Wednesday, June 3, 2009

"a mercy" by Toni Morrison

a mercy by Toni Morrison
176 pages
Published November 2008 by Knopf Publishing

In the 1680s the slave trade in the Americas is still in its infancy. Jacob Vaark is an Anglo-Dutch trader and adventurer, with a small holding in the harsh North. Despite his distaste for dealing in “flesh,” he takes a small slave girl in part payment for a bad debt from a plantation owner in Catholic Maryland. This is Florens, who can read and write and might be useful on his farm. Rejected by her mother, Florens looks for love, first from Lina, an older servant woman at her new master's house, and later from the handsome blacksmith, an African, never enslaved, who comes riding into their lives.

Jay, at says: "Mention the name Morrison and little else needs to be said. Of course it's an intense and tragic read worth every page. But it's not just about slavery. It's about the backdrop of intolerance, class and religious, that breeds the kind of culture where slavery seems justified, sometimes even to the enslaved themselves."

My review:
Morrison has literally woven this novel together--changing points of view and narrators frequently and giving a fully fleshed out back story to all of the characters she introduces. At it's heart, "a mercy" is the story of a mother who gives up her daughter to save her and the daughter who spends the rest of her life feeling abandoned. Every character in the story is rootless--from the slave girl, Florens, to the Native American, Lina, who is the sole survivor of a plague, to Jacob Vaark, the farmer/merchant the brings the characters together. The book is beautifully written and if you choose to listen to this on CD, you'll get the added benefit of Morrison as narrator. It feels like your grandmother is reading to you and you don't want the story to end.

1 comment:

  1. I read the book and enjoyed it, but I'm really intrigued on being able to hear Morrison's narration. I may have to look for the audio!