A Mercy - Morrison, Toni
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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
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Produktbeschreibung
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.
  • Produktdetails
  • Vintage International
  • Verlag: Vintage, New York
  • INT
  • Seitenzahl: 167
  • Erscheinungstermin: Juni 2009
  • Englisch
  • Abmessung: 175mm x 106mm x 15mm
  • Gewicht: 93g
  • ISBN-13: 9780307472342
  • ISBN-10: 0307472345
  • Artikelnr.: 25035730
Autorenporträt
Toni Morrison is the author of eleven novels, from The Bluest Eye (1970) to God Help the Child (2015). She received the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and in 1993 she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. She died in 2019.
Rezensionen

Süddeutsche Zeitung - Rezension
Süddeutsche Zeitung | Besprechung von 16.03.2010

Freie Schwarze, weiße Sklaven
Vier Frauen auf einer Farm vor dreihundert Jahren: Toni Morrison erfindet in ihrem Roman „Gnade” die Geschichte Amerikas neu und erzählt von einer Zeit, als die Verhältnisse der Rassen und Klassen noch offen zu sein schienen Von Burkhard Müller
Liebe” hatte das letzte Buch der schwarzen amerikanischen Nobelpreisträgerin Toni Morrison geheißen; und diese Liebe war ein so vieldeutig vergifteter Begriff gewesen, dass man den neuen Roman, der den Titel „Gnade” trägt, mit Bangen zur Hand nimmt: Wie wohl wird diese Gnade beschaffen sein, wie verengt durch die Umstände und verbittert durch die Erfahrungen, die die Menschen darin machen müssen?
Diesmal taucht Morrison noch tiefer in die Vergangenheit ein als beim letzten Buch, das seinen Anfang um 1930 genommen hatte, um ein ganzes Vierteljahrtausend, bis in die ersten Zeiten der Kolonisation Nordamerikas. Die „Frontier” zur Wildnis ist im Jahr 1682 noch kaum über die Küste des Atlantiks hinausgekommen, jederzeit können den Siedlern selbst in Delaware und Maryland Bären oder Indianer in den Weg treten, sogar der Import von schwarzen Sklaven steckt noch in den Kinderschuhen.
Unter diesen Bedingungen fällt es einer zusammengewürfelten Schar von vier Frauen recht schwer, ganz allein eine Farm zu betreiben. Der „Sir” ist den Pocken zum Opfer gefallen; seine Frau Rebekka, die er sich gegen Zahlung und ohne vorherige Bekanntschaft aus Europa hat kommen lassen und mit der er unerwartet glücklich wurde, übersteht die Krankheit, aber bleibt verhärmt zurück. Dann gibt es Lina, die Indianerin, die den Laden im Wesentlichen zusammenhält, versprengte Überlebende ihres Dorfs nach einer Epidemie; Sorrow, ebenfalls ein Waisenkind, aber aus Europa, bockig, doch voll Hingabe für ihre kleine Tochter; und Florens, eine Negersklavin, die als Kind auf die Farm kam. Florens unterscheidet sich von den anderen Frauen darin, dass sie lesen und schreiben kann – ein katholischer Priester hat es ihr früh beigebracht. Das Buch führt sie als Ich-Erzählerin ein und lässt sie ihre Geschichte mit einem Nagel in Holz ritzen, für den von ihr geliebten schwarzen Schmied, der indes weder lesen kann noch etwas von ihr wissen will. So scheint zum Schluss vergeblich und ohne Nachfolge, was sie tut.
Und in der Tat wird die Geschichte des neuen Landes ja nicht dem hier entworfenen Modell folgen. Was die Autorin augenscheinlich vor allem gereizt hat, das ist die Offenheit jener Frühzeit, als die Verhärtung der Klassen- und Rassenverhältnisse, die sich im Lauf der nächsten zwei Jahrhunderte einstellen sollte, noch nicht unausweichlich schien. Es gibt freie Neger – der Schmied ist einer – ebenso wie weiße Sklaven, die ewig nicht aus den Schulden ihrer Überfahrt herauskommen und deren Arbeitskraft beliebig weiterveräußert werden kann. Zwei von ihnen fühlen es wie einen Stich, als sie sehen, wie der Schmied vom Sir für seine Leistungen bares Geld in die Hand bekommt, Geld, das sie nie kriegen werden. Noch steht nicht fest, ob sich hier Niederländer oder Briten erfolgreich festsetzen werden; vielleicht behaupten ja auch die Indianer das Feld. Entbehrung, Krankheiten, harte Arbeit prägen jedermanns Leben.
An Toni Morrison wird gern das „Poetische” ihrer Bücher gerühmt. In dieser etwas vagen Zuschreibung steckt jedenfalls als doppelter Kern ihre Kürze und ihr Takt. Immer wieder staunt man, mit wie wenigen Worten Morrison klar Grundsätzliches sagt, ein Vermögen, das vielleicht von allen schriftstellerischen Qualitäten am spätesten reift. Den tiefen Groll in der Unterwürfigkeit der schwarzen Sklaven drückt sie so aus: „er hielt es nicht mehr aus inmitten dieses Rings von Sklaven, deren Schweigen ihn an einen Erdsturz denken ließ, den man aus großer Ferne sah.”
Von Sorrow heißt es: „Ihre Verschlossenheit schützte sie; ihre Bereitwilligkeit zur Paarung war ein Geschenk des Himmels.” Dies ist gesprochen aus der Perspektive von Scully, einem der beiden weißen Sklaven; ganz nüchtern wird es gesagt, ohne Ironie oder Ressentiment, als Teil einer Bestandsaufnahme dessen, was er überhaupt vom Leben hat. Jeder kommt in diesem Buch zu Wort, meist in Form des personalen Erzählens, im Fall von Florens sowie ihrer Mutter in Ich-Form.
Aus dieser taktvollen Art, jedem das Seinige zu lassen, resultiert jedoch ein strukturelles Problem. Zu oft springt die Perspektive um, und die zwei Ich-Erzählerinnen, denen man sich gern anvertraut hätte, haben auf den nur rund zweihundert Seiten nicht genügend Raum, um sich voll zu entfalten. Vielleicht auch gleichen sie einander ein wenig zu sehr. Denn Morrisons knappe, federnde Sprache, von ihrem deutschen Übersetzer Thomas Piltz diesmal sehr gut nachgebildet, ist stärker als das Einzelfigürliche und dient ihr dazu, über die historischen Distanzen hinweg das elementar Menschliche zum Vorschein zu bringen.
Das ist ihre Art, Verschollenes zurückzuholen und ihm Gerechtigkeit widerfahren zu lassen. Wer aber garantiert, dass nicht vor dreihundert Jahren vieles von dem, was ihr als eine unveränderliche Konstante menschlichen Daseins und Denkens gilt, doch ganz anders war? Einen äußeren Hinweis für die Gefahren solchen Vorgehens hat man daran, dass im Buch zweimal Stare vorkommen, ganz so, als gehörten sie zur altheimischen Tierwelt Amerikas. Diese Vögel sind aber nicht vor 1870 aus Europa eingebürgert worden.
Und wie steht es nun mit der Gnade? „Es gibt keinen Schutz, aber es gibt Unterschiede”, sagt die Mutter zum Schluss. Der „Sir” wollte eigentlich sie selbst und ihren kleinen Sohn zur Begleichung einer Geldschuld mitnehmen; aber dann sah er die achtjährige Florens, die in ganz unpassend großen Schuhen herumlief, und er musste lachen. „Ich sagte, die. Nehmt die hier, meine Tochter. Weil ich merkte, dass der große Mann dich als Menschenkind sah, nicht als eine spanische Münze. Ich kniete mich vor ihn hin. Hoffte auf ein Wunder. Er sagte ja.”
Es ist ein weißer Mann, den die schwarze Autorin diesen Akt der Güte an einer schwarzen Frau vollbringen lässt. Um ein Wunder und damit einen Eingriff Gottes aber handelt es sich natürlich nicht, sondern um etwas, das ein Mensch aus Mitleid einem anderen spontan erweist, selbstloser und bewegender, als es die Liebe je sein könnte.
Der englische Titel lautet auch nicht, wie man wohl erwartet hätte, „Grace”, sondern „A Mercy”. Aber was ist das für ein Leben, wo die höchste mögliche Gnade es immer noch einschließt, dass eine Sklavenfamilie auseinandergerissen wird? Hierzu schweigt Toni Morrison und überlässt es dem Leser, ob er diese Geschichte für eine glückliche oder traurige halten will.
Toni Morrison
Gnade
Roman. Aus dem Englischen von Thomas Piltz. Rowohlt Verlag, Reinbek 2010. 218 Seiten, 18,95 Euro.
„Ihr Schweigen ließ ihn an einen Erdsturz denken, den man aus der Ferne sah”
Harte Arbeit prägte das Leben der Kolonisten: Schwedische Siedler in Delaware, 17. Jahrhundert. Handkolorierter Holzschnitt. Foto: North Wind Picture Archives/akg
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Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung - Rezension
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung | Besprechung von 12.06.2010

