Civil-rights activist Meridian Hill struggles with romance, family life, and personal ethics -- all the while trying to stay true to herself, and the cause. Meridian Hill is a community activist known for her fearless encounters with local authorities. She gathers a group of local school children together, intending to show the children a local curiosity: on an old burial ground owned by the city, there lies a mummified woman encased in an ancient casket. When the group arrives to view the casket, local police demand that they leave. They instruct Meridian that the site operates by the rules of segregation; that she must bring the children back on the day designated for Black patrons. Meridian argues with the police for entry, but blacks out before the situation is resolved.
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In a state of semi-consciousness, Meridian reflects on her coming of age. She remembers how, even as a child, she held an air of independence and free thought. She rejected the beliefs and practices of her church community, steadfastly refusing to take communion or be baptized. Later, as a young college activist, she frequently challenged the strategies and tactics posed by activist leaders in the community.
Meridian regains full consciousness. She connects with her former boyfriend Truman, who has come to visit her after a period of over two decades. Truman declares his love for her; he wants them to marry and create a life together. Meridian is happy that Truman is back in her life, but she's hesitant to become involved with him again. She's still hurting from Truman's decision decades ago, to leave her for a white civil rights activist named Lynne.
Truman fills Meridian in on the course of his own life since they parted. He and Lynne birthed a child named Camara. They moved to Mississippi to continue the voter registration work they'd begun as college students. Their interracial liaison proved more taboo in Mississippi than it had been in Georgia. Mississippi locals -- both black and white -- targeted Truman and Lynne for violence, humiliation, and terror. Under these pressures, their relationship floundered. Lynne eventually filed for divorce and returned to her family in New England. Carama suffered from severe fainting spells. Her illness proved fatal: and she died in the convulsive grip of her final fainting spell. Now, Truman seeks a relationship with Meridian in order to cure his loneliness and ease his despair.
Truman and Meridian enjoy a few months together. Yet Meridian feels deeply that she cannot allow any romantic attachments to come between her and the activist work to which she has dedicated her life. She announces to Truman that she plans to move further South, where violence against newly registered voters has escalated. Truman is lost in his loneliness and grief. With no activist fervor to propel him forward, he feels a void and an emptiness in his life. As Meridian bids him farewell, Truman wonders what grand commitment he can make for his life; what great purpose can give his life meaning.
Best part of story, including ending:
The narrative is somewhat confusing due to the liberal use of flashback and multiple narrators. Much of the story takes place through characters talking about events in the past. At times, this can make the stories and characters seem disjointed. It's hard to identify with Meridian; her frequent lapses of conciseness, combined with her somewhat narcissistic recounting of her past, make her a less than likable character.
Opinion about the main character:
Meridian is self- obsessed, and it gets in the way of readers liking her. While her desire to live a life of meaning is commendable, her constant self-assessing and self- judgment seem to limit her ability to act in the moment. It's clear that older Meridian misses the youthful energy and spark she once had. It's sad to see her wrapped up in the past; we'd rather her rediscover the power and wisdom she holds in the present. Her decision to depart from Truman and travel further south suggests movement in this direction. Still, it feels as though Meridian is merely trying to recapture something of the danger and adventure of her youth. There's a superficial quality to her identity and her decisions that is never quite resolved, despite her bold decision at the end.