Review | Push
Publication Date: June11, 1996
Genres: Contemporary Fiction
Precious Jones, an illiterate sixteen-year-old, has up until now been invisible: invisible to the father who rapes her and the mother who batters her and to the authorities who dismiss her as just one more of Harlem’s casualties. But when Precious, pregnant with a second child by her father, meets a determined and highly radical teacher, we follow her on a journey of education and enlightenment as Precious learns not only how to write about her life, but how to make it her own for the first time.
Sapphire’s debut Push is a book that has lingered on my physical TBR shelf for years. Push was placed there before the movie adaptation even started running previews. I sat on my TBR shelf as the movie racked up rave reviews and Monique won an Oscar for her performance. 24 years after the novel’s debut and 11 years after the movies hit theaters, and I still avoided reading it.
I’ve always known Push was a heartbreaking story, the synopsis tells even explains the horrible situation young Precious finds herself in as the novel opens up. I could never gather the courage to willingly drag myself through the emotion roller coaster Push promised to be.
Push was every bit of heartbreaking as I thought. Teenager Precious is trying to play the cards that life had dealt her and carve out a future for her and her children. She had big but modest dreams for herself and her kids. She tries to make all the right moves to get herself and the baby she is carrying out from under her mother’s oppressive rule. But readers know that Precious has received one of the worse hands ever dealt and as the story progressives it’s already a little too late. The actions of her abusive and neglectful parents already sealed her fate.
An inescapable fate.
Push is written in first person, almost journal style. Precious makes it very much so apparent that she is writing her story. Precious is illiterate and is written just like a girl learning to read and write wrote it. Poor grammar and misspellings are throughout the novel. I found the writing part of the story’s overall beauty. As Precious goes on her quest to educate herself, the writing improves and readers get to see the outcome of her effort on the page as she progresses. Precious’ spelling and grammar are never perfect, but her progression shows.
The heartbreak in Push comes from the realization that Precious has no clue where her story ends. As she gives readers more information about herself and her past, readers know ultimately how Precious’ story ends. Sapphire never states it, but the writing is on the wall.