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A Mercy

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  20,935 ratings  ·  2,820 reviews
In the 1680s the slave trade in the Americas is still in its infancy. Jacob Vaark is an Anglo-Dutch trader and adventurer, with a small holding in the harsh North. Despite his distaste for dealing in “flesh,” he takes a small slave girl in part payment for a bad debt from a plantation owner in Catholic Maryland.
This is Florens, who can read and write and might be useful o
Hardcover, 167 pages
Published November 11th 2008 by Knopf Publishing Group (first published 2008)
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Chanel I think it is an animal, one that represents her ability to stick up for herself. Or it could be the eagle in the story Lina told her, the eagle who h…moreI think it is an animal, one that represents her ability to stick up for herself. Or it could be the eagle in the story Lina told her, the eagle who had to flee her nest when the European claimed the land with the word "mine."(less)

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Average rating 3.71  · 
Rating details
 ·  20,935 ratings  ·  2,820 reviews

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Will Byrnes
Jan 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: african-american
“It was there I learned how I was not a person from my country, nor from my families. I was negrita. Everything. Language, dress, gods, dance, habits, decoration, song– all of it cooked together in the colour of my skin.” – Toni Morrison, A Mercy

It’s the 17th Century, and slavery is still relatively new in the Americas. The people living there have either been brought there by force or have voluntarily gone there to start a new life. They are people with no roots in their new country, no famil
Dec 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to brian by: Ruth, Mike Reynolds
Jason Koivu
Sep 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Toni, Toni, feels good to know you again.

A Mercy is a gorgeous narrative of a dark time that flitters from person to person: child, slave, sympathetic Dutch businessman, mother. Betrayal is ever present, even seemingly from mother to child.

The setting and subject is slavery in 17th century America, specifically Catholic Maryland. These are early days in the New World. Superstition was rife. Black magic and the devil were palpably real.

With a bevy of glimpses Morrison displays most of
Dec 28, 2008 rated it liked it
Back in college I took a course on Colonial America because I had to. It was pretty tough for me to get into it at the time, since I never really gave a crap about that inaccessible and unglamorous period. I wish this book had been around in those days, because Morrison's efforts to describe that bizarre and confusing world might've helped me get better picture of the time, and therefore care more about what I was learning. To me, A Mercy really is incredible historical fiction that provides acc ...more
Jul 05, 2014 rated it really liked it

This story occurs in the late 1600s, during early days of slavery in America (that is, African people being used as slaves). By that time however, the tradition of using 'indentured servants' - essentially white slaves - was already well established.

In this tale, several slaves work on a small farm run by Jacob and Rebekka Vaark.

The indentured servants are: Native American Lina - whose tribe has been decimated by disease;

Black child Florens - who was given away by her mother;

And jinxed Sorrow
Michael Finocchiaro
A Mercy takes us on a voyage into the dark world of slavery in the 1690s through the eyes of several slaves and one owner. In typical Morrison style, the time is non-linear, but it is an easier book to follow than say Beloved. Its text is less powerful and poetic than say, Beloved, but still there is a poignancy and urgency to the writing. Given the current slavery-denial in the media, it is probably a timely read.
I was enthralled with the incandescent prose and moving voices of four women in this tale set on a remote farm in colonial New York in the 1690s. It was outstanding in the audiobook form read by the author, often sending chills up my spine with the vibrant power of its poetry. A major theme is how people harness love in all its forms and how they deal with the perception of betrayal. Another is the paradox of the foundation of the new world both on the hunger for freedom and on various forms of ...more
Dec 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

What a beautifully heart-breaking book. It's a bit disorienting, jumping around from different characters' perspectives, and told in different writing styles. But I think that lends itself to the sort of medley of pain and struggle and sorrow these characters' face. Each has their own story to tell about loss, about displacement and about learning to live through it as best they can. And Morrison excellently captures those feelings without every feeling didactic. They are richly crafted an
D. Pow
Aug 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joy D
Short, tragic, beautifully written book set in the late 17th century in the American Colonies. It speaks of slavery, indentured servitude, patriarchy, exploitation, superstition, disease, and child mortality. Prominent themes include fear of abandonment, lack of agency, and unintended consequences. The author elucidates the seeds of issues that still have repercussions today.

Morrison focuses this book on an ensemble of characters. Jacob Vaark finds slavery abhorrent but, at the urging of her mo
Jul 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: indiebuddyreads
This is only my second Toni Morrison after reading Song of Solomon last year, I guess I am tiptoeing cautiously towards her major works.
It is extraordinarily impressive what Morrison manages to do here in this slim novel (167 pgs). The text rapidly immerses you in late 17th century America and almost all the characters are either orphans or foundlings. Essentially, one might classify this as a character study, each chapter tells one person's story of how they came to be alone in the world, an
Jul 21, 2008 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Yes, I am a Toni Morrison fan and believe she is incapable of writing a bad book, but that doesn't mean I wasn't ready to be critical of her new book if necessary. It's not necessary. The beginning may seem slow (that never bothers me) as we are thrust into a world that is faraway in time, but real. Historical details never bog down; they are worn lightly, as a reviewer put it.

Reviewers have compared one character here to Sethe from Beloved; and though I see the parallel, this is a very differen
Jun 23, 2010 rated it it was ok
Maybe it's the bitter taste Beloved left me with; Maybe it's that she comes off as the poor woman's Maya Angelou; Maybe it's just that no matter how much I want to like her writing, I just can't.

