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Tar Baby

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  17,076 ratings  ·  584 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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Average rating 3.93  · 
Rating details
 ·  17,076 ratings  ·  584 reviews


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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
Michael Finocchiaro
Toni Morrison takes a more relaxing Caribbean pace to tell a story which involves sex, colonialism, and love. It is a tantalzing mix and, as always, so well-written. I loved how the narration passed fluidly from one character to the other and how several scenes were narrated by butterflies outside the windows observing the crazy humans. Also, the dialogs in the story are incredibly realistic.

In a nutshell, Valerian is a 70-year-old wealthy American businessman who has purchased an island near Ha
...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
xxxxxxx
Raul Bimenyimana
It is difficult to explain the force that permeates Toni Morrison's books. I felt drunk on words by the end of this book.

In this book's foreword Toni Morrison writes: "All narrative begins for me as listening. When I read, I listen. When I write, I listen—for silence, inflection, rhythm, rest. Then comes the image, the picture of the thing I have to invent to invent: the headless bride in her wedding gown; the forest clearing."

I took these words to be instructive and tried to read this story thi
...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
Monica **can't read fast enough**
Tar Baby was the #ReadSoulLit read along selection for this year and I am truly conflicted about how I felt about this story. Toni Morrison is not an author that writes stories that you can just blow through. It takes true concentration and thoughtfulness to work your way through one of her books. She will take her readers to some truly dark places and leave you to figure out a character's true motivation, which is a good thing.

Tar Baby of course explores themes of race and tensions among peopl
...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
Read By RodKelly
Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Re-read this for a little litery refreshment and I just feel like Toni can do no wrong. Clunky, ridiculous ending and all, this novel is a mountain of incendiary ideas about identity: black identity, black womanhood, black manhood, cultural identity, childhood trauma, motherhood, class, sex, and on and on.

But seriously, what is the ending of this novel???

Nonetheless, I live.
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.
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
Joseph Sciuto
Apr 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Enthralling! Enchanting! Electrifying. Ms. Morrison's "Tar Baby" is all of that and so much more. Set mainly on an island in the Caribbean, where a rich, retired candy manufacturer, has built a mansion high on top of a mountain where he lives with his young wife, thirty years younger than him, his butler Sydney and his wife and cook Ondine and occasionally their niece, Jadine, whom the butler and cook have raised since her mother died when she was very young. Jadine is beautiful and black like h ...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
Dominique
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
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.
Melanie (Mel's Bookland Adventures)
Wow. I shall be needing to sleep on this book....
Amanda
Feb 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: black-literature
This is a solid, high three stars. I found this novel, unlike Song of Solomon and God Help the Child, to have not one clear direction and to ask important questions about too many topics. I enjoyed the writing style and the setting, but no one character really gripped me. I was also unsatisfied by the ambiguous ending. I really enjoyed this, but don't expect to remember Tar Baby as I have the other Morrisons I've read.
Jesse
Selected from my shelf the day after the announcement of the great American novelist’s passing. And as I was quickly reminded, one doesn’t decide how to read a Morrison novel but conforms to the experience it wants you to have. While beautifully written and it was fascinating to observe how Morrison refracts a contemporary milieu through her mythic vision, I admit I wrestled more with this more than any of her others that I’ve yet read, and even put it down halfway through and read another novel ...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
 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
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
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!
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 Iyer
Aug 08, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 3star
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
Abhi Varma
Oct 02, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Deja
May 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: journeys-to-read
this was SO steamy… and it’s going to haunt me for a long time to come. at first i was only turning pages for Jadine and Son's sex life (worth it), but i was heartbroken and horrified and exposed by everything else along the way. is it because i saw and understood so much of myself in Jade that i refuse to believe she’s “forgotten her ancient properties”? i rarely feel like re-reading novels immediately after finishing them, but I will have to go back and re-read because maybe all the evidence i ...more
T.
May 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: ebooks, 2014, 2018
What a love story!
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Toni Morrison (born Chloe Ardelia Wofford) was 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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