Das Sklavenmädchen ist zwanzig Pesos wert

In "Gnade" kehrt die amerikanische Nobelpreisträgerin Toni Morrison eindrucksvoll zu ihren Wurzeln zurück. Der Roman übertrifft selbst ihr Meisterwerk "Menschenkind".

Von Thomas David

Ein heller Schatten liegt auf der Titelseite von Toni Morrisons jüngstem Roman: Die transparente Illustration einer Landkarte, die in der deutschen Ausgabe von "A Mercy" fehlt. Gekrümmte Linien wie Venen, die sich auf der Haut abzeichnen; Flüsse und Berge wie Narben im Gesicht, obgleich die Namen, die in alten Lettern auf der Karte stehen, von der Unschuld des Landes erzählen.

Chesapeake Bay, Cape Hatteras; Powhatans, Name der mächtigen indianischen Konföderation, die zu Beginn des siebzehnten Jahrhunderts im Krieg mit den Siedlern der englischen Virginia Company lag. "Ich möchte gewissermaßen die Landkarte einer kritischen Geographie entwerfen", so Morrison in "Schwarze Angelegenheit", ihrem berühmten Essay, in dem sie über den Afrikanismus in der amerikanischen Literatur spricht, "und diese Karte dazu benutzen, so viel Raum für Entdeckungen, intellektuelle Abenteuer und detaillierte Erkundungen zu eröffnen, wie es einst die ersten kartographischen Darstellungen der Neuen Welt taten - ohne das Mandat für Eroberungen allerdings." Auf der ihrem Roman vorangestellten Karte hat Morrison mit eigener Hand die von den europäischen Kolonisten eingeführten Namen getilgt und die Ostküste der Vereinigten Staaten für die Ureinwohner des Landes reklamiert: In "Gnade", so der um den Wert eines Artikels ärmere deutsche Titel, erkundet sie das Versprechen der Freiheit, das der Vision des amerikanischen Traums zugrunde liegt - genauer: die Arglist dieses Versprechens, die den Glanz der Freiheit überschattet. Muhheakantuck, am Mount Marcy entspringt ein Fluss.

