brian 's Reviews > A Mercy

A Mercy by Toni Morrison
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's review
Dec 27, 2008

it was amazing
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 exists to offer some yoda-like advice to the lead and then quickly scamper offscreen.

another concern: how the hell to write about slavery/racism? we know it’s evil. we know the sale and exploitation of humans is wicked. do we need another vivid and horrible retelling? i don't know, maybe. but i didn’t really expect to get much out of it...

wow, was i wrong. on both counts. a mercy is only the fourth new book i’ve given five stars to since i’ve been bookfacing. Tonight? Saved? shit. it’s Bringin’ it All Back Home and Low… truly remarkable. elliptical and strange stuff that burrows so, so deep and stretches the human soul in all its sadness and desperation and beauty across its pages as powerfully as any book i've read…

ok. i'm gonna stop. i resist a more concrete book report as part of the joy in reading a mercy is the wonder of revelation as it all starts to come together, as the disparate elements take form. and i don't wanna rob anyone of all that. morrison is a master novelist, storyteller, and thinker. read this book.

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03/12/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-27)

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Sandi Morrison is truly one of America's most gifted authors. I discovered her when I had an assignment for some stupid general ed class I had to take when I went back to college. We were supposed to read a book written after 1950 by a female author. I picked up a copy of "The Bluest Eye" because it was on of the thinnest on the shelves. The book just blew me away. Later on, I read "Beloved" and I rate it as one of my top-ten favorite books of all time. I was unimpressed with "Jazz" though and I haven't read any of her other books since I read that one. I'm hearing great things about "A Mercy", so I may have to re-discover Toni Morrison.

message 26: by Meen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Meen Oh Brian, you should read all of her work. She's amazing and is never, ever as simplistic as "magical negro." (Though, I agree with Sandi that Jazz is not particularly impressive.) I think my favorite is Paradise.

brian   yeah, thanks ladies. i just picked up song of solomon. first book i'll read in the new year.

message 24: by [deleted user] (new)

I had to read The Bluest Eye in college and didn't like it... I've often wondered if I should give her another chance...


Michelle I loved Song of Solomon. Of the books I've read by her, I think that was her best.

Sandi Michelle wrote: "I loved Song of Solomon. Of the books I've read by her, I think that was her best."

I'll have to read that one.

message 21: by Michelle (last edited Dec 27, 2008 05:00PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Michelle Sandi, you should. I didn't like The Bluest Eye, but I did like Sula. I don't know if you've read that one.

message 20: by Jessica (new)

Jessica I had never read 'The Bluest Eye,' but saw it as a play at the Hartford Stage last spring. It was remarkable. really brilliant staging & very moving.
I've read many of her books. I don't love all of them. I do like 'Beloved' & have taught it twice. 'Sula' and 'Song of Solomon' are also quite good.

brian   amazing. thanks, guys. gonna check all this stuff out...

message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

That’s a good choice, Brian. I really hope you like it.

I also felt more taken with ‘Song of Solomon’ than ‘Beloved’. Yeah, a touch of too much schmaltz it did have, but I remember some deeply gorgeous passages, too. I tried reading ‘The Bluest Eye’ as a young teen, but I couldn’t follow through with it.

Mindy, you’ve made me want to pull out my copy of ‘Paradise’ that I’ve been holding back on.

Davey, just give her one last chance. Okay? For me?

message 17: by Lori (new)

Lori Huh. Well, Song of Solomon is now on my to read list! I've already requested Mercy from the libes. I did read Beloved, and liked it alot, but wouldn't rate it as one of my favorite books altho the language is gorgeous.

message 16: by Meen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Meen Lol, it has been a while since I read Jazz. I say I was not impressed b/c I really don't remember much about it, so it obviously didn't impress me. (I remember most everything about her other works, though, so I assume there was something not as impressive about Jazz, you see?)

Maybe I should reread Jazz...

Sandi I actually thought that "Jazz" was stylistically exquisite. The rhythm of Morrison's writing flowed just like jazz music. I was very impressed with that. I just didn't like the story itself. I can't even remember much of what it was about. I think I was expecting so much more from it than what it was.

"Beloved" really got to my maternal side. I wasted a whole day because I just couldn't put it down and I bawled my eyes out at the climax. I thought Morrison did an excellent job of turning this white suburbanite into an runaway slave living in fear of being found out in the North. I felt every bit of the terror and the horror of what Sethe felt when she did what she did. I absolutely hated, hated, hated what Oprah did when she turned it into a movie. She absolutely ruined the story.

