Jen's Reviews > A Mercy

A Mercy by Toni Morrison
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Feb 11, 09

bookshelves: lit-fic, sisters-book-club
Read in January, 2009

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 Rockies) and books like "the Shack" and "the Notebook": "This was the worst pick I have chosen so far. It took forever to know who was speaking and in the end nothing happened. This wasn't what I thought it would be based on the synopsis on Amazon...I thought it would be about a slave girl and her life. I liked my picks "The Shack" and "The Memory Keepers Daughter more than this."

From me, the literary hungry hippo who has read only "The Bluest Eye" from Toni in addition to "A Mercy": "Gave it almost 80 pages to really get going...chock full of things to analyze and the descriptions and format of the different voices provided early confusion but left a very layered tableau. I loved the ending- the last third of the book was great and really pulled together like strings twisting around and then forming a tight braid. Many similarities to "Bluest Eye"."

I would love to discuss this book with you if you choose to read it...I have a theory snowballing around in my head about what the turning point of the story concerning the slave girl Florens.If you still have the book, look at the part where Florens escapes the cabin with the white girl's help- I think there is a line or two where Florens asks her if she is taken with the devil and the girl smiles and says yes and then Florens feels a spirit or wind or something follow or watch her through the fence. That part is where I thought she fully embraced her darker self, and then from there on she was a primal being, intent on embracing a heady darkness she couldn't control. The indulgence of herself in herself- the selfishness of it all (the blacksmith addresses this) was breathtaking and sudden.

My younger sister thought the boy was just hurt. I thought she might've killed him, and my middle sister wasn't sure- she thought maybe both boy and man were killed or none were killed. What do you think?
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Reading Progress

12/31/2008 page 0
0.0% "January pick for the Sisters' Book Club." 1 comment
01/22/2009 page 77
46.11% "Had to give it past fifty pages to get in a groove."
01/23/2009 page 167
100.0% "Writing great enough to get me past some false starts and some indecipherable bits...strong and clear finish."
01/31/2009 page 167
100.0% "Sisters' book club this upcoming week-will write more after conferring with my sisters."

Comments (showing 1-22)




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message 22: by Carrie (new)

Carrie I love my Toni. How is this?


message 21: by Jen (last edited Feb 25, 2009 03:26AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jen 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 Rockies) and books like "the Shack" and "the Notebook": "This was the worst pick I have chosen so far. It took forever to know who was speaking and in the end nothing happened. This wasn't what I thought it would be based on the synopsis on Amazon...I thought it would be about a slave girl and her life. I liked my picks "The Shack" and "The Memory Keepers Daughter more than this."

From me, the literary hungry hippo who has read only "The Bluest Eye" from Toni in addition to "A Mercy": "Gave it almost pages to really get going...chock full of things to analyze and the descriptions and format of the different voices provided early confusion but left a very layered tableau. I loved the ending- the last third of the book was great and really pulled together like strings twisting around and then forming a tight braid. Many similarities to "Bluest Eye"."

I would love to discuss this book with you if you choose to read it...I have a theory snowballing around in my head about what the turning point of the story concerning the slave girl Florens.


message 20: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Well,I am intrigued. I'll pick it up sometime in the next month or two and we can discuss :)


message 19: by KFed (new) - rated it 4 stars

KFed I loved this book. I loved the tension of it, and the depth that the relationships all eventually achieved.


message 18: by Stephen (new)

Stephen I'm angry at Morrison so I can't talk about her. I voted though because of your interesting review.


Sandi Stephen wrote: "I'm angry at Morrison so I can't talk about her. I voted though because of your interesting review. "

You've got me curious. This was the 4th Morrison I've read and I thought it was a pretty weak showing on her part. She's capable of so much more than she put out here.



message 16: by Stephen (new)

Stephen I think she peaked with Zula. She's becoming increasingly more vague and hard to decipher on purpose, just to be more literary.


message 15: by D. (last edited Sep 30, 2009 06:24PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

D. Pow bullshit. she is following her own muse. she is doing nothing to appear more literary.

Jen, I have about twenty pages to go on this. I expect I liked it better than you. And Sandi. I think this a wonderfully dense, scary, beautiful book. Nothing vague or hard to decipher about it; it's as simple an old ghost story or folk tale.


message 14: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Think what you want D. I think she's purposefully obscuring her work to compete with equally obscure writers who work hard to make it harder to read and enjoy.


message 13: by D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

D. Pow No, it's bullshit trying to sound clever. Law of averages. You post as much as you you're bound to talk some bullshit now and again.

and your 2nd comment is some weird pseudo-zen haiku droppings that doesn't even make good nonsense.


message 12: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Feel free to drop me as friend. I don't care what you think. I read the book and I think she has become so concerned with her place in the Canon that she is not following some bullshit muse.

