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A Mercy by Toni Morrison
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A Mercy (edition 2008)

by Toni Morrison

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,0741103,198 (3.73)187
Member:Smiler69
Title:A Mercy
Authors:Toni Morrison
Info:Knopf (2008), Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 176 pages
Collections:Read, Read but unowned
Rating:***
Tags:17th Century, 21st Century, American Literature, Early Reviewers, 2008, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Nobel Prize, Orange Prize, Colonial America, USA, Slavery, Women, Read in 2009, Literary Fiction

Work details

A mercy by Toni Morrison

  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 by Lawrence Hill (tangentialine)
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» See also 187 mentions

English (99)  Dutch (3)  French (3)  Finnish (3)  Norwegian (2)  German (1)  All languages (111)
Showing 1-5 of 99 (next | show all)
Classic Morrison. Reminiscent of Beloved while set at an earlier (late 17th century) more fluid point in the developing story of "race" and "family" in the "New World." Not as complex or sustained as the author's aforementioned masterpiece, however. Morrison cuts and runs a bit too soon for this novel to achieve similar greatness. The destinies of A Mercy's motley assemblage of characters is perhaps summed up in this paragraph late in the novel (p. 155): "They once thought they were a kind of family because together they had carved companionship out of isolation. But the family they imagined they had become was false. Whatever each one loved, sought or escaped, their futures were separate and anyone's guess. One thing was certain, courage alone would not be enough. Minus bloodlines, he saw nothing yet on the horizon to unite them. Nevertheless, remembering how the curate described what existed before Creation, Scully [an indentured as well as a hired hand:] saw dark matter out there, thick, unknowable, aching to be made into a world."
As for the moral of the story. Leave that to the mother who abandons/ gives away her daughter in order to "save" her: "to be given dominion over another is a hard thing; to wrest dominion over another is a wrong thing; to give dominion of yourself to another is a wicked thing." ( )
  Paulagraph | May 25, 2014 |
I enjoyed the drop into the fantastical and references to old, mythical gods. I also liked seeing Cody and Astor start on the "Harry Path" and am intrigued as to where it'll go from there. I'm not sure other fans will appreciate an ancient God being a sentient being/possibility for the true murderer, though, nor the open ended epilogue. However, I liked it just fine.
  liveshipvivacia | Apr 26, 2014 |
I've reached a point in this book where I'm really enjoying it. I've heard people say that it's sort of a companion book to Beloved, and I get that. One of the things I like best about Beloved is how it pulls together so many of the themes that Morrison uses throughout many of her novels. A Mercy does the same thing, and so I think it does hark back to Beloved (both in terms of plot similarities and in terms of its major themes), but it also fits very nicely into her body of work as a whole. I'll probably have more to say on that once I've finished the book.

Okay--I'm done now. This was a tough one to rate, because it's hard for me to think about any of Morrison's books without comparing them to her other novels. The very end of the book pushed it up a notch for me. Her writing in this book is perhaps especially poetic in that it's very packed. I think it would stand up to serious study. Having said that, some of her other novels might be more flat-out enjoyable because they have a smoother narrative flow. I'm not sure that makes a book better or worse. I think that all of her books have some of both kinds of writing. ( )
  tercat | Feb 6, 2014 |
A Mercy is a very fine book about colonial America told from many perspectives. The characters are; a white farmer and trader of goods; his mail-order bride from England; their servants, a Native American woman and a free, but severely traumatized African woman; and some hired black men, some indentured and one free, who come to work on their farm. The memories of many of these are explored and the way their stories intersect is shown from several angles. Lays bare the stark cruelty of slavery in many ways and the especial trials of women unprotected by men, as well as how infant mortality and smallpox affect this tiny community. Also how narrow religious beliefs, mixed with the superstitions of the time could have a pernicious, even fatal, influence on people. All this is accomplished through personal stories of characters who come alive in the pages of this thin book. Only 167 pages. Highly recommended. ( )
  kylekatz | Sep 22, 2013 |
This book was very difficult to get into and the characters were underdeveloped. ( )
  ABShepherd | May 15, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 99 (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 (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Toni Morrisonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Engen, BodilTranslatorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hoekmeijer, NicoletteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
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.
Quotations
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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:44:39 -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)

(summary from another edition)

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