Recitatif Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Recitatif

Twyla and Roberta are two best friends of separate races who learn how to grow up in Civil Rights-era America. Twyla and Roberta are two young girls who meet at St. Bonneventure's orphanage for girls. They become instant friends, not because of their age, but because both of their mothers are still alive. Twyla's mom parties too often to care for her, and Roberta's mother is too ill to care for her. The author is intentionally vague about the race of both girls, so all that is known is that they are not the same race as each other, not that that affects their friendship at all. One day, the orphanage throws an Easter celebration, and both girls are excluded from the other children because both of their mothers show up. Twyla and Roberta are so excited for their mothers to become best friends, too, But Roberta's mother looks upon Twyla's with disdain and refuses to shake her hand. The story follows Twyla after she is released from St. Bonneventure's. She's in her twenties and working as a waitress when Roberta and two men show up in one of her booths. She hasn't seen Roberta in years, and the Roberta in front of her now is all poofy hair, big earrings, and dark lips. She's on her way to meet Jimi Hendrix, and onto bigger and better things than Twyla could ever hope for. Twyla feels self conscious, and regrets the fact that they ever grew apart. Their paths cross again five years later, when Twyla is married and has a son. She comes across Roberta in the grocery store. Roberta is more reserved now, and has two step children of her own. She entreats Twyla to come have coffee with her; her limo will take them. Things are good between the two old friends until the local school starts integrating. Since both women are of different races, they begin to protest on opposite sides. In the heat of a protest, Roberta accuses Twyla of abusing one of the mute servants at the orphanage. Twyla only remembers sitting and watching the servant get abused by other girls, and Roberta's revelation begins messing with the careful reality that Twyla has constructed. Roberta's accusation is the last thing the women say to each other for a handful of years. When they see each other again, it's New Year's. They meet a diner; Roberta is surrounded by glittering people in glittering clothes with glittering champagne. Twyla is just popping in for a coffee. Roberta is slightly tipsy, but she grabs Twyla by the shoulders and apologizes to her for the things she said about the servant. Then she bursts into tears and the novel closes with the women comforting each other.
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Best part of story, including ending: I really liked how Morrison kept the races ambiguous. It's a fun mind game to try and figure out which girl is which race, while simultaneously seeing how they're each affected by Civil Rights.

Best scene in story: My favorite scene is the end scene where Roberta apologizes for accusing Twyla. It's nice to see the girls from the beginning be friends again.

Opinion about the main character: Twyla does well with what she has. She's never rich like Roberta, but her "do the best with what I've got" attitude is easy to relate to.

The review of this Book prepared by Victoria Lurie a Level 2 American Robin scholar

Chapter Analysis of Recitatif

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   upbeat Time/era of story    -   1930's-1950's Political/social activism    -   Yes Plotlet:    -   racism!!!! Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book

Main Character

Gender    -   Female Profession/status:    -   blue collar Age:    -   20's-30's Ethnicity/Nationality    -   Black (American)


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   7 () United States    -   Yes

Writing Style

Amount of dialog    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

Books with storylines, themes & endings like Recitatif

Toni Morrison Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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