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Tar Baby

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  12,642 ratings  ·  294 reviews
Ravishingly beautiful and emotionally incendiary, Tar Baby is Toni Morrison’s reinvention of the love story. Jadine Childs is a black fashion model with a white patron, a white boyfriend, and a coat made out of ninety perfect sealskins. Son is a black fugitive who embodies everything she loathes and desires. As Morrison follows their affair, which plays out from the Caribb ...more
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Published July 24th 2007 by Vintage (first published 1981)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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i have a great idea for a wildly over-the-top romance novel. slap a likeness of blair underwood on the cover, airbrush some dreadlocks on his head, a tropical landscape in the back… ready? ready:

crazy dreadlocked black man is found hiding in the closet of a wealthy white couple’s carribean house. rather than take him to the police, Valerian Street (the white millionaire) invites him to dinner. now check it: Valerian and Margaret (a former beauty queen!) have two black servants who have a niece,
I'm wondering how many 1 and 2 star ratings came from readers thinking this would be a good Caribbean vacation beach read. I also wonder how many of them were clueless to the meaning of the term "tar baby". Sigh... There should be no need to discuss that, it's rather obvious that, well, ALL the characters, black, white and mulatto, were tar babies. Inextricably stuck to who they are, no matter where they are, they cannot escape themselves, their pasts, their childhoods. In fact, WE ARE ALL tar b ...more
Pretty much any possible interaction between blacks and whites, rich and poor, man and woman, is played out in this novel - there are no real resolutions and some of the relationships are wildly overplayed, but overall this is an incredible piece of literature that I could see spending an entire semester on in college. It is basically the story of the rich white Valerian who retires to the Caribbean where his much younger wife broods over the absence of her college-aged son who is racked by whit ...more
Jan 20, 2008 Rachel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who liked "Beloved"
Recommended to Rachel by: College Course
Shelves: 1-favorites
Everyone knows that Beloved is Toni Morrison's most famous work, but I would argue that Tar Baby is better. There are so many relationships in this book and so many layers to each of those relationships. Love, sex, race, gender, class, ethnicity, even geography...there isn't much Morrison doesn't take on in this beautiful story. And, of course, there are always those heart-stopping passages that Morrison's writing never fails to produce. Tar Baby is an absolute must-read, and if you have the pri ...more
After reading Morrison's Tar Baby I felt slighted. Although I know that a perfect resolution is not required, I felt as though she left the primary characters' conflicts unresolved. Jadine and Son especially. Maybe I am a hopeless romantic and wished for them to make it, for their love to sustain them where ever they traveled, whether from Isle des Chevaliers, New York, Eloe to Paris. The situation on Isle des Chevaliers, at Valerian's house seemed a bit more tidied up. Morrison conveyed a sense ...more
Nick Iuppa
Tar Baby by Toni Morrison

It’s a poem, really... in spite of the brilliant characterizations, dead-on dialogue, penetrating observations, toxic lover’s quarrels, and tender romance. It’s really a poem... an allegory.

Son, a handsome, intelligent, but uneducated black man from Eloe, a small town in north Florida, jumps ship in the Caribbean and eventually ends up on a small island called Isle des Chevaliers (Island of the horseman). He’s on the run, has committed a crime, and is tired of worrying
E Wilson

This book almost seemed like a fable or allegory. There are the rich white couple,Valerian and Margaret, who take their black servants for granted and except for the old retainers, Sydney and Ondine,don't even bother to learn their names,calling one "Yardman" and one "Mary" even though that isn't her name.
Sydney and Ondine are the faithful black servants who have
been in service all their lives and know their place.
Their niece, Jade, thanks to Valerian and Margaret, has gotten
an education a
Deja Johnson
My personal opinion on the book? Well, I believe that the book was terrible and I would not recommend this book to anyone. I say that because the book was altogether irrelevant and I did not understand why it was written. To add fuel to the fire, it was boring. There was no action whatsoever and the first few chapters of the book was meaningless. If I had to give the book a rating out of 5 stars, I would literally give it a 1 star. I would give it that because at least she tried to write somethi ...more
OK, I really tried to get into this, but finally gave up. I love the intro!
Donovan Lessard
Morrison's progression from The Bluest Eye (a masterpiece, for sure) to Tar Baby, written a few years later, shows her deepening ability to weave together histories and geographies through compelling characters and an amazing story. The real jewel of Tar Baby is Morrison's ability to show the relationships between a wealthy white man (Valerian) who lives in a mansion in the Caribbean, his Black servants and their adopted daughter whose college was paid for Valerian, a fugitive Black man from the ...more
I haven't read all of Toni Morrison's novels (Sula, Paradise, Love) but I have read most of them. Out of her novels that I've read, Tar Baby is easily the most digestible. Not to say that it doesn't have depth, it's just a little easier to read and more mainstream. If someone came up to me and said they wanted to start reading Morrison, and I knew they weren't strong, attentive readers, I would definitely recommend this book.

