A Mercy by Toni Morrison
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Toni, Toni, Toni...it feels good to know you again.
A Mercy is a gorgeous narrative of a dark time that flitters from person to person: child, slave, sympathetic Dutch businessman, mother. Betrayal is ever present, even seemingly from mother to child.
The setting and subject is slavery in 17th century America, specifically Catholic Maryland. These are early days in the New World. Superstition was rife. Black magic and the devil were palpably real.
With a bevy of glimpses Morrison displays most of the facets of slavery in this period, in this place. She does not forget that it was black Africans who kidnapped and sold black Africans to white Europeans, who sold them into slavery. She did not forget that white slavery existed in this time. She wrote about a people's strife without bended knee and bleeding heart, and yet your heart will bleed.
Admittedly, I was turned off within the first few pages, because of the gypsy narration. I like permanence in my storytelling voice and this was very reminiscent of William Faulkner's The Sound and The Fury with its variant and confusing p.o.v.s and its scene setting via murky imagery. But I stuck with it, soon was enjoying A Mercy and in the end, came to love it.
The writing is so strong, emotive and filled with vivid imagery. It is the kind of writing that inspires writers in their craft.
This was a revisit to an old acquaintance for me. Not since college have I read a Toni Morrison novel. I loved it then, so why the delay? Why do we do that? When you only have one life - a single existence which could be snuffed out in an instance - why neglect the good things in life? Cherish what you have. It may be taken from you. Though we can only hope fate will be merciful.
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