Saturday, October 29, 2016

Review of "A Mercy" by Toni Morrison




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: Native American Lina - whose tribe has been decimated by disease; black child Florens - who was given away by her mother; and jinxed Sorrow, who seems to bring bad luck wherever she goes.

As Jacob and Rebekka fall victim to smallpox the women -  Lina, Florens, Sorrow, and Rebekka - each tells her tale in her own voice. We learn that Lina is a capable farmer who forged a friendship with Rebekka; that Florens yearns for affection and fell in love with a free African blacksmith; that uneducated Sorrow - who may be more clever than she seems - still can't fathom why she keeps getting pregnant; and that Rebekka traveled to America to marry a man she didn't know.

Though the Vaarks are relatively kind masters the book touches on the evils of slavery and demonstrates the soul-deep damage caused by this practice. A well-written book with compelling and interesting characters.

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