Das blendende Gold des Nebels, glühendes, zähes Licht: Als Jacob Vaark zu Beginn durch die Brandung und den Schlick ans Ufer watet, hat er das Gefühl, er kämpfe sich "durch einen Traum". Vaark ist ein im Armenhaus der Alten Welt aufgewachsener und durch das überraschende Erbe eines ihm fremden Verwandten zu Grundbesitz gekommener Abenteurer, ein junger Kaufmann, der im Oktober 1682 an der Küste von Virginia an Land geht und einer Wegspur der Lenape-Indianer Richtung Maryland folgt, um bei einem seiner säumigen Geschäftspartner die Schulden einzutreiben. Als die einzige katholische unter den englischen Kolonien ist Maryland "römisch bis ins Mark", die Tempel der Priester stehen "wie Menetekel an öffentlichen Plätzen": Die tiefe Verachtung, die der Protestant Vaark in der Provinz auf Schritt und Tritt empfindet, mündet bei seiner Ankunft auf der Plantage des portugiesischen Pflanzers D'Ortega in komplizierte Gefühle aus Ekel und Neid, die Toni Morrison in wenigen, präzise gesetzten Strichen aufzeichnet, eindringlich und leicht. Senhor D'Ortegas Söhne stecken bei schwüler Hitze unter gepuderten Perücken, seine Frau ist auf verschwenderische Weise töricht und so blasiert wie er. In Jublio, D'Ortegas Palast aus honigfarbenem Stein, brennen tagsüber Kerzen, und obwohl Vaark den neureichen Katholiken verabscheut, verlangt es ihn nach ähnlichem Wohlstand, nach sozialem Status, nach Kindern für ihn und seine liebenswerte, dralle Frau.

Drei tote Babys und der tödliche Unfall seiner fünfjährigen Tochter haben Vaarks Leben verdunkelt: Als D'Ortega ihm zur teilweisen Begleichung der Schulden statt Geld einen seiner Sklaven anbietet, nimmt er auf Flehen einer Mutter deren kleine, vielleicht siebenjährige Tochter in Besitz. "Der Glanz des Reichtums", so Morrison in ihrem Essay "Vom Schatten schwärmen", "entsteht in der Sklaverei von Armut, Hunger und Schulden"; erst eine "Flotte voller kostenloser Arbeitskräfte", so Morrison in ihrem Roman, in dem sich das Lebensthema der 1931 in Ohio geborenen Schriftstellerin aufs Eindrucksvollste kristallisiert, "machte einen Müßiggang möglich, wie ihn D'Ortega pflegte". Vaark hat nur Häme übrig für einen Wohlstand, "der auf der Arbeit von Gefangenen beruhte, die in Gefangenschaft zu halten nur umso mehr Gewalt erforderte". Das Sklavenmädchen, das er aus Mitleid in Zahlung nimmt, ist zwanzig Pesos wert.

Florens, die in Jublio die abgelegten, ihr viel zu großen Schuhe ihrer Herrin trug, ist die eigentliche Heldin des Romans, die unbekannte Stimme, mit deren sich erst im Rückblick erschließenden Monolog Toni Morrison die Erzählung anheben lässt; Jacob Vaarks Laune, das Mädchen nicht zuletzt zum Trost seiner Frau Rebekka zu sich auf die Farm zu nehmen, wird erst ganz am Ende der Erzählung als Gnade erkannt - ein Wort, das in dem Roman nur ein einziges Mal fällt, obgleich Morrison es zuvor intensiv bedenkt, in verschiedenen Situationen auslotet und prüft und schließlich doch immer zurückhält, bis es auf der letzten Seite in einem berührenden Augenblick der Erkenntnis seine wahre Bedeutung erfährt. Morrison etabliert Vaark auf überzeugende Weise als ihren Protagonisten, dann bricht sie überraschend die Perspektive und erzählt abermals aus Sicht der älteren Florens, die sich acht Jahre nach ihrer Ankunft auf der Farm, nicht lange nach Vaarks hier nur beiläufig erwähntem Tod, auf den Weg durch die Wildnis zu dem Schmied macht, der das kunstvolle Tor angefertigt hat, das zum Besitz des schließlich zu Reichtum gekommenen Farmers führt.

Florens' beschwerlicher, nicht selten gefährlicher Fußmarsch nach Norden, ihre Liebe zu dem namenlosen schwarzen Schmied, die sie in der Ansprache ihrer Ich-Erzählung immer wieder heraufbeschwört, ist die Richtung, die Morrisons Roman nimmt: der lineare Erzählfaden, um den sich der hervorragend konstruierte Roman in zahlreichen weiteren Perspektivwechseln, in Rückblenden, auf Nebenwegen anderer Figuren, schlängelt. Die vielschichtige Textur der dichten und sehr konzentrierten, im amerikanischen Original nicht einmal 170 Seiten langen Erzählung macht Morrisons Roman dabei so überwältigend schön und reich wie die weite Landschaft, in der er spielt.

Das Konzept der Freiheit sei nicht in einem Vakuum entstanden, so Morrison in "Vom Schatten schwärmen", wo sie die "parasitäre Natur weißer Freiheit" benennt: "Nichts rückte die Freiheit derart ins Licht wie die Sklaverei - wenn sie sie nicht überhaupt erst erschuf." In "Gnade" überprüft Morrison ihre eigene These und blickt zurück auf die Anfänge der schwarzen Sklaverei, auf eine Zeit, in der die "Konstruktion von schwarzer Hautfarbe und Sklaverei", dem blutigen Fundament, auf dem der kraftvolle amerikanische Mythos vom land of the free der schwarzen Bevölkerung über Generationen die Knochen brach, noch nicht errichtet war. Im Jahr von Barack Obamas Wahl zum Präsidenten - "Gnade" erschien im amerikanischen Original im November 2008 -, transzendiert Toni Morrison ihr 21 Jahre zuvor veröffentlichtes Meisterwerk "Menschenkind" und den darin geschilderten Gnadenakt einer Sklavin, die ihre Tochter tötet und ihr auf diese Weise die Freiheit zu schenken versucht, und dringt in eine Vergangenheit vor, in der sich die Hierarchie der Rassen noch zu etablieren begann.

