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A Mercy

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  11,900 ratings  ·  1,928 reviews
A powerful tragedy distilled into a jewel of a masterpiece by the Nobel Prize–winning author of Beloved and, almost like a prelude to that story, set two centuries earlier.

In the 1680s the slave trade was still in its infancy. In the Americas, virulent religious and class divisions, prejudice and oppression were rife, providing the fertile soil in which slavery and race ha...more
Hardcover, 167 pages
Published November 11th 2008 by Knopf Publishing Group (first published 2008)
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Dec 27, 2008 brian rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to brian by: Ruth, Mike Reynolds
having never read toni morrison, i felt it could be a mistake to pick up her newest book, particular it being one so late in her career -- this can really be the kiss of death... i mean imagine judging bowie’s career after having only heard Tonight? or dylan’s after listening to Saved?

i resisted morrison for years -- saw her as kind of the literary equivalent of morgan freeman perpetually playing a variation of the ‘magical negro’… y’know, the wise, deep-voiced, saintly guy who pretty much exis...more
Back in college I took a course on Colonial America because I had to. It was pretty tough for me to get into it at the time, since I never really gave a crap about that inaccessible and unglamorous period. I wish this book had been around in those days, because Morrison's efforts to describe that bizarre and confusing world might've helped me get better picture of the time, and therefore care more about what I was learning. To me, A Mercy really is incredible historical fiction that provides acc...more
D. Pow
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I was enthralled with the incandescent prose and moving voices of four women in this tale set on a remote farm in colonial New York in the 1690s. It was outstanding in the audiobook form read by the author, often sending chills up my spine with the vibrant power of its poetry. A major theme is how people harness love in all its forms and how they deal with the perception of betrayal. Another is the paradox of the foundation of the new world both on the hunger for freedom and on various forms of...more
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I love Toni Morrison, the way she holds out the dark truths of Americas past and forces the reader to look and while the themes here are the same as much of her other work this one is a bit more raw, not the writing which is beautiful as always, but here she just lays it all out in plain sight, here it is motherfuckers, And oh man does she really give it to Christianity good for its part in the oppression of women, slave trade, all around evilness, etc, so you know I was into that and I probably...more
From my youngest sister, who reads often and prefers "Austenish" lit: "It was confusing and hard to get into and I didn't like the ending, but I did like that we heard every person's side of events. I still like my picks "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" and "The Guernsey Potato Peel Pie Society" best."

From my middle sister, who is not a big reader and likes "family smut" (aka divorcee single mother who has had it hard and then finds love in the shape of a Tarzan woodsman living alone and horny in the...more
Dear Ms. Morrison:

I just want you to know that I think you are a wonderful writer. I remember picking up a copy of The Bluest Eye back in 1990 because I was taking a stupid college course and we were required to read a book by a female author written after WWII. I chose your book because it was really short and I didn't want to put a lot of time into that assignment. I remember crying while reading it and wanting to take that little girl out of her miserable life and make her feel better about h...more
Edward Waverley
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Yes, I am a Toni Morrison fan and believe she is incapable of writing a bad book, but that doesn't mean I wasn't ready to be critical of her new book if necessary. It's not necessary. The beginning may seem slow (that never bothers me) as we are thrust into a world that is faraway in time, but real. Historical details never bog down; they are worn lightly, as a reviewer put it.

Reviewers have compared one character here to Sethe from "Beloved;" and though I see the parallel, this is a very differ...more
Maybe it's the bitter taste Beloved left me with; Maybe it's that she comes off as the poor woman's Maya Angelou; Maybe it's just that no matter how many how much I want to like her writing, I just can't.

The first four chapters were confusing as hell and the remaining ones were disorienting. The POV's from chapter to chapter were so intertwined, I could barely remember who was talking and found myself constantly going back to the beginning of that particular chapter to double check. Not only th...more
This was definitely not one of my favorites. I am usually a die-hard Morrison fan, but this one just wasn't up to par with her earlier works. Many people have compared this to Beloved, but I find that comparison unjust. This book, while it had its moments of brilliance, was inundated with dense, incomprehensible prose. At times, I was unable to decipher who was speaking and when. It just wasn't a good read for me.
Although the subject of "A Mercy" ie the interdependent lives of African slaves,Native Americans,indentured servants,free blacks,and whites in Catholic early Md.-this book was a bit disapppointing. It seemed as if Ms. Morrison wanted/had to crank out a book so did an "abbreviated" version of her usually phenomenal story-telling. the characters were 1/2 developed-almost but "no cigar" as was the story. Hey-Ms. Morrison has had an illustrious career-maybe next time???
I really hate to only give 2 stars to a Toni Morrison book. My main problem with A Mercy (the audio version) was with the narration. Morrison chose to read the book herself, and I'm not sure how well it worked. She reads so slowly and pauses in the middle of sentences so often, it started to feel like an attempted poetry reading. For example, "Far away to the right (pause), beyond the iron fencings (pause), enclosing the property (pause) and softened by mist (pause), he saw Rosa Cortez, quiet (p...more
This is my first novel of this author and i was impressed by how she created a different language, voice for the different point of view characters. They all sounded like real women, men in US before there was US. She presented slavery in different forms and in a subtle way. It was not melodramatic as books about slavery in America can be. As a story the novel didnt grow, end as you expect but it seemed like telling a traditional story was not important to the author.

