Do Lord, Remember Me is a story about a man, Joshua Smith, who has truly lived his life. As he faces his last days and prepares to write his obituary he reflects on his accomplishments and failures as a parent, minister, and politician. However, the book is more than a "fictional memoir"- it is a history lesson. Spanning decades beginning in the post-Civil War era through the aftermath of the Civil Rights Movement, Lester writes about the plight and elicits the viewpoint of a humble black man with a strong spiritual center struggling to survive in the racist South. It is his soft tread, strong fortification, and faith in God that keep him sane and alive.
As a child, he is the son of sharecroppers and is subjected to destitute conditions as his family deals with infanticide and poverty. He loses his mother to depression, his father to alcoholism, and his older brother to restlessness. He is "called by God" at a young age and becomes a self-ordained country preacher and primary caretaker to his younger siblings. He, by default, became the voice of his flock and caregiver to all, often being the diplomat when dealing with family squabbles, local politicians, and life-threatening racial situations. Lester creates a flawed character in that Rev. Smith is not a perfect father, husband, or brother and the scenes dealing with his faults are depicted with warm sincerity and sensitivity.
In the aftermath of the Civil Rights movement, his type of survival skills were frowned upon by the younger, more outspoken generation. He and others like him were labeled "Uncle Tom" and called cow-towers. They were scorned by the youth, ignored by the masses, and symbolically placed on shelf to be intentionally forgotten. They did not admire the kind of strength, control, and resolve it took for Rev Smith and others like him to humble themselves in the face of adversity.
Despite the slow start, I really enjoyed the book and the history lessons experienced during Rev. Smith's life journey. There were many moments that tapped the emotions - some passages were painful, frustrating, and sorrowful. Lester captures the essence of the eras with splendor - for a black man coming of age in the Jim Crow South, nothing was given and life was not easy and this novel cuts to the core of the sentiment.
Reviewed by Phyllis
APOOO BookClub, The Nubian Circle Book Club