Toni Morrison, Author Knopf Publishing Group $29.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-394-53597-5
Mixed with the lyric beauty of the writing, the fury in Morrison's (Song of Solomon) latest book is almost palpable. Set in rural Ohio several years after the Civil War, this haunting chronicle of slavery and its aftermath traces the life of a young woman, Sethe, who has kept a terrible memory at bay only by shutting down part of her mind. Juxtaposed with searing descriptions of brutality, gradually revealed in flashbacks, are equally harrowing scenes in which fantasy takes flesh, a device Morrison handles with consummate skill. The narrative concerns Sethe's former life as a slave on Sweet Home Farm, her escape with her children to what seems a safe haven and the tragic events that ensue. The death of Sethe's infant daughter Beloved is the incident on which the plot hinges, and it is obvious to the reader that the sensuous young woman who mysteriously appears one day is Beloved's spirit, come back to claim Sethe's love. Sethe's surviving daughter, Denver, immediately grasps the significance of Beloved's return and so does Paul Dno period after D, another escapee from Sweet Home; but Sethe herself resists comprehension, and, as a result, a certain loss of tension affects the latter part of the narrative. But this is a small flaw in a novel full of insights, both piercing and tender, with distinctive, memorable characters, flowing prose that conveys speech patterns with musical intensity and a brilliantly conceived story. As a record of white brutality mitigated by rare acts of decency and compassion, and as a testament to the courageous lives of a tormented people, this novel is a milestone in the chronicling of the black experience in America. It is Morrison writing at the height of her considerable powers, and it should not be missed. BOMC main selection. (September 16)
Reviewed on: 08/17/1987
Release date: 08/01/1987
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Mass Market Paperbound - 352 pages - 978-0-451-16139-0
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