Defriend me and block me, I'm not as easily intimidated as I once was.


message 11: by D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

D. Pow I don't want to unfriend you. I just wanted to draw attention to a specific comment you made which was bullshit. You have no idea what her motivations are for doing what she does thus bullshit. No big deal. Many are the things that I say that are bullshit.


brian   i've read every morrison and i think this is my favorite.
i loved it beyond belief.
donald nails it in #8.

stephen - i think you mean Sula.


message 9: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Shit! I did mean Sula I had an aunt named Zula. Plus I was upset. I'm still upset. I've read all her books, and can have my own damned opinion without submitting it to the friends list approval team!


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

Jen I have one foot in each camp, angel on one shoulder, devil on the other regarding this discussion.

I've only read two books by Morrison, but I can see Stephen's point about obscuring things for the sake of cleverness- I feel the same way about movies- especially when somebody makes a movie and it bombs because it is shite and then those somebodies start saying that that was the whole point, to get you to deconstruct the nature of....blahblahblah. I just don't know that I could apply that to Toni. I would have to read more. Her writing is like phyllo dough but much more fluid than brittle. I liked Bluest Eye better, I can say that.

And DPow- can't wait to read your review and discuss it with you. Especially Florens' travels towards the end. I think Florens takes a turn at a certain point and I want to know what you think, since you'll probably like it better.


message 7: by D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

D. Pow I'll have a review up in the next few days and I'd love to discuss it with you, Ms. Jen Fisher.

Keeep that Angel on your shoulder. And the Devil too. People without a little bit of devil aren't worth a fuck to me.

brian, know you loved this and now I know why.

Stephen, of course you are entitled to your opinion. You are bright, well-read and capable of writing well. And human. and capable of bullshit.


message 6: by Stephen (new)

Stephen I accept that. I want you to understand that I once thought Morrison was the greatest writer alive. I feel, in my opinion, that she has gone the path of obscurity. That is my opinion. I didn't just blast that out because it was on the top of my head. I have read all her books, and felt increasingly abandoned by her. Yes, I'm capable of bullshit, but in this instance, I have to stand with my words. I do appreciate what you've said D.


message 5: by Jen (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jen Oh, the devil's there. It's keeping that angel upright that is a problem.

Brian, did you review this? Don't answer. I'll get off my lazy virtual ass and just take a look.

What impressed me with A Mercy was the ending. It was just right. The Bluest Eye was the same way- I kept thinking that there was no way she could finish this, pull the drawstrings of the denouement. But she did.


brian   the ending destroyed me.
don't give it away!!! donald's not there yet!


Thea Nishimori Stephen: Which of Morrison's books do you consider her best? I might be persuaded to give her another try, but I agree with you on this particular book.
Jen: I think the blacksmith managed to get the boy out of harm's way after she dislocated his shoulder. At first I thought she'd killed the blacksmith, but of course he would be capable of defending himself (and probably the boy).


message 2: by Jen (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jen You're probably right, but Morrison's writing style is so emotionally evocative for me that the actual words are obscured by a veil of what those words represent...that sounds like bullshit, I know, like I wear some kind of colorful caftan and have a habit of making sweeping gestures towards myself, but I can't help it. I understand this book like I understand voodoo, I could describe the smell, the looks, the sounds of what I think voodoo is- create the mood, really and all the while I'm doing so I know I really and truly have no effin' clue what voodoo actually is, any of its doctrine or actual practice and only have some vague notions that might be true and might be completely absurd.


Thea Nishimori I agree that Morrison has a way of really evoking strong images, but as Stephen has pointed out, I'm afraid she's gone a bit too high-brow on this one. Words are meant to convey something, and if the substance is lost in the razzle-dazzle of the author's poetic genius, then there's really no story to be told except the author's own hubris. I do wish we were told exactly what happened...
I feel the need to read Hemingway next!


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