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A Mercy: A Novelby Toni Morrison
I disappeared into A Mercy like no novel in ages. Morrison's 17th-century panorama builds upon vivid scenes and characters until what emerges is nothing less than the forecast of America — both its ills and dreams.
"What a pleasure...to watch 77-year-old Toni Morrison, the last literary Nobelist (1993) from a culture dismissed this year as 'too insular' to merit the Swedish Academy's nod, bound into literature with her new book as if it were the first time, with the spry energy of a doe....[B]eguiling and beautiful...deftly condensed...sinewy with imaginative sentences, lyric flight and abundant human sensitivity." Carlin Romano, Philadelphia Inquirer (read the entire Philadelphia Inquirer review)
"The overlaps between the language of love and the language of ownership are undeniable, from the declaration of mutual ownership "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine" from the biblical Song of Solomon (which is also the title of Morrison's best novel) to the conception of sex as "taking" or "possession." But while such tropes can appear to be innocent and even romantic, what Morrison is out to demonstrate is that slavery of any kind, even the enslavement in passion, is dangerous to the soul." Ruth Franklin, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)
Synopses & Reviews
A powerful tragedy distilled into a jewel of a masterpiece by the Nobel Prize-winning author of Beloved and, almost like a prelude to that story, set two centuries earlier.
In the 1680s the slave trade was still in its infancy. In the Americas, virulent religious and class divisions, prejudice and oppression were rife, providing the fertile soil in which slavery and race hatred were planted and took root.
Jacob 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, with the hands of a slave and the feet of a Portuguese lady. Florens looks for love, first from Lina, an older servant woman at her new master's house, but later from a handsome blacksmith, an African, never enslaved.
There are other voices: Lina, whose tribe was decimated by smallpox; their mistress, Rebekka, herself a victim of religious intolerance back in England; Sorrow, a strange girl who's spent her early years at sea; and finally the devastating voice of Florens' mother. These are all men and women inventing themselves in the wilderness.
A Mercy reveals what lies beneath the surface of slavery. But at its heart it is the ambivalent, disturbing story of a mother who casts off her daughter in order to save her, and of a daughter who may never exorcise that abandonment.
Acts of mercy may have unforeseen consequences...
"[R]iveting, even poetic....A fitting companion to her highly regarded Beloved." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Gorgeous language and powerful understanding of the darkest regions in the human heart....
A new novel, set, like Beloved, in the American past. Nobel Prize-winning author Morrison's latest masterpiece centers on a powerful tragedy involving a mother and daughter, and reveals how acts of mercy have unforeseen consequences.
About the Author
Toni Morrison is the Robert F. Goheen Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Princeton University. She has received the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. In 1993 she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. She lives in Rockland County, New York, and Princeton, New Jersey.
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