of wine and we’d be right as rain.

  7. The Greedy Reader

    I so understand you. I read a couple of atrocious books in the past month, which made me feel so depressed. I felt I had to finish what I’d started and it was so bad that I couldn’t read more than two pages at a time. I was in a real funk. Thankfully, Jodi Picoult’s ‘The Storyteller’ happened and it was sublime. Like having the most delicious ice-cream on a hot day ! It got me back in the groove. So just get your hands on a good read and you’ll be back in action 🙂

  8. Paula (Find a girl who reads)

    Whenever I’m in a slump I try to find something light and easy-enjoyable to read. A guilty pleasure I wouldn’t read otherwise. Anna and the french kiss pulled me out the last time I was in a slump.

    Hope you find a good book soon!! 🙂

  9. Too Fond

    I’m about halfway through this one and finding it slow going, although I do like it. The dialect…yeah. Even though I’m from the South and can do fine with Southern accents, it’s hard when they’re written phonetically. I kind of wish I had listened to this one on audio–I’m heard the audio production is actually really good.

    I hope you get out of your slump soon. I always try to read a couple of quick, fun books to get me out of one.

  10. Cindy

    I just go out my reading slump a few weeks ago. I picked up this book at my library used book sale about a year ago. I’ve started the first chapter a few times since then but kept putting it aside because I would find something at the library. I always figure I can read it whenever but library books have a time limit and need to be read RIGHT NOW. That means I don’t get around to my own books for a while.

  11. Turn the Page Reviews

    I had the same experience when I tried reading this book- the language and the sense of never ending sadness took its toll on me and I DNF. Good for you for pushing through.
    As to the slump, whenever I feel like I am not connecting to books, I definitely reach for a favorite and do a reread. I actually did just that last week. Started reading another good, new book and just found myself totally not caring, so I closed it and opened up The Hunger Games. I was SO SO happy!! Hope you get out of your slump!

  12. Andi (@estellasrevenge)

    Loooove this book, but you’re right that it’s pretty bleak. Hurston’s work always seems to be full of strong women surrounded by idiot men. Sorry you’re slumping. I usually rely on chick lit (or something equally easy to read), SIMS3, and trash TV to get me out of it.

  13. Wayne

    Sounds too much like *The Color Purple* for me. I’d rather read about some Black-American woman in Harlem in the 20’s having a good time. Or a black beatnik girl in the 50’s in San Francisco.

  14. Darlene

    When I’m in a slump I just take a break for a few days.
    Also, I usually read your posts through facebook but I don’t think it has posted there today.
    Just a heads up if you didn’t know that.
    And DRATS!! Another contest lost! (At least I DO have that special hand made bookmark);)

    • Words for Worms

      Sorry Darlene, I was out of pocket this morning so couldn’t Facebook post. I’m sure you’ll win a contest one of these days, by sheer force of will.

  15. Kayla Sanchez

    Oh I loved this book, but probably because Hurston was my favorite author that I studied in college. Though you’re right about the sorrow thing – it was pretty bleak.

  16. Ashley Z

    I get that way sometimes. I have a pile if half-started books that I can never get into so I just toss aside. Some I revisit but most are collecting dust on my nightstand. I just read sonething lIght and fun if I get in a slump. At least you finish the book you aren’t connecting with. I just toss most of them aside!

  17. Tiffany

    Pick an old favorite! When I feel like I can’t get into books, I find one I really enjoyed and re-read it. I also tend to pick shorter books. If I am in a slump, longer books tend to make it worse.

    Hope you get out of it soon!

  18. Charleen

    I usually do one or the other (often both… a light and fluffy favorite) and it usually cures my reading slump. If not… just do something else for a while and let it pass. Sometimes a movie binge will get me to want to start turning pages again.

  19. Jenny @ Reading the End (formerly Jenny's Books)

    Aw, Zora Neale Hurston. I loved Their Eyes Were Watching God, but I never reread it because all the flood scenes were too upsetting to me. I need to read Dust Tracks on the Road.

    Busting a reading slump is hard! I am sort of in one myself, and I don’t know if it is now busted, but certainly reading Marisha Pessl’s new novel was highly enjoyable for me. It was so totally wackadoo.

  20. Leah

    Oh no, I hope you break out of your slump soon! I don’t know that I have a proven method for getting out of a slump, but I sometimes just try to finish the ‘meh’ book as soon as possible so I can move on to something better — usually something short, fun, and much-anticipated.

    I read Their Eyes Were Watching God in high school, and I’ve been meaning to re-read it. Dialects don’t usually bother me, but I don’t remember much about how thick the dialect is in this book.

    Yay, thank you! I emailed you my info 🙂

    • Words for Worms

      I’ll get there, by sheer force of will! And congrats on winning! I was glad when your name popped up since you’ve been around most of my blog journey anyway. I love it when the random number generator does stuff like that! 🙂

  21. Sarah Says Read

    Boooooo reading slumps! Booooooo!

    I think I’ve tried to start this before, but was also put off my the way it was written. I totally appreciate how and why the language is written all heavily accented and stuff, but duuuude it makes it hard to read. I think I had this same issue with The Color Purple and Beloved. I have no problem with written accents, just you know… not so heavy! Or maybe the accents aren’t being written in an easily-readable way? I don’t know. I will read ALL of these books eventually though!

    • Words for Worms

      I did better with The Color Purple for some reason, and Beloved was required reading for school, but I remember thinking it wasn’t too bad. If nothing else I checked a classic off the list, right?

  22. theliterarylollipop

    The best “reading slump” advice I ever received: read something completely flaky. Like a pastry. Go cheesy if you have to. I ended up reading a supernatural romance (that was hard for me to admit) but it was very entertaining, and it cured me of my serious-book-itis. Good luck!

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