This is the first Langston Hughes novel I’ve read and for a hero of mine, poetically, he didn’t disappoint with prose. NOT WITHOUT LAUGHTER is a coming of age novel about a boy named Sandy and the colorful cast of characters that surround him while he grows into a young man. There’s his no ‘count father, Jimboy; his silly and gullible mother, Anjee; his wild and free aunt, Harriet; his staunch and starched aunt Tempy; and last but not least, his grandmother who ironically in the novel is called Aunt Hagar. Each has a quirk which makes for a plot and a prop to bring Sandy further along to manhood. The reading is easy, relaxed and authentic. And the topics covered are controversial. But Langston paints a proper picture of the time period and lays a foundation for who the reader will ultimately see in Sandy. The only thing I disliked about the novel was at times, it just felt like I was watching a normal life go by. Not drab, mind you, but not a lot of action. Good dialogue, I guess, but maybe not enough tension. I’m not saying I wanted to see explosions and car chases–because this wasn’t an action and adventure novel–I would have liked to see more tension. Like when Harriet came home late, we see the mother’s switch but not the argument or the beating itself even. There were more instances but I don’t want to put out spoilers.
If you like Langston Hughes’ voice, you’ll love NOT WITHOUT LAUGHTER. Just don’t expect any heated climaxes.