This novel spans thirty years in the life of Celie, a poor, uneducated black woman living in the American South during the early 20th century. Her story is told through letters, the earliest addressed to God and the latest addressed to her sister, Nettie, who spent most of her life in Africa. Celie has been abused her entire life, first by her father, who rapes her and allegedly murders the consequent children, and then by her husband, who considers her worthless and knocks her around. She's never felt loved, but she doesn't seem to expect it because she's accepted that that's the way her life is. Then she meets a couple of remarkable women who show her that she's a beautiful person and that it's okay to stand up for oneself. As she slowly grows into her natural self, several big surprises change her life even more.
This is one of the books that was on my Librarian Shame List because I'd gone through high school, college, and the first few years of my adult life without reading it. I wish I hadn't waited so long! The intimate writing style drew me in right away (though I would have appreciated some punctuation!) and I immediately cared deeply for Celie, Nettie, Shug, and the others. The story is paced so well and there are so many shocking surprises along the way that it was hard for me to put the book down. There's so much to think about that's addressed in this book: racism, subjugation of women, human sexuality, colonialism, violence, self-esteem, and more. It will break your heart but also inspire you and stimulate some good thought and discussion (I led a book discussion on this title and it was a perfect pick!).