Beloved, by Toni Morrison
I’ve read three books by Toni Morrison: The Bluest Eye, which I thought was fantastic; A Mercy, which I was terribly disappointed by; and finally, Beloved. Though The Bluest Eye might still be my favorite of Morrison’s works so far, I did really like Beloved and am pleased to have placed Morrison back on my better side.
Sethe, abandoned by her sons and suffering the recent passing of her mother, lives as freely as an escaped slave can in a cabin with her daughter, Denver, and Paul D, a man whom Sethe had known in her earlier days at Sweet Home plantation who has recently re-entered her life. But they are not quite alone in the house…there’s something else there, something unhappy. They are haunted, definitely, by the lingering spirit of slavery. But, in Sethe’s case, that diffuse spirit seems to have taken a form specific to her past and to her own escape from Sweet Home. As we learn more about Sethe’s history, the surreality of life in their creaky house builds to a palpable tension, begging to be put forcibly to rest.
Sethe’s history, and the history of U.S. slavery is, of course brutal, and Morrison’s sickeningly sweet way of telling it makes it only more difficult to swallow. Likewise, something about the element of magical surrealism in this story made it seem all the more likely. Well, excepting the chapters towards the end that are narrated by Beloved, anyway. Those were a bit too much for me. In any case, I found Beloved to be an absorbing read; one that left me with a tensed jaw and the feeling that I’d been punched in the gut.
Recommended to those new to Morrison or similarly disheartened by her most recent release.