Ain’t That Good News by Brit Bennett, 2014
The magic trick:
The story’s central conflict summed up in one image in the first sentence
It’s not often that the very first paragraph gives you a story’s entire emotional conflict. Of course, it’s not often that you get a story as memorable and engrossing as Brit Bennett’s “Ain’t That Good News.”
From the very start, we get this image of a woman carrying a knife around in a Bible. Bam. Talk about conflict – good vs. evil. The details of the situation are elegantly outlined quickly, so that we know what has happened to her and why she seeks revenge. And of course there are plot twists to come. But the key idea is summed up very nicely in that knife/Bible image.
And that’s quite a trick on Bennett’s part.
Florence Holmes kept her knife in Psalm 94.
An eight-inch stiletto with a pearl white handle. Folks saw her walking around town, King James sticking out her purse, and they’d get to thinking she was holy now. That she’d found religion after what happened and all, like she was going to become a church lady, buy herself a big hat and sit in the front pew, white gloves up to her elbows. But the truth was that Bible was thick enough to hide the blade and she wouldn’t go anywhere without either. She had a gun, too, of course. A shotgun under their bed, and a pistol her husband Barrett stashed in the glovebox, loaded and ready. But she didn’t want to use the gun. For twelve years, she’d carried that blade in Psalm 94, hoping she’d be walking around town one day and out of nowhere, she’d see him. Andy Robinson, blond and lanky and looking into the open hood of a truck at the auto shop or playing basketball outside of Crawford High School, sweating and smiling, his arm curling toward the rim like a question mark. Florence wouldn’t say nothing. She’d watch him a minute through the chain link fence—he wouldn’t notice her, too busy panting and running up and down the court—and when he was standing by the metal bench, wiping his face with his shirt, she would sneak up behind him with Psalm 94 and shove that knife clean inside him.
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