A Mercy, Toni Morrison, Alfred A Knopf, 2008, 167 pp
My most anticipated book of 2008 was as great as I hoped it would be. Toni Morrison is in my personal list of top three favorite authors, a list which also includes Margaret Atwood and Barbara Kingsolver. I have read all of their novels and someday I am going to read them all again. Each of these authors showed me what great fiction by women is.
There have been so many reviews of A Mercy that I feel no need to cover anything already written about the book, so I'll just say what I found. Of course, the characters and their voices; each main character gets a voice and you see the tale from those different points of view.
One reviewer complained that Morrison is too woman centered and never has a sympathetic male character. I disagree. There are two men in A Mercy who are clearly men with a man's outlook and who are men of the 17th century, but they do not hate women or children and in fact care for and understand women and children in their way.
That said, it is a story of women (White, Native American and Black) and their varying degrees of servitude versus freedom. In fact it is a story of self-discovery and quests for freedom by each of four women; a story of their various relationships with each other. Morrison delves into trust, loyalty, caring and teaching between women. Basically her themes are all there.
I hope this will not be her last novel but she is in her 70s and I may have to accept that she is done with novels. If so, I'll say in tribute that all women of whatever color or station in life could benefit from this and all of her books because Morrison's truth is that slavery, servitude, oppression, belittling, while they are the ugly sins of humans against each other, only exist and are perpetuated because some of us agree to be enslaved, forced to serve, oppressed and belittled.