"Gesunde deutsche Frau wird in Pacht gegeben . . . Lehndiener mit Erfahrung als Kutscher gesucht, weiß oder schwarz . . .": Zu den Nebenfiguren des Romans zählen unter anderen die versklavte, den Presbyterianern abgekaufte Indianerin Lina und der Homosexuelle Willard, der über die siebenjährige Schuldknechtschaft hinaus seine Überfahrt bei Vaark abarbeitet. Doch die neben Florens faszinierendste, die charismatischste und stärkste Figur des Romans ist jener Schmied, der blacksmith, dessen Schmiede Florens am Ende ihres schweren und langen Weges erreicht. Dieser Schwarze ist ein freier Mann, und er steht stark und schön in der brutalen, von Toni Morrison mit beeindruckender Kraft imaginierten Welt. Er ist es, der Florens lehrt, was es heißt, frei zu sein, damit sie am Ende sagen kann: "Ob Sklavin. Ob frei. Ich bestehe."

Toni Morrison: "Gnade". Roman. Aus dem Amerikanischen von Thomas Piltz. Rowohlt Verlag, Reinbek 2010. 224 S., geb., 18,95 [Euro].

Alle Rechte vorbehalten. © F.A.Z. GmbH, Frankfurt am Main
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A horrifying act stood at the center of Toni Morrison s 1987 masterwork, Beloved: a runaway slave, caught in her effort to escape, cuts the throat of her baby daughter with a handsaw, determined to spare the girl the fate she herself has suffered as a slave. A similarly indelible act stands at the center of Ms. Morrison s remarkable new novella, A Mercy, a small, plangent gem of a story that is, at once, a kind of prelude to Beloved and a variation on that earlier book s exploration of the personal costs of slavery a system that moves men and women and children around like checkers and casts a looming shadow over both parental and romantic love.

Set some 200 years before Beloved, A Mercy conjures up the beautiful, untamed, lawless world that was America in the 17th century with the same sort of lyrical, verdant prose that distinguished that earlier novel. . . . Ms. Morrison has rediscovered an urgent, poetic voice that enables her to move back and forth with immediacy and ease between the worlds of history and myth, between ordinary daily life and the realm of fable. . . . A heartbreaking account of lost innocence and fractured dreams, [that] also stands, with Beloved, as one of Ms. Morrison s most haunting works yet.
Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

Spellbinding . . . Dazzling . . . [A Mercy] stands alongside Beloved as a unique triumph in Morrison s body of work. The lush poetry and amorphous structure of [the novel] reflect the story s distant setting in the mist of America s creation, when independence and the three-fifths compromise of the Constitution were still a century away. . . . Morrison, who has written so powerfully of catastrophe, cruelty and horror, here adds to that song of tragedy equally thrilling chords of desire and wonder, which in their own way are no less tragic. Where Beloved ends with the cathartic exhaustion of an exorcism, A Mercy concludes with an ambiguous kind of prayer, redolent with possibility and yearning but inspired by despair. This rich little masterpiece is a welding of poetry and history and psychological acuity that you must not miss.
Ron Charles, The Washington Post Book World

Luminous and complex . . . In Beloved, Morrison told the story of Sethe, a woman who murdered her own child rather than see her sold into slavery. Early on in A Mercy, we watch a mother do the opposite she puts her daughter Florens up for sale . . . It s a less bloody moment, but in its way it s no less chilling. A Mercy is that daughter s tale. . . . Morrison is mooting the perversely hopeful possibility that slavery could have existed without racism or at least without racism as we know it. She lavishes some of her best writing in years on [A Mercy s] pre-Revolutionary world . . . A Mercy shows us America in the moment before race madness ruined it it is a wounded land, but the wound has not yet turned septic. . . . In A Mercy, Morrison is urging her younger self, the tortured soul who fashioned the infernal vision that is Beloved, to look even further beyond the veil of pain and anger, however righteous, to hope. There was a time before the present misery, Morrison seems to be telling herself. And therefore, maybe, there will be a time after it.
Lev Grossman, Time

Magnificent . . . As with all Morrison s finest work, A Mercy compellingly combines immediacy and obliquity. Its evocation of pioneer existence in America surrounds you with sensuous intensity. . . . An attack by a bear is described with thrilling power. . . . Idioms have potent directness, too. . . . Rich knowledgeability about 17th-century America is put to telling effect. Voices speak to you as if you were there. . . . The book keeps you vividly aware of the vital human individuality that racism s crude categorizations are brutally trying to iron out. . . . A stark story of the evils of possessiveness and the perils of dispossession emerges slantwise. Hints, suspicions, secrets, ambivalences, scarcely acknowledged motives and barely noticeable nuances serve as signposts to enormities and desperations: around slavery s large-scale uprootings, Morrison spotlights individual instances of loss (orphans and outcasts are, as often in her fiction, much in evidence; compensatory alliances they form are warmly portrayed). A Mercy is so enthralling that you ll want to read it more than once. On each occasion, it further reveals itself as a masterpiece of rewarding complexity.
Peter Kemp, The Sunday Times (London)

In [A Mercy,] a mother chooses to give her daughter to a stranger, the man who will own her, in hopes that she ll find a better life. It is this act from which the book derives its title, but it is, of course, an ambivalent gesture whose tragic resonance will be slowly unveiled. . . . Morrison here is seeking some deeper truth about what she once called the presence of the unfree within the heart of the democratic experiment. Some regard this novel as a kind of prelude to Beloved, but the author has even more provocative ideas at play. . . . In writing about the horror of slavery, she finds a kind of ragged hope.
Renée Graham, Boston Sunday Globe

[A Mercy] examines slavery through the prism of power, not race. Morrison achieves this by setting A Mercy in 1680s America, when slavery was a color-blind, equal-opportunity state of misery, not yet the rigid, peculiar institution it would become. . . . Morrison doesn t write traditional novels so much as create a hypnotic state of poetic intoxication. You don t read A Mercy, you fall into a miasma of language and symbolism. [It] offers an original vision of America in its primeval state, where freedom was a rare commodity.
Deirdre Donahue, USA Today

