Love, Life, and Everything In Between: A Review of J. California Cooper’s Some Love, Some Pain, Sometime

Madison Curry

Love, Life, and Everything In Between: A Review of J. California Cooper’s Some Love, Some Pain, Sometime

Some Love, Some Pain, Sometime. J. California Cooper. Anchor Books. 1996. 288 pp. $12.95. (paperback).

Some Love, Some Pain, Sometime is a book of short stories following the lives of numerous women as they encounter love. The author of the book, J. California Cooper, was originally a playwright and wrote seventeen plays. She was recognized for her work and was named Black Playwright of the Year in 1978. She then turned to fiction and released her very first book of short stories, A Piece of Mine, which released in 1984. Following the publication of A Piece of Mine she wrote twelve books; however, one that stands out for its extraordinary characters and realistic depictions of life and love is Some Love, Some Pain, Sometime.

This book opened my eyes to exactly what love is and what it does to people. Cooper begins the book with a poem in the author’s note with some commentary. Cooper states, “So maybe it is not Love that hurts, maybe it’s the person we love. It can even be a lack of Love. Because Love itself is beautiful.” (Cooper). At this point, I knew this book was going to be impactful. As ironic as it may sound, the book mainly consists of love. One story may be a woman’s journey to find love while another’s is a woman struggling, blinded by love.  The book consists of ten short stories with ten different characters and ten different conflicts. However, each story follows a simple plotline that ends with the character having a big happy ending, surrounded by…yep you guessed it. Love.

The first story, “Femme Fatale,” tells the story of a young woman by the name of Roscoe Mae Lee whose parents loved each other endlessly, but tragically died when she was young. While their death was unexpected, it was an act of their love for one another. One morning her father fell into a river with tree branches on top of him, killing him. When her mother found him, she did everything in her power to save him, but once she realized he died, she decided to die with him for life without him was too much to bare: “Mama couldn’t pull him lose, and she wouldn’t let go of him. Then it was too late to go. See? She went down with him.” (3). Mae Lee was left with her grandmother and husband who both died as well.  The pain was then engraved in Roscoe Mae Lee’s heart and stayed there creating a self-eating disease that would forever impact her love life. She then left to go to the city with one goal, to find a man but found herself lost, trying to be something she was not. She then experiments with herself and goes on a journey trying to find out who she is. While on this voyage, that self-eating disease in her heart becomes worse and she begins to lose herself. In the end, Mae Lee rids her life of any potential threat and settles with a young man who makes her happy, and while she encountered pain from love and painful love, she was happy.

Another short story, “The Way It Is,” tells the tale of an elderly widow and her life after her husband’s passing. Her and her husband, Cliff, had been together for years and loved each other for that’s all they had, their love for one another. When Cliff died, a piece of her was gone, her right arm, right hand, and the right side of her heart all died: “Oh, I can’t tell you, the hole, the great big, empty body I carried around, without him.” (109). The widow, she is not given a name in the story, then marries another man but divorces in in less than a month because treats her like a homemaker and not the self-standing queen she is. In the finale, she marries another man from high school whose partner also died and is content with life and the loves it gave to her.

In all, this book has left an imprint on my heart. I enjoy the way Cooper tells the story; it sounds as if you and your girlfriends are sitting at a table over coffee catching up for lost time. Each short story in the book resulted in many different emotions, sometimes I cried, and other times my heart leaped for joy. This book left a warm, fuzzy, secure feeling in my heart: love.



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