Category Archives: Immigrants

A Mercy, by Toni Morrison, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2008

This has to be the shortest novel that Toni Morrison has ever published at 167 pages.  After just completing my first read of it, I’m wondering if the shortness of it had to do more with Morrison rushing it to print for contractual reasons.  Let me explain further.  Just short of reaching the middle, the writing read more like very well written and sophisticated character sketches.  I was feeling a sense of being let down.  The feelings of intensity and gripping edge anticipation of the story unfolding or the actions and thoughts of the characters just wasn’t there for me. 

A little past midway of the book I begin to see the characters in physical form, performing monologues on a stage.  The stage props minimum, their voices slow (except for Mistress) and resounding reaching into the heart of the audience.  Could Ms Morrison have experienced some afterglow from Beloved being performed as an opera and this was intended to be a stage performance of which she adpated into novel form?

By the end of the book, I thought what a straight-forward story…that is until the end, the last chapter when the mother (minha mae) of Sorrow speaks.  The preceding chapters minha mae only speaks through the remembrance of her daughter, the one who is called Sorrow.  Bringing the presence of Spirit as a guiding force, the mother speaks in her own voice and ties the knot with the opening chapter.

It was in the end chapter that I came across the line that made the reading the most integrated and encompassing for me:  To be female in this place is to be an open wound that cannot heal.  Haunting, isn’t it?  At least it is for me.  The line that comes after, reads, Even if scars form, the festering is ever below.   

Memory.  No one uses it better as a literary device than Ms Morrison!   That always trying to recall and make sense of our world is where Toni Morrison reaches out to me and keeps me wanting to dig deeper and know what it is I don’t know…what it is she is trying to help me know and ponder further.  If only I could make this happen with my quilts?!

Another aspect of the book I really enjoyed is how she made the american landscape more real to me…the american landscape prior to america becoming America…when it was still territoriesand the dominion of overseas governments and the determined as much by the wilderness of what was untamed.  It was the first time I read a novel that made that historical period come alive as much as it did for me. 

I would recommend reading this book as a companion to the 2 previous books I wrote about in the posts below.

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Filed under african american women, Fiction, history, Immigrants, The Middle Passage