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A Mercy by Toni Morrison

A Mercy

by Toni Morrison

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,5461252,366 (3.72)219
  1. 20
    White Cargo: The Forgotten History of Britain's White Slaves in America by Don Jordan (AsYouKnow_Bob)
    AsYouKnow_Bob: When she was out promoting "A Mercy", Toni Morrison talked up 'White Cargo' as a non-fiction approach to the ground she was covering.
  2. 00
    Little Fingers by Filip Florian (Othemts)
  3. 00
    Someone Knows My Name: A Novel by Lawrence Hill (tangentialine)

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» See also 219 mentions

English (115)  Dutch (3)  French (3)  Finnish (3)  Norwegian (2)  German (1)  All (127)
Showing 1-5 of 115 (next | show all)
I really hate to only give 2 stars to a Toni Morrison book. My main problem with A Mercy (the audio version) was with the narration. Morrison chose to read the book herself, and I'm not sure how well it worked. She reads so slowly and pauses in the middle of sentences so often, it started to feel like an attempted poetry reading. For example, "Far away to the right (pause), beyond the iron fencings (pause), enclosing the property (pause) and softened by mist (pause), he saw Rosa Cortez, quiet (pause), empty (pause). In the fields, he reckoned (pause), trying to limit (pause) the damage (pause) sopping weather (pause) had wrought (pause) on the crop."

They were not long pauses, of course, but long enough to be so noticeable it was all I could focus on.

Normally, I love to hear Morrison speak. I find her to be incredibly wise and articulate, and she is undoubtedly a gifted writer. I just found the pauses so distracting that it was hard to stay focused on the story itself.

The book is interesting conceptually at least: a look at American slavery in the late 1600's, with multiple characters and relationships involving love, betrayal, and how a mother's choice to save her child from abuse is misunderstood and seen as abandonment.

In the end, though, I couldn't get fully absorbed for the reason stated. This is another of those books I may have to revisit in the future when I can read the print version. ( )
  Brightraven | Apr 26, 2018 |
I’ve never read any of Toni Morrison’s works until this book. I’ve always heard lots of good things about her novels, so I expected an interesting story. ” A Mercy” is an African-American historical novel that is set on a farm somewhere in northern America. (It’s set in the 1680s, colonial times) The locations shift from time to time in the novel but it some are not specified or made clear at many times. The story is about Jacob and Rebekka Vaark, owners of the farm, and the slaves that work on their land. They work on the land through the season of good and bad weather and also try to fight off the spread of disease (smallpox).

The story mainly focuses on three of the slaves that work on the farm; Florens, Lina, and Sorrow. All three women come from very different backgrounds that bring them together and separates them too. The perspective of each character changes from chapter to chapter and also shifts within the chapters as well. The grammar and sentence structure is a bit jumbled, so it makes reading challenging at times. But I think Morrison does this on purpose to her readers to make them pay more attention to details.

All in all, I really liked this book a lot. The historical setting, detailed writing, and plot kept me intrigued while reading the novel. I found the perspectives/thoughts all of the characters had on slavery, from both sides of the spectrum. At times I did get frustrated with the jumbled sentences, but it did challenge me to look deeper into the plot. ( )
  Rlmoulde | Nov 25, 2017 |
This book is set in the 1680's around the slave trade. I found this book a little confusing at times. I couldn't figure out who was doing the talking or narrating at times. You have a mother who tries to save her daughter by selling her into slavery. The daughter has to try and deal with abandonment.

The daughter is sold to Sir who owns a farm. She is not familiar with working on a farm and is not very useful at first. This was an okay book. ( )
  crazy4reading | Nov 11, 2017 |
Review: A Mercy by Toni Morrison. 08/18/2017

I always enjoy reading Toni Morrison’s books. They are fully inspirational and written in a prose style. “A Mercy” reveals what lies beneath the surface of slavery. Yes, there is sadness throughout the book and I don’t know how a person feels being a slave but they should never be forgotten. I place Slavery on the same shelf as the Holocaust era. When I hear or read this statement… “If I read one I have read them all” ---I become anxious and my stomach twist into knots. All their stories should be read and acknowledged because one story is not another persons story. Even if the story is fiction, a reader should be able to read between the lines and visualize what these people went through and feel some kind of emotional stirring moment within themselves.

It’s the year 1680 when the slave trade is acknowledged as just starting out in America. This is about a mother working on a plantation in Maryland who gives her eight-year-old daughter, Florens away to a relatively humane Northern farmer, named Jacob as a dept payment to her owner. However, the mother claims she was saving her from her abusive rapist owner who was starting to look at Florens as an adult. However, the daughter is not old enough to understand why her mother was sending her away. Floren is scarred from this experience and is unable to resolve her pain and will go on never forgetting of being abandoned. Jacob believed that Floren would be helpful because she could read and write.

