• Evangeline Lawson

A Mercy by Toni Morrison

A brilliant writer (Dave Zirin @edgeofsports) said "find an author you love and read everything they have ever written." I love Toni Morrison, but I have yet to read everything she has ever written. However, I insist on making progress. With that being said, here is my final review of 2021; A Mercy by Toni Morrison.


"There is no protection. To be female in this place is to be an open wound that cannot heal. Even if scars form, the festering is ever below...

...One chance, I thought. There is no protection but there is difference...I said you. Take you, my daughter. Because I saw the tall man see you as a human child, not pieces of eight. I knelt before him. Hoping for a miracle. He said yes.

It was not a miracle. Bestowed by God. It was a mercy. Offered by a human."


Initially this book got off to a slow start for me. I had to push through the narrative about the male characters in order to truly get to the crux of the story, and honestly I found that to be quite difficult. However, in sheer determination I pressed on, only to get to the end and get a clear picture of how Toni Morrison structured this novel and how critical that structure was to the overall meaning and feeling of the book.


The language was beautiful and presented almost as a series of letters interwoven to slowly reveal the depth of each character. It was necessary as the book was about slavery in the 17th century, not in the same vein as Beloved, but almost as a prequel. Like one of the characters could in fact be a descendant of Sethe.


What was interesting was that Morrison took the time to bring in not just slave and slaveowner, but also indentured servants who worked alongside natives and the enslaved as well as a free African, who added some critical insight into understanding the mentality of someone who is not free.


But the overwhelming theme is what stuck with me. A longing. The constant searching for relief or as the title states mercy. The longing to be loved, to be rescued from suffering-regardless of the risk of rejection or death, but all the while seeking to understand your place in the world and whether or not you are doomed to a certain existence because of it.


Rarely do we get to explore the emotional state of enslaved people. The mental gymnastics and will to survive it took for a lot of us to be here. A Mercy successfully articulates that. The ending was beautiful. It took some work to get through it, but it was well worth it.


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