[Toni Morrison] bound[s] into literature with her new book as if it were the first time, with the spry energy of a doe. A Mercy . . . is that beguiling and beautiful, that deftly condensed, that sinewy with imaginative sentences, lyric flight and abundant human sensitivity. . . . Finely hammered phrases repeatedly come off the anvil, forming a story as powerful as the many she has shaped before. Elements of this writer s art from way back remain part of her achievement here. Like a mighty telescope perched on a contemporary plateau, Morrison draws in signals, moods, torments, exhilarations from African American life and history . . . Morrison mixes the verbal music of an era with idiosyncratic wisdom, delivered indirectly rather than ex cathedra, recalling omniscient Russian masters without imitating them. . . . Along the way come moments whose artistry freezes one s page-turning. Morrison s tactile reports rivet . . . What s the opposite of lazy in a fiction writer s style and research? Industrious? Indefatigable? Morrison wears her knowledge lightly, yet every page exhibits her control of [the 17th century s] objects and artifacts, its worries and dangers. She surrounds A Mercy s more fanciful arabesques with a broad border of realism. . . . A book as masterfully wrought as A Mercy behooves its author to swagger. Go to it, Ms. Morrison.
Carlin Romano, The Philadelphia Inquirer

A grand tragedy writ in miniature . . . Women, men, Africans, Native Americans, whites, masters, slaves all are cast into the hard world that is the New World in Toni Morrison s lustrous new novel. In the same way, the Nobel Prize winner casts us into her hypnotic, many-voiced narrative set in the 17th century in a nation yet unformed. . . . We re beguiled from the opening sentence: Don t be afraid. The speaker is Florens, black, barely out of childhood, a slave but literate, whose eager-to-please ways and lyrical language endear her to us and to the Virginia household of Jacob Vaark. . . . The subject of [A Mercy] is slavery, and [Morrison] brings to it, along with some of her most haunting language, elements of history and mythos. . . . A Mercy is kindled by characters who are complex and vulnerable, full of what she describes in Beloved as awful human power. . . . This novel s release coincides with the presidential election of Barack Obama, a shining moment in our country s history of which Morrison s characters can barely dream.
Ellen Kanner, The Miami Herald

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 [as in Beloved] 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. . . . [It is] a work of poetry and intelligence, and a continuation of what John Updike has called [Morrison s] noble and necessary fictional project of exposing the infamies of slavery and the hardships of being African American. The story assumes even greater metaphorical power at this particular moment, with the election of Barack Obama as our first African American president.
Judith Freeman, Los Angeles Times Book Review

[Morrison is] a conscious inheritor of America s pastoral tradition, even as she implicitly criticizes it. . . . In A Mercy, a 17th-century American farmer who lives near a town wink-and-nudgingly called Milton enriches himself by dabbling in the rum trade and builds an ostentatious, oversize new house, for which he orders up a fancy wrought-iron gate, ornamented with twin copper serpents . . . [A Mercy] is [Morrison s] deepest excavation into America s history, to a time when the South had just passed laws that separated and protected all whites from all others forever, and the North had begun persecuting people accused of witchcraft. . . . [A Mercy] isn t a polemic does anybody really need to be persuaded that exploitation is evil? but a tragedy in which 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. . . . No character in the novel is wholly evil . . . Nor are the characters we root for particularly saintly. . . . Everyone in A Mercy is damaged; a few, once in a while, find strength to act out of love, or at least out of mercy that is, when those who have the power to do harm decide not to exercise it. A negative virtue, but perhaps more lasting than love. . . . The landscape of A Mercy is full of both beauties and terrors: snow sugars eyelashes, yet icicles hang like knives . . . But whatever the glories and 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.
David Gates, The New York Times Book Review (cover)

Morrison s short, magisterial new novel testifies to the art of a writer able to conjure near-unimaginable lives sunk three centuries ago in the infant American colonies . . . In the women of A Mercy, Morrison returns to the meaning of human identity, its relationship to community and the making and sundering of both. These questions glint under the pressure slavery weighs on the New World. . . . A Mercy is threaded with dreams and fever, sickness and ghosts, menstrual blood and afterbirth its authenticity lies quite apart from archaeology. But that authenticity gathers over the accumulation of pages, and final chapter . . . stings with revelation. Morrison flings us into a dread past. But A Mercy pulls us, shuddering, onto the banks of meaning.
Karen R. Long, Cleveland Plain Dealer

A Mercy captures the same crazy magic of Song of Solomon and Beloved, Morrison s most haunting, lyrical books. One doesn t read them so much as go digging for truths past tight and buried deep in Morrison s words. In part, it is the sheer mental work the close reading, the flipping back and forth between passages that makes her novels so satisfying. By the end, one feels as if one has cracked a code. Or seen the light.
Maggie Galehouse, Houston Chronicle

Three stars. Shimmering, even beautiful . . . A slim, somber fever dream of a novel, Morrison s [A Mercy] belies the tenderness of its title. Set in the 1680s, her tale unfolds in the harsh northern climes of an emergent America. Here, on Anglo-Dutch trader Jacob Vaark s isolated homestead, Vaark s mail-order wife and three female slaves struggle against great hardships while forming shifting alliances that serve as the novel s sole flickers of redemption. . . . A Mercy abounds in near-biblical power and grace.
Adriana Leshko, People

Astonishing . . . A Mercy has both X-ray eyes and telepathic powers, not to mention tree rings, ice caps, pottery clocks, carbon clouds, a long memory, and a short fuse. It dreams its way back to 1682 and a primeval America before racial hierarchies had been chiseled in stone . . . when ordinary men and women hoped that courage alone would prove enough to win dominion over their rude lives. The Dutch-born farmer and trader Jacob Vaark . . . will take Florens, a little black girl in silly shoes, as partial payment of a debt . . . What happens to love-disabled Florens on Jacob s farm . . . is not a sentimental education. Nevertheless, illegally literate, Florens will write it down for us to read aloud: My telling can t hurt you in spite of what I have done, she says. But it does. Like Pecola, Sula, Sethe, Consolata, Violet, and so many other women we ve met in Morrison s pages, Florens is a siren, pulling brave hearts overboard. . . . All adds up to a sensuous omniscience that is practically Elizabethan.
John Leonard, Harper s Magazine

