Cover image for Sweet eyes
Sweet eyes
Agee, Jonis.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Crown Publishers, [1991]

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In naming Jonis Agee's Bend This Heart one of 1989's Notable Books of the Year, The New York Times said, These odd, original stories, keenly alive with language, make the heart and mind work. Now, Agee makes her hardcover debut with a turbulent love story set in Divinity, Iowa, the closest thing to heaven while you're alive, so why leave town?

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Honey, the bitchy, intelligent heroine of this first novel, tells us about her drinking, her crazy family, and her loves past and present. The one with "sweet eyes" is Jass, the only black man in Divinity, the small Iowa town where Honey lives. Almost too good to be true, he is the tonic to soothe her as she solves long-standing mysteries and resolves her own past. As Honey seeks and finds enlightenment, the compassion and understanding that follow help to mellow her view of the townsfolk. Agee's prose and her protagonist's astute observations give us a real sense of what is stifling and what is transcendent in rural America. ~--Anne Schmitt

Publisher's Weekly Review

Honey Parrish of Divinity, Iowa, drinks too much, sleeps around and talks to her dead lover. As Agee ( Bend This Heart ) describes her in this richly textured first novel, Honey is a woman drifting toward madness while searching for something that will anchor her to safety.The main cause of her wavering reason is Honey's dysfunctional WASP family, including an abusive father, a psychotic brother called Sonny Boy and a 300-pound sister oddly named Baby. Honey is also plagued by the voice of Clinton, her dead lover, until Jasper Johnson comes along. Johnson, the ``sweet eyes'' of the title, is the town's only black man. His tempestuous affair with Honey is the spark that fires a smoldering racism in the community, spearheaded by Sonny Boy. Fearing that her brother's bigotry caused the death of a young black woman 15 years earlier, Honey launches a painful search for the truth. When she learns the killer's identity, she begins to lose her mind. It is Jasper's love, awakening her self-respect, that saves Honey. Her sense of self-worth also helps her to mete out a kind of justice to the murderer. While Agee demonstrates that the roots of psychosis and violence often start within the family, she also makes a case for the family's importance--and for the necessity of self-esteem--writing with fearless precision and evocative detail. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Honey Parrish lives in the small town of Divinity, Iowa, which is populated with a gallery of characters who could have walked out of a Eudora Welty novel. When Honey has an affair with Jasper Johnson, a black man, she provokes anger and resentment masking an unsolved murder that happened years before. Honey is thus pushed toward a discovery of the truth behind the mystery--a truth linked to her own fragile identity. The first-person narration lends immediacy to the novel and encourages the reader to identify with Honey. Agee has a fine ear for dialog, and the pacing of this novel is sure. It is also fun to read, with prose as clean as the edge of a new spade. Sweet Eyes credibly seeks out particular qualities and flaws in human nature and reveals human dilemmas common to all. Fans of Bobbie Ann Mason will especially appreciate this local-color novel.-- Francis Poole, Univ. of Delaware, Newark (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.