Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Soulful. That one word is the best descriptor I can come up with to describe this incredible book. That I am using even though I have reservations about “soul” words should further indicate just how deeply meaningful it is. This is a book about people being bought and sold. It takes place some years after the US civil war and follows the lives of several former slaves as they try to grapple with recently won freedom in a society that still sees them as disposable property. Slavery still exists but we don’t hear about it much and slavery as an institution has been long removed from developed nations. Morrison’s descriptions of the tragic but quotidian events of being owned by others are staggering and important. I now understand why she is so well regarded and why this book has received such acclaim. That said, I don’t know if Morrison had to follow the exact plot she chose to communicate her worthwhile messages.
The book is rich in metaphor and meaning, so I found I could not read it quickly even if the content did not appear challenging. It was, in both injustice and descriptive beauty.
I highly recommend this book.

Spoiler Alert (and minor quibble)
Beloved is supposedly the dead spirit made flesh of a child that was murdered to prevent it from becoming property. This process was never explained but the reader is lead to believe that a child died and that somehow it came back to life and into the mother’s life at the appropriate age if she had never died. This is the plot path I wondered about being necessary. Morrison could have presented the issues, even the faithful dispositions and supernatural wonder of the characters, without having to use such an unbelievable character.


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