It's her most modern book. The story takes place during the '70s, and i
Jun 24, 2008 Corina rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Corina by: Sara campos
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Outstanding. Brilliantly plays with the intersections of gender, race, and class. Very insightful, imaginative, and intelligent.

I also really enjoyed the narrative structure. It will keep shifting focus between the different characters, but it uses dialogue as a bridge. So, for instance, a long passage delving into the history and psychology of Valerian, followed by a conversation between him and Sydney, followed by Sydney's history and perspective. The net effect is a collection of incredibly i
Probably out of all of the Toni Morrison books I've read, my favorite so far. It was easy to understand and I enjoyed the characters and storyline. I also loved what happens in the end. I didn't get it at first but once I realized what it was, it was very funny. The story deals with different classes of whites and African American people and the role of a mother/father in their son's life. I loved the big secret that is revealed about why the son, Michael, doesn't want to come and visit too.
Crystal Belle
the best novel ever written in my opinion! the significance of black female sexuality and the relevance of love in everything that we do and every decision we make.
This is my fifth Toni Morrison novel (after Beloved, Jazz, The Bluest Eye, and Paradise). I'm on the fence about this one. On one hand, "Tar Baby" is a meaty study for students of literature, appropriate for various levels of engagement. On the other hand, I couldn't wait to get through it. I have little patience for theatrics, which became a problem when the cast walked in with their inner monologue and dialogue-heavy scenes. The most intriguing characters are the locals of Dominique, but I was ...more
I’m just going to say it: if you claim to love metaphor but haven’t read a Toni Morrison novel, you’re doing yourself a disservice. The language and symbolism in Tar Baby is what elevated it from a wonderfully complex, often heartbreaking look at race and class relations to a truly thought-compelling piece of art.

At one point while reading this book, I had to stop and reread the folktale of Br'er Rabbit and the Tar Baby- I encourage anyone who thinks but isn't sure that they remember the story t
I simply can't stomach a book in which I'm expected to accept that a woman falls in love with a man who essentially sexually assaults her, and whose justification for it is explicitly that he was so in awe of her that he needed to debase her.

This is the core of the "romantic relationship" at the center of this book, and while the book is critical of the gender dynamics in Jadine and Son's relationship as they attempt to sort out whose world they will live in and whose relationship model they wil
Toni Morrison is one of the most lauded writers of our time and I can understand why after experiencing her unique structure in this novel. The [3rd person] narration's focus flows from character to character without pause, mirroring the Caribbean waters that play their own role in the novel.

Writing prowess aside, I was disappointed in the ending of the novel. I was angry that after the grand revelation of Margaret's abuse of her son, nobody made any effort to make amends with the boy who was cl
Tanuj Solanki
Should a writer of Toni's calibre restrict herself with a not-so-grand ambition?

Toni is a master at managing conversations and a writer who reveals her characters more through these, and occasional interior monologues, than actions. In 'Tar Baby', her characters talk out everything, either with themselves or with others; each conflict inside their hearts is mightily verbalized. And all that is fine. So very fine. Because the conflicts are of import: conflicts around the true culture of white-fo
Not sure what I think of this book. I heard it in my car on CDs, read by the awesome Alfre Woodard. I thought she gave it a lot, but it was, to me, an odd story. I found the characters interesting, but I couldn't understand the appeal of Son (Sun?) to Jaydine. I'm trying to understand why she found him attractive - because he was dangerous? Everything a beautiful, educated black woman should walk away from? Because he brought out in her her inner "black girl" that was the complete opposite of th ...more
Roger DeBlanck
Following the mighty success of Song of Solomon in the late 1970s, Morrison spent five years working on her fourth novel, Tar Baby. With lukewarm receptions upon its publication in 1982, Tar Baby looks at clashes between and within races. Morrison also demonstrates her brilliant range as a novelist as she expands her vision of the black community beyond the rural, small-town settings of her previous three novels. She moves her setting to a remote island in the Caribbean and alternates the isolat ...more
Abhi. V. Varma
Prose as purple as an eggplant. Lacking cohesion, theme, even plot. A most random assortment of characters (all one dimensional and caricatures, mind you) thrown together on an island (equally one dimensional and caricatured). What? How? But why? No one has a clue. It's a painful book, and doesn't say much about anything. Oh, it does say a little about race--but nothing more than affirming the racial and gender stereotypes of the "dangerous black criminal" and the "plastic-beautiful woman". The ...more
Toni Morrison is a stunning writer and this book is an absolutely breathtaking example of her literary opulence. An amazing, complex piece of literature, it considers themes of race, gender, love and freedom in ways that don’t crash and burn in attempt to resolve them but mandate the reader to question herself as to many of her approaches and underlying assumptions about existence. Brutally romantic and painterly, I believe this work of art adds both blossoms and seeded fruit to the anticolonial ...more
Jasmine Star
Wow, I was pleasantly surprised by the depth and eloquence in this book. The relationship between and within races and sexes and cultures is so incredibly insightful. Toni does not hold back comments that might make the reader ouncomfortable and i found myself laughing at the reality of the characters reactions (specifically to finding Son in the closet). I have to admit i was infuriated by the lack of closure to the book...i got to the last sentence praying that there was another chapter hiding ...more
Bizarrely terrible and tone-deaf, from the woman who got it so painfully right in The Bluest Eye. "Tar Baby is the story of the love affair between a beautiful black model, molded by white culture, and a black man who represents everything she both fears and desires"? No, really, give me a fucking break. It's funny that someone mentioned how truthful and real the characters seemed, especially the reaction of one character to finding Son in the closet, as that particular exchange was when I reali ...more
Sara Salem
Amazing. No one can write about human relationships like Toni Morrison.
It's hard for me to separate a critique of this book for a critique of myself. Toni Morrison's prose is as magical as ever, and the book is every bit as hard -- impossible-- to put down as the others I've read. It is certainly supposed to be troubling; and for me, it is-- in a way unfamiliar to me from her other books. There is a complex of racism, classism and sexism in this book that cuts in so many different ways, I end up having to choose my loyalties at times. Bottom line, my feminism wins- ...more

