A Mercy – Review

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A Mercy by Toni Morrion: Publication date 11/11/2008
Age: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction

Although I acquired this ARC well before its publication date, I fell a little behind on my reading schedule, so I wasn’t able to post the review beforehand. Even so, now that I post my review, you all won’t have to wait very long to go to your local bookstore and pick up a copy of this riveting, insightful and powerful book by Toni Morrison.

My first introduction to Toni Morrison was in high school when my English class read Song of Solomon. After that, I was hooked. I read Beloved sometime in college and that was when I really learned to respect and admire Morrison’s ability with the craft. Her writings of the African-American experiences in the United States through various points of history shed light onto a usually unspoken of topic. Although we learn about slavery in our history classes, we learn about racism in social studies, we don’t really learn of the human emotions, and personal experiences that go along with these two horrid figures of our national history.

A Mercy is told through the perspective of many characters. At the heart of the story is a young black girl named Florens. Each chapter alternates between her perspective and the perspective of someone else in her life, be it her master, her mistress, or one of the other workers on the land. This is a story of three women trying to survive in the late 17th century America. Morrison beautifully weaves in parallels between all the women in the story, showing that black or white, all women are subjec to the same second class role underneath the white man. The white people, referred to as “the Europe” are hypocritical with their religion and with their morals to not only the slave population, but also to fellow “Europes.”

There is a marked distinction in the story telling when it is told through Floren’s eyes. The writing is choppy and stream of consciousness. When told through anybody else, the writing is in complete sentences, and lengthy words. Florens world is seen through raw emotion, where everyone else is riddled with too much thought and analysis over the world, and the people in the world. Florens is a symbol of hope in the book. On her shoulder’s rests the fates of the three other woman working on Sir Jacob’s Vaark’s land. The novel begins with Floren’s sent on a mission to deliver a note. In each of the subsequent chapters, we learn more about Floren’s history, the history of her owners and of the other workers. All the central character’s are in some way cast-off from their parents. Traded as payment, shipped away to be married, or abandoned by their parents, Jacob, Rebekka, Florens and Lina all find themselves as an unusual family in their small town. When Jacob become’s ill and dies, the three women soon realize how precarious their lives really are. “Three unmastered women,” alone, “belonging to no one, became wild game for anyone.” Not long after Jacob passes on, Rebekka is the next to fall ill to the same disease. “Female and illegal, they would be interlopers, squatters, if they stayed on after Mistress died, subject to purchase, hire, assault, abduction, exile.” That is when Floren’s is sent on a misson, with an important message, to find the blacksmith and to find a much needed source of rescue.

This book is a fantastic and gripping read. Once I picked it up, I couldn’t not put it down. I wanted to know more about Mistress Rebekka, and Lina her servent-best friend. I wanted to learn about suspicious Sorrow, and mostly I wanted to know what would happen to Floren’s misson. This is a powerful book full of remarkable insights into slavery from a woman’s perspective, black and white women, struggling with the similar types of double standards and limitations in life. Just as Song of Solomon is a staple in most high school English classes, I can see this novel too falling into that same category, maybe in college women’s studies courses if not in High School English class. This book is a great read, and I really recommend upping this on your to be read list.

A Mercy
by Toni Morrison
Knopf, 2008
ISBN 0307264238
169 pages


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4 responses to “A Mercy – Review

  1. Yes, I’ll have to read this. I just read an article on Morrison, Philip Roth and John Updike. All 3 of them have written follow-ups to previous novels, and “A Mercy” was the only one the critics liked. They didn’t just kind-of like it–they loved it! The other two guys were kind of raked through the coals. Funny, huh?

  2. Pingback: NY Times Bestsellers « The Novel World

  3. Wow! Sounds awesome. I read Beloved in high school and in college and I’ve read a few other Morrison novels but not Song of Solomon and not for a few years. I must pick this one up!

  4. This is really is a fantastic book. Its not as heavy as Beloved, but it is just as touching.

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