The first four chapters were confusing as hell and the remaining ones were disorienting. The POV's from chapter to chapter were so intertwined, I could barely remember who was talking and found myself constantly going back to the beginning of that particular chapter to double check. Not only that, but t
Nov 13, 2008 rated it it was ok
This was definitely not one of my favorites. I am usually a die-hard Morrison fan, but this one just wasn't up to par with her earlier works. Many people have compared this to Beloved, but I find that comparison unjust. This book, while it had its moments of brilliance, was inundated with dense, incomprehensible prose. At times, I was unable to decipher who was speaking and when. It just wasn't a good read for me.
Jun 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, own, favorites
I love Toni Morrison, the way she holds out the dark truths of Americas past and forces the reader to look and while the themes here are the same as much of her other work this one is a bit more raw, not the writing which is beautiful as always, but here she just lays it all out in plain sight, here it is motherfuckers, And oh man does she really give it to Christianity good for its part in the oppression of women, slave trade, all around evilness, etc, so you know I was into that and I probably ...more
Dec 31, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Jul 13, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tob-roosters
2.5 rounded down
Nov 29, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: literature, 2009
Dear Ms. Morrison:

I just want you to know that I think you are a wonderful writer. I remember picking up a copy of The Bluest Eye back in 1990 because I was taking a stupid college course and we were required to read a book by a female author written after WWII. I chose your book because it was really short and I didn't want to put a lot of time into that assignment. I remember crying while reading it and wanting to take that little girl out of her miserable life and make her feel better about h
Read By RodKelly
I needed this. Morrison is always fascinating for me to read; I'm paying attention to the structure, the themes, the tone, and every nuance she wrings out of her perfect sentences.

This is one of her easier novels, one featuring a swirling ensemble of voices, all gazing at the harsh reality of a group of women living in 17th century America.

The whole novel is one fluid tapestry, quite intimate, with a subtlety that is rare for Morrison but which works so well here. She questions how, in a world
Edward Waverley
Feb 18, 2009 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
”It was not a miracle. Bestowed by God. Offered by a human. I stayed on my knees. In the dust where my heart will remain each night and every day until you understand what I know and long to tell you: to be given dominion over another is a hard thing; to wrest dominion over another is a wrong thing; to give dominion of yourself to another is a wicked thing.”

A Mercy is perhaps my favorite Toni Morrison novel. Morrison never compromises her story-tellng for the reader, and Morrison’s fiction somet
Anabel (inthebookcorner)
Feb 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
"You say I am wilderness. I am. Is that a tremble on your mouth, in your eye? Are you afraid? You should be."

Written in different POV's Morrison's writing is intricate, detailed, and requires close reading to be able to understand. A neo-slave narrative, that's less about slavery itself and more about the real brutality during this time: that to lose ones origins, kinship, and family is to lose ones sense of self.
I really hate to only give 2 stars to a Toni Morrison book. My main problem with A Mercy (the audio version) was with the narration. Morrison chose to read the book herself, and I'm not sure how well it worked. She reads so slowly and pauses in the middle of sentences so often, it started to feel like an attempted poetry reading. For example, "Far away to the right (pause), beyond the iron fencings (pause), enclosing the property (pause) and softened by mist (pause), he saw Rosa Cortez, quiet (p ...more
Jul 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: indiebuddyreads

A difficult book for me to rate - its a simple story yet so beautifully written and becomes compelling reading in the second half. That final chapter gutted me!

It was there I learned how I was not a person from my country, nor from my families. I was negrita. Everything. Language, dress, gods, dance, habits, decoration, song - all of it cooked together in the color of my skin. be given dominion over another is a hard thing; to wrest dominion over another is a wrong thing; to give domin
Elyse  Walters
Jul 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Before "A Mercy" came out, I had only read "Beloved", "The Bluest Eyes" maybe a year before. (I was out of the country for two years during the 70's --I don't remember reading much of anything during that time), when Toni Morrison had first established herself as a writer 'to read' -- A woman making a difference in the world!

Her writing is deeply felt --(reminding me --I've 2 other books in my house still 'to-read').
"Sula" and her later book "Love".

Her books about slavery reach deep below the
Nov 02, 2008 rated it liked it
Although the subject of "A Mercy" ie the interdependent lives of African slaves,Native Americans,indentured servants,free blacks,and whites in Catholic early Md.-this book was a bit disapppointing. It seemed as if Ms. Morrison wanted/had to crank out a book so did an "abbreviated" version of her usually phenomenal story-telling. the characters were 1/2 developed-almost but "no cigar" as was the story. Hey-Ms. Morrison has had an illustrious career-maybe next time???
Sentimental Surrealist
Apr 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Sentimental Surrealist by: My mentor
So this isn't as overtly horrifying as other Morrison novels. With a theme of slavery, one rape implied and a second alluded to, and a late-game breakdown, this statement has more to do with how immensely fucked-up your average Toni Morrison novel is than anything else, but when you consider that other Morrison novels have featured parasitic ghosts, drowned children, murder cults and massacres, the bar for violence and mind games is high in Morrison and A Mercy might not seem to meet the bar. Th ...more
Aug 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Anna by: Nadia
Shelves: history, fiction
This short novel revolves around a North American household in the 1680s, at the beginning of colonisation. Via stream-of-consciousness and flashback, the reader learns how the group came together and gains insight into the unstable conditions at that time. The household members are an Anglo-Dutch settler named Jacob, his wife Rebekka from England, Lina their Native American servant, a young slave girl named Florens, and Sorrow, mysterious survivor of a wrecked slave ship. They attempt to farm w ...more
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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

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