rating: 3 of 5 stars
NY Times is correct in comparing A Mercy to Morrison's previous renowned work, Beloved. Both deal with slave life: the backstories of slaves; the relationships between slaves and owners and mothers and daughters; the realities of being owned and being free in 17th century America. Like Beloved, A Mercy grapples with abandonment as its central theme.
However, A Mercy is a much more grounded novel than Beloved in that the reader is not guessing throughout the novel how much is real and how much is fantastical. A Mercy keeps the reader up to speed with the real-time thoughts and actions and memories of its characters as they tell the story in their unique voices: the trader-turned-slaveowner Jacob; his purchased wife Rebekka; Florens, the young slave girl sold to Jacob by her mother; the other slave laborers of Jacob's household Sorrow and Lina, and even Florens' mother, who narrates the final chapter.
Morrison once again proves to be a master of voice, as she differentiates all of these characters, not merely by the superficial details with which she imbues them, but by the ways in which they speak their parts of the narrative so distinctly. In such a short book, Morrison brings the reader from a state of confusion in the opening pages--who is speaking? what is happening? should I understand what they are talking about?--to a state of pleased recognition as the same narrators recur and are readily identified by their vocal nuances.
A Mercy might be shorter than Beloved, Morrison's unwavering style makes it just as emotionally and historically packed. It is a novel to be unloaded, both in style and content. Morrison continues to mark herself as a novelist who will be taught alongside Alice Walker and Zora Neale Hurston
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