Memorable . . . lyrical . . . A miraculous tale of sorrow and beauty. . . . It is 1682 in Maryland. The slave and rum trades are dying in droves from European diseases, and most women live of and for men . . . But this place and time is also full of miracles and mercies . . . American history, the natural world, and human desire collide in a series of musical voices, distinct from one another unmistakably Morrisonian in their beauty and power that together tell this moving and morally complicated tale.
Pam Houston, O, The Oprah Magazine

Toni Morrison mines the epic themes of race and class, love and friendship, oppression and freedom this time through the rarely told tales of early colonists and the black slaves with whom they lived. [A Mercy] is a page-turner, riveting and complex.
Marilyn Milloy, AARP Magazine

Eerily resonant . . . A slender novel that plunges resoundingly into the pre-history of black America to tell the interlocking stories of three slavewomen and their mistress, [A Mercy] is as linguistically rich and emotionally wrenching as [Morrison s] best work . . . The novel is an extended consideration of the many ways in which people deliberately or unconsciously assert ownership over each other: spouses, lovers, mothers and children. . . . What Morrison is out to demonstrate is that slavery of any kind, even the enslavement in passion, is dangerous to the soul. . . . The horror of the central tragedy in A Mercy the mother forced to choose between her children is not limited to the world of slavery. It can be, and it has been, imagined in virtually any totalitarian setting: the Holocaust, the Cultural Revolution, Darfur. (Is slavery not a crude form of totalitarianism?) Likewise, there is surely no more universalizing experience than motherhood, which unites women regardless of their origins and their circumstances.
Ruth Franklin, The New Republic

A Mercy is a sinewy novel [that] contains passages of insight and sensuality . . . It gathers its own power: Morrison plays a tight game with the social, legal and personal connections between her chess set of characters, a game in which each word and every detail counts. . . . Morrison renders the ugly beautiful and the unimaginable real: she is a fine teacher.
Heather Thompson, The Times Literary Supplement

Toni Morrison s books are epics of the failure of the country s conscience. [With A Mercy,] she goes back further in history than her most searing and poetic novel, Beloved, to look at the foundations of slavery in an America before it was America. The chances for mercy to thrive in a new land are weighed on a small farm in New York. Four women who were acquired by farmer-turned-trader Jacob Vaark in various ways have forged an unlikely family . . . [Vaark s] farm is a small collective of every type of servitude possible years before the country turned exclusively and implacably to the enslavement of black Africans. . . . While the women are definitely the center of A Mercy, Morrison offers a more complicated portrayal of a white male in Jacob Vaark. An orphan himself, Jacob has a tendency to collect strays . . . Like a dream deferred, if a mercy is hidden too long, it tends to explode as Morrison shows in her knockout final monologue. It s a spare, dark fable and at under 200 pages, a swift, kaleidoscopic trip into tragedy.
Yvonne Zipp, The Christian Science Monitor

Within [its] elegant structure, [A Mercy] returns to the great theme of [Morrison s] Pulitzer Prize winning Beloved: slavery and its tar pit of historical, political, and emotional implications. . . . A Mercy has the intimacy and speed of a chamber piece while still being impressively dense, like a small valise packed with enough outfits for a month in the country. It parses sometimes surprisingly fine distinctions between master and slave, male and female, black and white (and brown). . . . Above all, A Mercy brims with the omnipresence of the author s questing, sifting brain, which the reader can feel injecting each strand of the story, subjecting it to the closest scrutiny before weaving it into the whole. The result is both a compelling yarn and a meditation on the varieties and degrees of enslavement and liberation; it is as precise, taut and tough-minded as Morrison herself.
Kevin Nance, Poets & Writers (cover story)

Stunning . . . A Mercy deserves to be counted alongside some of [Morrison s] most acclaimed novels, such as Sula and Beloved. The stories in A Mercy are as layered and contested as the barely mapped topology traversed by its characters. Set in the 1680s, when this country s reliance on slavery as an economic engine was just beginning, A Mercy explores the repercussions of an enslaved mother s desperate act: She offers her small daughter to a stranger in payment for her master's debt. . . . Readers familiar with Morrison s work will recognize its quietly chilling evocations of the supernatural and depictions of powerful relationships among women. A bride and her new husband s female servant eye each other with suspicion that mellows into genuine mutual affection. A motherless child clings painfully to a childless mother. Transformative maternity defines A Mercy, beginning and ending with the devil s bargain referred to in the title and explained in the novel s devastating conclusion.
Neda Ulaby, NPR

Toni Morrison s short and forceful new novel unfolds in a primeval 17th-century America, before the familiar, invidious social institutions have taken root. Here, in a richly evoked land of plenty [where] a high-minded farmer named Jacob Vaark briefly presides over a small, peaceable kingdom of multiethnic lost souls and orphans. . . . Strangely beautiful and bittersweet.
Jennifer Reese, Entertainment Weekly

Toni Morrison continues to delve into the reverberations of slavery, motherhood, sacrifice and identity she wrote about in Beloved. Yet in her new novel, A Mercy, she draws a closer connection between how the past continues to be part of the present and the future. . . . Readers will be buoyed by the power and beauty of Morrison s words and will need a breath to absorb the timely implications of her stories about class, greed and intolerance. . . . Toni Morrison gives us another layered vision of the complicated character of America and how we survive.
Susanna Bullock, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Powerful . . . Morrison s prose is richly lyrical, compressed, intense. . . . Pulsing life [has been] imparted to her characters and the wholly convincing world they inhabit. . . . [The narrator] Florens and the blacksmith [she loves] generate much of the drama in A Mercy, and much of the thematic punch, too. Abandoned and betrayed as a child, Florens is a slave enslaved by love love for a free man who warns her, Own yourself, woman . . . Her lover s advice [can be thought of] as a shout across the centuries. This is what Toni Morrison has achieved: She has made the fate of her characters seem like an echo, far off yet distinct, of our own fate.
Adam Begley, New York Observer

