THE WIND DONE GONE is billed as an "unauthorized parody" on its cover. If you haven't been following entertainment news for the last few months, then you may have missed that this book is an unauthorized parody of the American classic GONE WITH THE WIND, Margaret Mitchell's paean to the before and after world of the Civil War through the eyes of the feisty daughter of a plantation owner, whose beloved home Tara falls prey to Sherman's March and is rebuilt by said daughter in the later years of her life. Mitchell's book is about a family, a literary epic about a woman and her family and the meaning of loyalty. Randall's book is a slap in the face of GONE WITH THE WIND, a strange perversion of what I could only call fiction that she considered too white. The point of this book is to give the black characters in the Mitchell book names and faces and souls. If only Randall had just written a book about these men and women, I would have enjoyed it a great deal more.
Parodies are usually funny, rather hell-bent in their twisting of the original material. THE WIND DONE GONE reads like a novel of the Civil War told by Edwidge Danticat, serious, well-meaning, even a little dry. It seems like perfectly reasonable fiction to me --- but "parody" it is not. If only I had not been aware of its supposing to be a parody, I would have found it a perfectly good story. Instead, I spent the time translating "Other" to mean Scarlett and "R" to mean Rhett Butler. Our protagonist Cynara, who tells the story in her own voice, is having an affair with "R" and has nothing but bad feelings for the "other" people of Tara. She and Mammy and Garlic and the other folks who run Tara are all finely drawn characters but why couldn't they just exist on their own? Randall's act of defiance against this stalwart of white American culture seems to be badly skewed --- she doesn't do justice to her characters by setting them in a place that has already been explored famously.
Randall is also a songwriter for Nashville artists and perhaps it is in the jaunty ability of country songs to be both ironic and stupid at the same time that she found her original intent for this so-called "parody." I would have written something original and simply added my distinctive voice to the black pantheon if I were her. But I'm not, and so all I can say is that this is a good book that deserves to stand on its own and not as the ill-tempered illegitimate successor to one of America's best-known novels.
Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on January 24, 2011
The Wind Done Gone