In Tananarive Due’s My Soul to Keep, the characters are forced to examine their lives and make changes in order to survive. Although difficult and oftentimes painful, these changes are necessary for them. The changes they are forced to make are difficult yet necessary because of the familial relationships that provoke them. Love for family is the driving force behind Jessica Wolde. Due uses familial relationships as a catalyst for transformation, leading to renewed self-awareness
Jessica makes a selfless decision to protect the one she loves. She is married to David Wolde, a man whom her friend refers to as Mr. Perfect. David is older, seemingly wiser and more sophisticated than Jessica. She is madly and deeply in love with David and oftentimes questions how she got so lucky: “Some mornings she woke up, gazed at David’s sleeping form, and wondered when it would finally occur to him that he had twice her IQ and could do so much more with his life that spend it with her. She understood all too well” (Due 37). Jessica is intelligent and has a great job, yet she is plagued with insecurity about her worthiness. Jessica is unable to see her true value outside of her relationship with David.
What Jessica does not know is that David has a secret that threatens the family they have with their daughter Kira. David is a member of a secret society of men who are immortal. Even when David is about to tell Jessica his secret, she justifies what she thinks his secret may be and prepares herself to forgive his transgressions. Jessica bargains with herself: “she could stand to hear about an affair with another woman or even a man. She could, so long as it was over. If David was bisexual, so be it; so long as he was honest, he didn’t cheat, and they could fulfill each other’s needs” (185). Jessica is almost addicted to David. She is willing to compromise herself is order to stay with him. She is willing to disregard a possible affair if it means that she can stay with him. Whereas Grange blames the white people for all of his problems, Jessica, on the other hand, relies on her husband as the solution to all her problems. In very different ways, both protagonists are using people as crutches to keep them from standing and existing on their own.
Jessica is plagued with doubts. But her doubts mark the beginning of her transformation. Jessica begins to question the things that David has told her. She begins to rely on herself and no longer trusts his words at face value. But this too is very difficult for Jessica because she dearly loves David. Despite all the lies and murder, she still loves him. Jessica’s love for David enables her to excuse many of his actions, but it is ultimately her love for her child and God that completes her transformation. In the hotel, David is about to inject Kira with the living blood when the police come in and shoot. At this moment, Jessica has a decision to make. She can either save her daughter or let her die. Although it is a terrible choice for a mother to have to make, Jessica does the only think she knows to do: “She could not give Kira this blood. The blood was a temporary respite with an everlasting curse: exile from wherever all children’s souls go. Hold tight to Kira for me. Could God be so cruel? Holding on to Kira only meant letting go” (322). Jessica, knowing that she can no longer blindly follow the wishes of her husband, chooses to save her daughter’s soul, rather than save her life. In the end, Jessica knows that she has done the right thing. Jessica has transformed herself from a woman concerned only with pleasing her man to a woman whose focus is on helping and healing others. In the final line of the novel, Due summarizes Jessica’s transformation writing, “despite the hurts, which went to her soul, Jessica’s spirits soared” (346).
Although some might view the act as cruel, Jessica ends the life of her child. She ultimately makes the decision out of love. Due emphasize the importance of the soul in My Soul to Keep. After David recounts parts of his many lives to Jessica, he tells her that he lost his soul. Jessica tells him “You can’t lose your soul, baby” (Due 204). Essentially, Due attest to the belief that true transformation, of any kind must first start in the soul of person. Once Jessica started believing in her own thoughts and followed her intuition, she was able see David for what he truly was. As a result, the soul of Jessica is able to soar, like a bird, beyond the level plain of tradition and prejudice.
Due, Tananarive. My Soul to Keep. New York: HarperCollins, 1997.