The generation gap between the retirement-age black couple who are the servants [originally from Philadelphia] and their jetset highly educated and sophisticated niece -- perhaps foreshadows the generation gap in The Butler.

A small cast of characters who all interact. Diversity in wealth, race, occupation, education.
Morrison treats us to some insights into race relations and colonialism/third world relations, which we always need to learn more about. Mostly she teaches us through the story a
Thomas Rush
In reading all of Toni Morrison's books, I struggle to find words that can capture her essence. There is a beauty to her writing that is unmatched. I have given it long and intense thought, pondering how to express my opinion of the greatness of her writing. In doing this, not only have I read her books, I have read many of the things that others have said about her. In this effort, the best description of her writing that I can find, is found on pages 99 through 102 of Thomas D. Rush's “Reality ...more
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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
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“At some point in life the world's beauty becomes enough. You don't need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough. No record of it needs to be kept and you don't need someone to share it with or tell it to. When that happens — that letting go — you let go because you can.” 38 likes
“The hills below crouched on all fours under the weight of the rainforest where liana grew and soldier ants marched in formation. Straight ahead they marched, shamelessly single-minded, for soldier ants have no time for dreaming. Almost all of them are women and there is so much to do - the work is literally endless. So many to be born and fed, then found and buried. There is no time for dreaming. The life of their world requires organization so tight and sacrifice so complete there is little need for males and they are seldom produced. When they are needed, it is deliberately done by the queen who surmises, by some four-million-year-old magic she is heiress to, that it is time. So she urges a sperm from the private womb where they were placed when she had her one, first and last copulation. Once in life, this little Amazon trembled in the air waiting for a male to mount her. And when he did, when he joined a cloud of others one evening just before a summer storm, joined colonies from all over the world gathered fro the marriage flight, he knew at last what his wings were for. Frenzied, he flied into the humming cloud to fight gravity and time in order to do, just once, the single thing he was born for. Then he drops dead, having emptied his sperm into his lady-love. Sperm which she keeps in a special place to use at her own discretion when there is need for another dark and singing cloud of ant folk mating in the air. Once the lady has collected the sperm, she too falls to the ground, but unless she breaks her back or neck or is eaten by one of a thousand things, she staggers to her legs and looks for a stone to rub on, cracking and shedding the wings she will never need again. Then she begins her journey searching for a suitable place to build her kingdom. She crawls into the hollow of a tree, examines its walls and corners. She seals herself off from all society and eats her own wing muscles until she bears her eggs. When the first larvae appear, there is nothing to feed them, so she gives them their unhatched sisters until they are old enough and strong enough to hunt and bring their prey back to the kingdom. That is all. Bearing, hunting, eating, fighting, burying. No time for dreaming, although sometimes, late in life, somewhere between the thirtieth and fortieth generation she might get wind of a summer storm one day. The scent of it will invade her palace and she will recall the rush of wind on her belly - the stretch of fresh wings, the blinding anticipation and herself, there, airborne, suspended, open, trusting, frightened, determined, vulnerable - girlish, even, for and entire second and then another and another. She may lift her head then, and point her wands toward the place where the summer storm is entering her palace and in the weariness that ruling queens alone know, she may wonder whether his death was sudden. Or did he languish? And if so, if there was a bit of time left, did he think how mean the world was, or did he fill that space of time thinking of her? But soldier ants do not have time for dreaming. They are women and have much to do. Still it would be hard. So very hard to forget the man who fucked like a star.” 15 likes
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