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Tar Baby

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  15,073 Ratings  ·  408 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
Paperback, 320 pages
Published June 8th 2004 by Vintage (first published 1981)
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Rowena
Apr 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: african-american
"The island exaggerated everything. Too much light. Too much shadow. Too much rain. Too much foliage and much too much sleep."- Toni Morrison, Tar Baby

I think the tropical Caribbean setting and all the talk of candy and flowers fooled me into thinking that this would be one of Toni Morrison's simpler reads. It turns out that like with most Toni Morrison books, it's impossible to summarize everything; there's just too much to talk about.

In this novel we meet retired rich American Valerian Street
...more
Donna Ho Shing
Oct 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Toni Morrison is amazing. She is the greatest of all time (in my opinion); but really, which other author could keep me entertained and awestruck on Every single page for five consecutive books?
I must preface all reviews of her writings with total praise and veneration because her work demands nothing less.

I did not expect this since Tar Baby is one of her less popular books, but as it turns out this is my favorite of her books so far and not only that, it is now one of my favorite books, Peri
...more
brian
Jan 22, 2009 rated it it was ok
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,
...more
Zanna
Apr 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The opening of this book was a complete surprise to me as a moderately seasoned TM reader – it felt just like the start of an action movie, some kind of spy thriller, only infused with poetic beauty. Something of this atmosphere persisted; perhaps because of Valerian, the white millionaire, who somehow wears an arch-villain halo even when he’s being likeable. I also found the dialogue sparky and often humorous, the tone frequently light

So is it a light book? Noooooo of course not. From the turbu
...more
Mmars
Jan 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Rachel
Aug 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Anne
Jul 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
dom
Sep 07, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2014
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
Melanie
Feb 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wow. I shall be needing to sleep on this book....
Arlene
Not a bad book, there are some things that I'm still working out and I'm waiting for the rest of the book club to come together so I can get a better handle on the story. Right now, 3 stars, but I'm giving it room to grow upon considerable reflection.
Aly
Aug 23, 2014 rated it liked it
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
...more
Mia
Jun 09, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: re-read
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
Adam
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If you don't think Toni Morrison is the greatest just go ahead and unfriend me because I don't like you and I want to fight you.
 Imani ♥ ☮
It's a bit awkward for me to write a good review for anything Toni Morrison has written, if only because, after I read Beloved, I condemned her. But Tar Baby was far different than anything I suffered through in her most popular novel. In fact, almost everything I hated about Beloved was almost nonexistent in this book.

To compare the two novels doesn't make sense because while Beloved is set in Reconstruction America, Tar Baby is mostly set in circa 1970s Caribbean with a few sprinkles of the De
...more
Mathis Bailey
I enjoyed it. The writing was beautiful and poetic like always. However, I did find some paragraphs too bulky. It made the pacing slow and hard to follow at times. The characters were all interesting. I sympathized with everyone's flaws. The leading character, Jadine, comes crossed as selfish and oblivious to her social surroundings and politics. She was very disconnected from her culture and community. I found her character to be complex. Son was a type of guy you would like to hate but can't. ...more
Nick Iuppa
Aug 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Nitya Sivasubramanian
The characters coloring this narrative, from the elusive Marys to the vibrant yet disturbing Jadine, weave a tale of love like I've never experienced, but have always wanted. Love forbidden by the strictures of societal morality. Love unbound by the warm caresses of Caribbean nights. The story of this book belongs in a summer sands novel, but the words writhe on the page, dragging the reader into a world of pain and devastation which could essentially change the way you speak to the people who s ...more
Jasmine Star
Aug 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Laura
Feb 26, 2008 rated it did not like it
OK, I really tried to get into this, but finally gave up. I love the intro!
Dimas
Apr 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
...more
E Wilson
Oct 03, 2010 rated it it was ok

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
...more
Corina
Jun 06, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Corina by: Sara campos
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Deja Johnson
Jan 09, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Donovan Lessard
Apr 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Crystal Belle
Jan 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Ananya Ghosh
Another one of Toni Morrison down. This was a good book to read, and I actually found myself hooked to it quite a few times, and rooting for the protagonists when their circumstances and their incompatibility was trying to tear their love apart. Overall, I read it off as a family drama, with only a few bits and pieces of the issues of race, when our protagonists go to an all black village of Eloe in Florida. So I had to use some shmoop to understand that the Title is an allusion to a southern fo ...more
Grace Mc Gowan
Jul 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
As with brown girl dreaming, I thought that this month was a perfect time to start reading through my Toni Morrison shelf. I'm trying to read all her books in chronological order of publication which means doing some rereads. I'd started reading Tar Baby way back in July last year, but when I got ill I found I just couldn't get back into it. It's not that anything particularly distressing happens in this book, but Morrison's writing is so intense that when I was ill I felt like it was overwhelmi ...more
Jo
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye many years ago and Sula more recently, both set in small towns in Ohio, I wasn’t expecting the setting of this 1985 novel. It didn’t matter, however, for as soon as I started reading, I was caught up and propelled by her wonderful writing.

The story is set primarily on a private Island in the Caribbean where a claustrophobic atmosphere permeates the vacation home of a rich white couple, Valerian and Margaret whose relationship is dysfunctional, and th
...more
Alex
Oct 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Tess
May 21, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
...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
...more
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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.” 49 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.” 18 likes
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