By now I'm sure most of you are familiar with this heartbreaking story of Precious Jones, an illiterate, obese 16-year-old girl living in an incredibly dysfunctional home in Harlem. The book, originally titled PUSH, was published in 1996, and was Sapphire's debut novel. It's not an easy read and I found the audiobook especially raw.
PRECIOUS tells the horrific and disturbing story of her life dealing with a father who sexually molested her from a very early age and a mother who not only stood by and did nothing about it but who also abused Precious, both mentally and physically. She is sixteen and pregnant with her second child by her father when she begins the story, which is also the time she leaves the ineffective public school she's been attending and starts classes at an alternative learning school. Immediately upon starting this new school drastic changes occur. For the first time in her life, Precious becomes unafraid to speak up in class and share her voice with the other students, who have similar stories of abuse and neglect in their own lives. Over the course of two years we follow Precious on her journey to learn to read and write, with the ultimate goal of taking her GED test so that she can get a job and support herself and her children. With the loving support of her new teacher, Ms. Blue Rain, she is pushed to try hard and never give up, no matter what obstacles lie in her path.
I went into this book with my eyes wide open, having a pretty good idea of what to expect and I have to say I was still shocked at what Precious endured in her young life. Aside from the obvious shock and horror of her home life is the fact that this girl was sixteen years old and could not read or write. That is unfathomable to me. She had absolutely no self confidence and had such dislike for herself that she simply sat for hours in the back of the classroom of her public school and did not move, speak or participate in any classroom activities - ever. To say that is unexceptionable in our society is a gross understatement. There are so many disturbing things happening all around Precious and it was all very hard to listen to.
I loved the character of Ms. Rain, the teacher at the alternative learning school. She became a shining light to Precious and was one of the few adults that truly wanted to help. Her mother was a pig and I hated any part of the book she was in. There is no way you can read/listen to this book and not have overflowing compassion for Precious. She is dealt one blow after another yet she sticks to her plan and doesn't allow anyone or anything to get in the way of her goals.
I'm glad I chose the audio version of this book. Since the content was so gritty, I wanted to 'get in and get out' so to speak. Reading it would've taken longer and I don't know if I could've endured it. The audio version was just over five hours and was much easier for me to handle. I do have to mention that the narrator, Bahni Turpin, did a fantastic job with all of the voices in this book. She was very believable and I feel she nailed it.
I gave this book 3 stars mainly because, even though I was happy that Precious was able to continue on with her goals for her life, I didn't particularly like the ending of the book. I think I was expecting a bit more finality. With that I mean, I wanted to know if she did, in fact, achieve her goal of getting her GED. I felt the book ended abruptly without that closure for me. That said, it is an incredible story, though it certainly isn't for everyone, but I'm glad I listened to it and I'm sure I won't forget Precious Jones for quite some time.
Published: PUSH 1996; PRECIOUS Audiobook October 2009
Publisher: Random House Audio
Rating: 3 Stars