[A Mercy] reads like the ur-text for all [Morrison s] previous fiction. Coincidentally or not, it also offers a bookend to a historic presidential candidacy that has prompted talk of a post-racial society. A Mercy examines what might be called a pre-racial America, the formative years at the end of the 17th century when our forebears still had a chance of turning their collective backs against slavery . . . [The narrator] Florens strange diction and obsession with the [man] she loves weave hypnotically through the book. . . . Morrison vaults over America s legacy of victimizing women and minorities to claim the more provocative turf that infuses much of her fiction. A Mercy tracks the beginnings of a system of oppression by focusing on the psychology of that oppression. . . . Powerful . . . Poetic.
Ellen Emry Heltzel, The Seattle Times

Compelling . . . [A Mercy] slyly probes the roots of American class and race resentment, and posits a plausible creation myth for our enduring culture war. A Mercy unfolds, Rashomon style, from various points of view across multiple time frames. Primary narrator Florens, a young slave in 1680s Maryland, has been sent to fetch a free African blacksmith who was once employed by her farm master, Dutch-English émigré Jacob Vaark, and with whom she s smitten. Florens perilous journey is contextualized by individual chapters told from the perspectives of [the other residents of Vaark s farm] . . . Their ruminations reveal a melting pot seasoned with a moral certitude and social withdrawal from the start. . . . [The novel s] power is in Morrison s fluid, compassionate synthesis of the plight of her band of outcasts, who come together but never quite cohere. Four stars.
Mark Holcomb, Time Out New York

Toni Morrison, the most important novelist of the last quarter century, is still writing about life s journeys: gut-wrenching pain, sun-scraping triumph, and all the gunk in between . . . A Mercy [is] a surprisingly tender story of a mother and daughter . . . It s like a spiritual prequel to Beloved.
Sean Fennessey, Vibe

Luminous, virtuosic . . . A gripping story that shows the author at the height of her magical-realist powers. Morrison makes us sense unearthly visions in slavery s grimmest origins, in mother s love s power of sacrifice and in the gamut of moralities that enabled some in the 18th century to subscribe to human bondage and others to reject it.
Celia McGee, Town & Country

Toni Morrison gives a different narrator to each chapter of [A Mercy], and the effect is of a circling collage that cumulatively forms a picture of pre-Revolutionary America. It s a daring, well-wrought concept . . . A Mercy does not contain a lot of pages, but they are dense with meaning and the pain of a group of disparate lives robbed of any kind of momentum, perhaps because Morrison s real subject is the birth of a new land, already corrupt in its cradle.
Scott Eyman, Palm Beach Post

In the 17th century, this country was a wild confederation of colonies. . . . Fear and danger were matched only by the force of determined survival. To describe this world requires more than mere words, to live among society s most downtrodden survivors takes more than strength. To do this takes a powerful guide, a writer like Toni Morrison, whose gift takes us into this world with A Mercy. Morrison has perhaps delivered her greatest book yet, a book so pared down to its essence that each staccato harmony passes by in an instant but resonates long after. She drops us into a place of darkness and uncertainty, slowly unfolding character and story, ever aware of a parallel spirit world and a chorus of voices following behind. . . . Morrison is a writer with a rare gift for words that is only matched by her subtlety of plot. Her complex characters allow for a painful intimacy . . . [A Mercy is] an unforgettable and marking experience.
Adera Causey, Chattanooga Free Press

A triumph . . . In [A Mercy,] Morrison takes you to a dark world in which women, White or Black, have little power. In the American wilderness of the late 1600s, danger has many faces. . . . Gorgeously written and haunted.
The Arizona Republic

[A Mercy] returns to the subject of slavery, [which Morrison] has already mined with exquisite power. . . . [Here] she probes the machine of slavery itself the routine acts of closing deals and settling debts by buying or selling human beings . . . Morrison narrates the ways in which race, gender and class continue to color our reading of slavery. She peers beneath the surface of the machine to reveal its murky underpinnings in religious disputes. She reminds us that although grace is unmerited favor and that a mercy is an unmitigated blessing, it is no easy feat to understand or even read about the consequences of either.
Marilyn Sanders Mobley, Ms.

In this brutal, well-crafted story, Morrison offers a nuanced explanation of a mercy that forgives those who enslave us, both literally and emotionally.
Christina Saratsis, Marie Claire

Florens is eight years old when she is sold away from her mother and sixteen when she speaks the intriguing first lines of Toni Morrison s A Mercy: Don t be afraid. . . . Each character is as precisely, lovingly drawn as those in Beloved. . . . This is a book to read twice. First: eagerly, heart-in-your-throat, in desperation for the wrenching finale. Second: slowly, lingering over Morrison s prose, which is probably the closest thing to true poetry you will find in a modern novel . . . Our reaction to this newest historical novel by the Nobel laureate is not, What a shame this happened to these long-dead, not-quite-real people, but This could have been me walking barefoot through a forest, giving birth on a riverbank. . . . A Mercy not only belongs on all of next year s literary prize shortlists, but on the bookshelf of all those who consider themselves serious students of American history.
Stephanie Eve Boone, The Buffalo News

Toni Morrison s great gift is to blend the exotic and supernatural with the homely and realistic. No character in a Morrison novel is too meager to glisten with the magical dust of myth, legend, fairy tale and folklore. A Mercy dives straight to the core of the American myth. . . . Morrison has written a lean, poetic book that is compacted with secrets and desires. Like the story itself, her language is alternately spare and lush, often hopeful.
Catherine Holmes, The Charleston Post and Courier