I seem to be alone in my liking of "The Bluest Eye". I think I got that story because I had spent a few years working retail in a Latino community. At that time, a lot of the girls were wearing contacts to change their eye color. I have blue eyes myself and I never really liked them. The draw undeserved attention. I always wanted brown eyes because they seem sexier. The story of the little girl in "The Bluest Eye" helped me understand a little bit about why someone would want to be something they're not. It made me really sad.

message 14: by Jessica (last edited Dec 28, 2008 12:51PM) (new)

Jessica I loved the play ('The Bluest Eye') as stated above. From what I understand it was very faithful to the novel. So, in the end, I didn't read it because I felt I already had...

message 13: by Ademption (new) - added it

Ademption Good choice on Song of Solomon. I also recommend Sula as a short work that kicks just as much ass. They are both beautiful works with sharp characters. Also, the magical realism elements are firmly grounded and never wander into the stratosphere.

I didn't like Beloved. It is a plodding, greedy-guts fairy tale custom tinted for black people.

message 12: by Meen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Meen Sandi, I did like The Bluest Eye. A lot. I've not disliked anything I've read of hers. Just Jazz didn't stick with me for some reason.

Evan, I'm not sure what's wrong with a "fairy tale custom tinted for black people," though I don't read Beloved that way at all. And yeah, Sandi, I didn't have much hope for Oprah's movie. Some novels are just hard to move into film. I didn't dislike the movie, though. The young Sethe actress touched my heart. And Thandie Newton was freaking HOT!


message 11: by Ademption (new) - added it

Ademption Nothing wrong with it and nothing great about it either, taking a story, darkening the characters, and setting it in the South. While reading Beloved, I imagined Morrison had watched too much anime, or read a few too many Eastern European fairy tales and (un)consciously reproduced one. I'm glad I didn't read it first, because Beloved epitomizes Oprah hype for me. I say, take all the hype and apply it to Song of Solomon and Sula, which are much more full-bodied in characterization and plot and also thoroughly unique.

message 10: by Tereneh (new) - added it

Tereneh no magical negroes here huh?

message 9: by Matt (new) - added it

Matt your review makes me wanna pick this up! i like morrison - i LOVED beloved. got under my skin! check it out sometime.

message 8: by Jen (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jen Is it bad to go check to see if a friend has written a review and then realize once you found said review that you had already voted that you liked it?

Probably so. Very bad. But I can explain. Not really. But pretend I did. Make up some magical realism. Draw cartoon bubbles around me. I know how much you like that.

Lila brian....beloved (and ALL her books) is equally as powerful as a mercy.....i don't know why or how, but once i begin a toni morrison book, i immediately fall into the cadence of her language.....many many of my friends have been unable to read or understand her work and dismiss it without giving much thought.....for me it's like falling effortlessly into the time of the novel.....

message 6: by Neero (new)

Neero I hated "Beloved" simply because I don't know what the heck happened in the entire book. I couldn't understand why it kept shifting between tenses, and grammatical person, and even went entirely without punctuation for an entire chapter. Is it some kind of modern-art, avant-garde sort of thing that no one really gets but everyone is afraid to admit that?

Meen Not sure about everyone, but I "got" Beloved just fine.

message 4: by Jessica (new)

Jessica I did as well, it's not self-explanatory, but..taught it twice too in a Women's Lit class--

message 3: by Ðɑηηɑ (new)

Ðɑηηɑ I think I might have the same... problem? no, because you've rated the book 5 stars... But I have never read Toni Morrison in my life, but a friend of mine said that according to my library I might find it very easy to relate to the novel and love it. I do not know though, I am thrilled after novels about colonialism, but I could not make out a single thing from the summary on top of the book's profile. Could please tell whatever or not it's worth reading? Could you recommend it to me on 'book recommendations'. please? Thank you so much, Brian.

Caroline wow your whole review is a giant micro-aggression. "magical negro" what in the actual fuck

message 1: by Precious (new) - added it

Precious Jenkins "magical negro" is a term used in art to depict The stereotypical characterization of a black person in art who has the primary function of bringing the (white) protagonist to some realization about themselves. The role of this person of color is only as a stepping stone to the next level.

I am halfway through A Mercy. However, this book takes on several perspectives in a very believable way (slave master/pioneer, his wife, older female slave/housekeeper, youngest slave). She explores what love looked like for women of different ethnic background. She looks at manhood and the new world. She looks at "genteel" slavery and explores life and love in a world where that was the norm. It is captivating. The language is beautiful. Read it.

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