I liked reading about native...more
I'd never read Morrison before. This was interesting, but the style is a bit confusing. I'm not sure I was able to keep track of all of the characters.
Jun 27, 2014 kisha rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: educators, people who love deeper meanings
Recommended to kisha by: book club read
I read this with my book club African American Historical Fiction. This is a very hard one to rate and review. I found this story to be dry, mundane, unfascinating, and probably lacking 100 or so pages. This story represented a time rarely discussed, the 1600s. Knowing that alone bored me before even opening the first page. I was extremely surprised to find that the characters in this story were extremely underdeveloped. Honestly I didn't care for or about any of them. But it's funny what happe...more
i'm an unabashed fan of Toni Morrison. she puts the creative in creative writing. which means her style is not for everyone, but i have yet to read a book of hers i didn't love. This particular book hit home for me in a surprising way. Surprising, perhaps, because i started reading it without knowing what it was about. It seems it was about my ancestors...People who ended up in America in the 17th century for one reason or another and mixed together--Europeans of various origins, Natives, and Af...more
"poison is like the drowned, it always floats"...
consider this phrase from the novel and you will capture the primary emphasis of this book...

what i mean by this is captured in the figures of jacob and florens...figures which represent the full spectrum of the slave relationship...
with jacob, the slave owner, morrison depicts the notion that one cannot just sip lightly from a poisoned cup and avoid being poisoned...likewise one cannot merely dip one's toe into an economic system founded on slave...more
Ms Morrison should be in a category of her own, five ordinary stars are not enough for this little masterpiece. How she manages to pack so much in to just 167 pages is a wonder in itself; slavery, women and men, religion, mothers and daughters, history......

The first chapter is intriguing and demanding, the whole narrative is complex, told through multiple perspectives. But immensely satisfying. I'd really like to go back and read it all over again.
Before "A Mercy" came out, I had only read "Beloved", "The Bluest Eyes" maybe a year before. (I was out of the country for two years during the 70's --I don't remember reading much of anything during that time), when Toni Morrison had first established herself as a writer 'to read' -- A woman making a difference in the world!

Her writing is deeply felt --(reminding me --I've 2 other books in my house still 'to-read').
"Sula" and her later book "Love".

Her books about slavery reach deep below the...more
There is no mercy when it comes to slavery, but there are mercies shown throughout the story, one by a mother who allowed her daughter to be sold to a white man she thought would to be kind to her daughter; She could not bear the thought of their own master having his way with her daughter, to break her daughter as she is coming of age like he did to her mother. Florens is taken across the ocean with her new master. Lina, another slave owned by Jacob, showed mercy in bringing up this child becau...more
Jan 29, 2009 Edan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Julia Whicker-Schoolmeester
Recommended to Edan by: Mike Reynolds, Brian Gottlieb
Okay, first thing's first: I clicked this cover because it's terrible and terrifying in its cheesiness and utter stupidity--it's almost offensive in how off base it is. Is this the British version or something? Yes, a girl in A Mercy does insist on wearing shoes at all times, and actually travels in her dead master's boots, but this aspect of the book is no way akin to a kid borrowing her mom's shoes to play pretend, as this cover suggests. This looks like Sasha Obama borrowing Michelle's heels...more
I'm sorry to Morrison and all her fans (and I am one), but I did not like this book! Admittedly, it had one strike against it in my view because of the setting; I hate anything set in excessively dirty times. I know that is totally something to explore in therapy, but it's the reason I don't like westerns and it's the reason I started out not liking this book, which is set in the seventeenth century. But beyond that, it just all seemed so heavy handed in it's attempts to be "literary." The chara...more
This extraordinary short book is wonderfully written. The style changes from chapter to chapter as different characters narrate. Some puzzles are solved as one reads, but I wanted to reread the novel as soon as I finished it to better appreciate the intertwining elements. The tragedies of 17th century New England landowners, slaves, religious fanatics, servants in New England are told in a brutal yet poetic way.
Diane Brown
" They understood, also, that there were lines of acceptable behavior and righteous thought. Levels of sin, in other words, and lesser peoples. Natives and Africans, for instance, had access to grace but not to heaven — a heaven they knew as intimately as they knew their own gardens."

Toni Morrison explores the relationships between slaves, slave owners, women and also looks into the role of religion (Christianity) in oppression

A short book full of prose and an untainted and unapologetic look int...more
Oh, this book was so beautifully written!The chapters that alternate with the telling of the story are like poetry. Maybe it was that this week my husband went to a lecture on the underground railroad or maybe it was the inauguration of President Obama or the ghostly reminders of my growing up in era of the civil rights movement. This book smashed me in the heart.
Will Byrnes
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 22, 2008 Allison rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Cindy Ross-Katz
NY Times is correct in comparing A Mercy to Morrison's previous renowned work, Beloved. Both deal with slave life: the backstories of slaves; the relationships between slaves and owners and mothers and daughters; the realities of being owned and being free in 17th century America. Like Beloved, A Mercy grapples with abandonment as its central theme.
However, A Mercy is a much more grounded novel than Beloved in that the reader is not guessing throughout the novel how much is real and how much is...more
This book definitely builds for me but its not like Toni's other books where you just can't put it down. Even though the subject matter was weighty, it was a quiet Toni Morrison, at least for me. For a book that's only 167 pages, the dilemma wasn't crucial at first because you have to move around with a few different characters in a short period of time. With that said, the execution of how this all comes together was very gratifying at the end. I never felt I was in bad hands, or that it wasn't...more
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Literary Fiction by People of Color 3 50 Dec 15, 2012 12:06PM  
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Toni Morrison (born Chloe Anthony Wofford), is an American author, editor, and professor who won the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature for being an author "who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality."
Her novels are known for their epic themes, vivid dialogue, and richly detailed African American characters; among the best k...more
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“I dream a dream that dreams back at me” 77 likes
“She learned the intricacy of loneliness: the horror of color, the roar of soundlessness and the menace of familiar objects lying still.” 52 likes
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