Archive for October, 2011

God Still Don’t Like Ugly, by Mary Monroe

(Contains spoilers)

As some of you know, I’ve been commuting from Baton Rouge to New Orleans four days a week to teach. The drive has me in the car for upwards of three hours a day. It is exhausting and a true time suck. To make the time pass more quickly, I’ve been borrowing books on CD from the Baton Rouge library. The selection is not stellar, but because of this, I’ve been listening to a lot of books that I otherwise would probably never encounter. One of these books is God Still Don’t Like Ugly, by Mary Monroe. I had never heard of this author, but picked up the box after reading the blurb on the back cover. It isn’t a romance. It isn’t a historical fiction. It isn’t a bad mystery novel from 20 years ago. Ok, I’ll take it. And I’m so glad I did. Not only was the story fairly unique, but it turns out it features a vigilante woman character, a woman who kills—and not just once, out of necessity, as is usually the pattern. This character, Rhoda, the best friend of the narrator and main character, Annette, has killed a total of five people.

It is hard not to be at least a little sympathetic to Rhoda, despite her blood lust. She is Annette’s best friend, who stood by her through thick and thin. The first person she killed was Annette’s step father, who had been raping and molesting Annette since she was a little child. When Annette finally reveals this secret to Rhoda, Rhoda does not hesitate. She smothers the man to death with his own pillow one night while he is sleeping. Next, she “takes out” a young (white) woman who has been impregnated by her (black) brother and has threatened to cry rape if he will not comply with her demands. She murders the rapist and killer of a 7-year-old girl, a man who lives in her neighborhood and who had had her own daughter to his home for sleepovers. And so on.

Rhoda kills to protect her loved ones, as is the pattern with vigilante killers. But the book differs from the pattern in this regard—Rhoda is deemed wrong, very wrong, by Annette (the only person who knows of her deeds), and is punished by GOD for her crimes. This is an interesting twist to the standard pattern of vigilante killers. In most of the stories I analyze in my book, women who kill are either portrayed as entirely justified in their actions, or at worst, the story is left unresolved (like in Mukherjee’s Wife, which concludes with the murderous act, leaving the reader wondering what will become of the main character). Although Rhoda is never caught by the justice system, never tried for her crimes, her life slowly unravels. She gets cancer and loses both of her breasts. She has a stroke and loses her beauty and her ability to function independently. The moral of the story? God still don’t like ugly, so be careful to behave. It will be interesting for me to think about the way this book compares to vigilante fiction by other spiritual women—I will certainly return to the topic in a later post.

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