Toni Morrison Returns With New Novel

November 2, 2008 § Leave a comment

Toni Morrison is my all-time favorite novelist, so when I heard she was finally penning a new book, “A Mercy,” I was ecstatic that I’d be able to add her ninth effort to my book collection. Like her Pulitzer prize-winning novel, “Beloved,”  “A Mercy,”  centers around the separation of a black mother and daughter during the 17th century slavery period, where a grave sacrifice is ultimately made. The mother sells her young daughter to a stranger in exchange for payment of her master’s debt, all the while with the hopes her daughter will have a better life. Consequently, the novel explores the young daughter’s life in the home of her new master, where she is searching for the love and acceptance she never had from her mother. What’s different about this novel is that Morrison also explores the plight of non-black characters who are indentured servants. And unlike many of her other novels, many of the central white characters are sympathetic. In a recent NPR interview, Morrison explains that she wrote the book to remove race from slavery by pointing out that white slaves had just as many hardships as black slaves and were often unable to buy themselves out of slavery. However, she does acknowledge that their experience was different in a way. “The only difference between African slaves and European or British slaves was that the latter could run away and melt into the population. But if you were black, you were noticeable,” she says. In the end, Morrison hits us with a narrative that is lyrical and moving without being overly-sentimental. Her characters are rich and layered and while she revisits some of the same themes from some of her earlier works, such as sacrifice, femininity, identity, forgiveness and love, the novel doesn’t seem like a mere repackaged formula. Her novel will be available for purchase November 11.

Toni’s Best Novels

If you haven’t read all of Morrison’s novels yet, I’m ranking them all!

1) Song of Solomon, the coming-of-age tale of Milkman, the novel’s young black male protaganist who embarks on a quest to discover his family’s ancestry and in turn find himself. With memorable characters and an ambigious ending, Morrison’s penned a well-plotted masterpiece.

2) Beloved, a mother’s ultimate sacrifice: kill her baby rather then see her enslaved gives rise to a haunting tale of redemption, sacrifice, and love. Exploring the brutal realities of slavery by focusing on a mother and daughter who struggle to lead a life of normalcy after escaping from slavery, while being haunted by the incarnation of the mother’s dead daughter, is one of Morrison’s most beloved novels.

3) The Bluest Eye, her debut novel is a tear-jerker, but its examination of racial identity in the eyes of an abused black teen who yearns for blue eyes is powerful.

4) Paradise, although not praised for being one of her most accessible, this female-centered novel is well constructed from start to finish and takes a literary risk in that the entire book is written in flashbacks and has interlocking characters. The story revolves around the conflict between a group of women who live in a secluded convent and the sexist men of Ruby, a fictitious all-black town.

5) Sula, the story of two black female heroines who grow up together and later grow apart as they seek parallel paths in life. The novel answers the question: what is it like to be an black american female with authenticity.

6) Jazz, a historical novel set in 1920s Harlem pays homage to the Harlem Renaissance and the emergence of jazz music with its style of writing which uses the call and response technique, which gives the characters in the novel room to explore the same events from different viewpoints. Centered around an act of violence (a man’s young mistress is shot and killed at a party), the novel is the story of a  love triangle filled with a myriad of themes, including jealousy,  redemption, and spirituality.

7) Love,  this non-linear story plots the lives of several women and their relationships to the late Bill Cosey, the beloved but also flawed central black male character, before and after his death.

8) Tar Baby, an exploration of the forbidden love between a privileged black woman and a poor black man reveals racial divides within the African American family as a result of American racism, and class issues.

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