At the farm a Native servant, Lina who is a survivor of a smallpox outbreak attaches to Floren for friendship and love to replace her love ones that were taken away from her. There is another peculiar servant on the farm, named Sorrow who Lina does not trust. Lina is also looking for love so the child and the women precipitates their feeling of justifiable kindness to each other. As the story unfolds Floren also finds happiness with her master’s blacksmith, an African, who was never enslaved. The end of the story does end in a tragedy but it’s worth the read…Another great story from Toni Morrison. ( )
  Juan-banjo | Aug 20, 2017 |
This book was recommended as one of the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die and it was a thought-provoking read from the perspective of slaves and slave owners in early Colonial America. ( )
  sherton | Jul 21, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 115 (next | show all)
The landscape of “A Mercy” is full of both beauties and terrors: snow “sugars” eyelashes, yet icicles hang like “knives”; a stag is a benign and auspicious apparition, yet at night “the glittering eyes of an elk could easily be a demon.” But whatever the glories and the rigors of nature may signify to the civilized, for these characters, living in the midst of it, nature doesn’t signify. It’s simply to be embraced or dreaded — like the people with whom they have to live. In Morrison’s latest version of pastoral, it’s only mercy or the lack of it that makes the American landscape heaven or hell, and the gates of Eden open both ways at once.
added by zhejw | editNew York Times, David Gates (Nov 28, 2008)
Morrison uses multiple narrators expertly (think also of Jazz), moving easily from third person to first, changing dictions and emphasis, fearlessly closing the novel with the previously unheard voice of Florens's mother. By doing so, she circles hawk-like around the moment of mercy, exploding its six degrees of repercussion from one life to the next, asking whether forgiveness or salvation is possible....

Although there's levity with a riotous tea party among the bawdy women who travel steerage with Rebekka, A Mercy is a sad, pessimistic novel, suspicious of the early makings of a democracy, unrelenting in leaving the unwanted unloved. And yet, the signature elements of Morrison's fiction—love turned inside out, history flipped on its head, biblical references, folk wisdom, ghosts, and an old-fashioned bloody, heart-wrenching tale—bring great relief. After the disappointing last two books, Paradise and Love, Toni Morrison's ninth novel roars across the arc of America's birth, wielding a prowess to haunt the reader as only Morrison can do.
Themes of slavery and grief, of women's struggles to escape the bitterness of the captive world, are at the center of Morrison's work. They also lie at the heart of her new novel, "A Mercy," which looks to history once again -- in this case, the 1680s and 1690s -- to explore the agonies of slavery among the settlers of the New World. Such a description makes Morrison's novel sound far too pat, however; it slights the poetry and breadth of her work. Yes, "A Mercy" is about slavery, but in the most universal sense, meaning the limits we place on ourselves as well as the confinements we suffer at the hands of others.
Morrison structures the novel in her familiar manner, giving one chapter by turns to each competing voice, collapsing time frames, seldom letting her characters directly rub up against one another, trapping each of them in their biographies. In this way, she creates something that lives powerfully as an invented oral history and that seems to demand to be taken as a parable, but one whose meaning - which lives in the territory of harshness and sacrifice - is constantly undermined or elusive.
added by zhejw | editThe Guardian, Tim Adams (Oct 25, 2008)

» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Toni Morrisonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Engen, BodilTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hoekmeijer, NicoletteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ràfols Gesa, FerranTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Riera, ErnestTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To R.G.
For decades of wit, insight and intellect
Thank you
First words
Don't be afraid. My telling can't hurt you in spite of what I have done and I promise to lie quietly in the dark—weeping perhaps or occasionally seeing the blood once more—but I will never again unfold my limbs to rise up and bare teeth.
I don't think God knows who we are. I think He would like us, if He knew us, but I don't think he knows about us.
What I know is there is magic in learning.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
EEN DAAD VAN BARMHARTIGHEID speelt zich af in Amerika tijdens de tweede helft van de zeventiende eeuw, de slavernij is nog in opkomst. Jacob Vaark is een avonturier en handelaar van Nederlandse afkomst die een bedrijfje heeft in het ruige Noorden. Hij is tegen mensenhandel, maar na aandringen van de moeder, accepteert hij toch een jong slavenmeisje als betaling. Ondanks de goede bedoelingen van de moeder voelt het meisje, Florens, zich door haar afgewezen. Ze gaat op zoek naar liefde, allereerst bij een oudere bediende van het huis, maar later ook bij een aantrekkelijke Afrikaanse hoefsmid, door wie haar leven in een stroomversnelling belandt.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307264238, Hardcover)

A powerful tragedy distilled into a jewel of a masterpiece by the Nobel Prize–winning author of Beloved and, almost like a prelude to that story, set two centuries earlier.

In the 1680s the slave trade was still in its infancy. In the Americas, virulent religious and class divisions, prejudice and oppression were rife, providing the fertile soil in which slavery and race hatred were planted and took root.

Jacob is an Anglo-Dutch trader and adventurer, with a small holding in the harsh north. Despite his distaste for dealing in “flesh,” he takes a small slave girl in part payment for a bad debt from a plantation owner in Catholic Maryland. This is Florens, “with the hands of a slave and the feet of a Portuguese lady.” Florens looks for love, first from Lina, an older servant woman at her new master’s house, but later from a handsome blacksmith, an African, never enslaved.

There are other voices: Lina, whose tribe was decimated by smallpox; their mistress, Rebekka, herself a victim of religious intolerance back in England; Sorrow, a strange girl who’s spent her early years at sea; and finally the devastating voice of Florens’ mother. These are all men and women inventing themselves in the wilderness.

A Mercy reveals what lies beneath the surface of slavery. But at its heart it is the ambivalent, disturbing story of a mother who casts off her daughter in order to save her, and of a daughter who may never exorcise that abandonment.

Acts of mercy may have unforeseen consequences.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:50 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

In exchange for a bad debt, an Anglo-Dutch trader takes on Florens, a young slave girl, who feels abandoned by her slave mother and who searches for love--first from an older servant woman at her master's new home, and then from a handsome free blacksmith.… (more)

» see all 8 descriptions

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