[Morrison] subtly exposes contradictions that have been part of the American dream from the outset. If Beloved was written in a prophet s voice, A Mercy is the work of an elderly sage. Set in the late 1600s along the Eastern Seaboard, Morrison s novel centers on the farm of an upwardly mobile immigrant, Jacob Vaark [who] acquires a young slave named Florens in exchange for a debt. . . . Vaark s world may be the narrative stage throughout, but the stories drift, Faulkner-like, through the different perspectives of the characters, especially Florens. Morrison returns in the end to the transaction that gave Florens to Vaark, and in a moving climax recasts the coldness of the men s negotiation as a mother s gesture of love the title s displaced mercy. . . . The poignancy [of this moment] gets elevated by Morrison s terse theological critique: It was not a miracle. Bestowed by god. It was a mercy. Offered by a human. Slavery, needless to say, was flourishing in an overtly Christian society, and in this staccato judgment Morrison damns religion with its own best language. . . . A Mercy achieves a vivid sense of time and place. . . . A wise, compelling novel whose hopeful title is hard-won and shadowed hard by threats that are all too familiar.
Todd Shy, Raleigh News & Observer

Always engaging and lyrically written . . . I like being kept off center [by Morrison s novels], the text luring me in, slowly, sinuously revealing mysteries and connections, one elaborate revelation after another. We re in Virginia in 1690 in this sumptuously written novel, with its images from dreams, folklore, visions, confrontations and incidents, amid a lush but dangerous wilderness . . . Morrison explores in luminous detail all of [her] characters attitudes, hopes, terrors and frustrations. . . . Such a brief review must give short shrift to Morrison s rich prose, the lucid and poetic densities of her sentences and images. This textual depth is more than half the fun of all her books, seducing us with almost musical tones into the dark mysteries of the human heart in our dark land of black and white.
Sam Coale, The Providence Journal

More tone poem than unabashed fiction, [A Mercy is] a series of emotional episodes revealing an ugly portrait of this country s earliest days. . . . Through it all is the very human ability to survive, to endure unimaginable pain. . . . Morrison s prose makes it impossible to wallow in the story s obvious misery. . . . Her world [is] a savage realm that retains some beauty thanks to the author s staggering gifts.
Christian Toto, The Denver Post

Breathtaking . . . Beguiling . . . Fast-moving and poignant. . . . By concentrating on the denizens of one homestead, Morrison is able to limn the entire disorder of early America. It s one of the reasons this short novel is so powerful Morrison s deep and sympathetic focus on a handful of lives. Each chapter concentrates on one character, and as the book unfolds, the story is revealed, slowly, with magisterial grace. The end result is satisfying and stirring. . . . The strength of A Mercy is Morrison s lucid eye, her uncanny ability to create character studies that are memorable and that, through her lapidary approach, tell a tale that is profound and important. In her hands, character is story. . . . Like William Faulkner, Toni Morrison has honed a personal experimental style that pays great attention to rhythm and diction. Like Faulkner, she is understated and cerebral while creating gothic grotesqueries in an agrarian setting. A Mercy, for all its brevity, will be celebrated and discussed along with Morrison s best work.
Corey Mesler, Memphis Flyer Online

Reaching back to 1682 on the Atlantic coast of America, Morrison describes a dangerous Eden, a simmering, pungent stew of Angolan slaves, transplanted London guttersnipes, Portuguese plantation owners, Dutch traders and the pox-ridden remnants of original peoples. . . . Morrison s lush prose has always had a mesmeric quality . . . The music and mystery of [her] language is still abundant.
Janice P. Nimura, Newsday

Smooth and alluring . . . There is hardship, injustice and misery [in A Mercy]. But there is also hope and beauty and mercy, in the face of wrenching choices. And there is the poetic vibrance of Morrison s writing, especially in the voice of the semiliterate Florens. . . . She lasts, as do the other characters in A Mercy they are a window into our past, and also into our present.
Lisa McLendon, The Wichita Eagle

As evocative and haunting as Beloved . . . Morrison recently told National Public Radio that she sought in this novel to remove race from slavery. . . . By reminding us that many white Americans also can trace their ancestry back to people who were enslaved, Morrison has deepened our understanding of human history and the complex legacy of slavery in America.
Emily Seelbinder, The Charlotte Observer

I loved it. A Mercy is tender, brutal, quiet and urgent, with a cast of characters that will make you forget you re reading a novel. . . . If you re looking for a short novel that will, at the end, make you want to turn around and experience it again, get A Mercy and sacrifice some time. You won t be sorry.
Terri Schlichenmeyer, The Philadelphia Tribune

Like Armstrong hitting the mountain stages, [Toni Morrison] is in the zone. . . . There are an infinite number of stories in [A Mercy], with each new character s narrative throwing light onto unexpected sides of the people we thought we knew. When Morrison takes us into a world, we do not visit it; we inhabit it. . . . One of her great skills is her uncanny ear; every voice is unique, simultaneously sounding like both past and present. . . . Perhaps the greatest pleasure of the book lies in drawing one in so completely; there are no places where faulty construction hurls us back into reality.
Elinor Teele, California Literary Review

In 1690, Anglo-Dutch trader Jacob Vaark . . . reluctantly decides to accept a young slave girl, Florens, as partial compensation [for a debt]. Taken from her baby brother and her mother, who thinks that giving up her daughter to a kinder slave owner is an act of mercy, Florens finds herself in the midst of a community of women striving to understand their burdens of sorrow and grief and to discover the mercies of love. Much as she did in Paradise, Morrison hauntingly weaves the stories of these women into a colorful tale of loss, despair, hope, and love. . . . Magical, mystical, and memorable, Morrison s poignant parable of mercies hidden and revealed belongs in every library.
Henry L. Carrigan, Library Journal (starred)

Nobel laureate Morrison returns more explicitly to the net of pain cast by slavery, a theme she detailed so memorably in Beloved. Set at the close of the 17th century, [A Mercy] details America s untoward foundation: dominion over Native Americans, indentured workers, women and slaves. A slave at a plantation in Maryland offers up her daughter, Florens, to a relatively humane Northern farmer, Jacob, as debt payment from their owner. The ripples of this choice spread to the inhabitants of Jacob s farm, populated by women with intersecting and conflicting desires. . . . Morrison s lyricism infuses the shifting voices of her characters as they describe a brutal society being forged in the wilderness. Morrison s unflinching narrative is all the more powerful for its relative brevity; it takes hold of the reader and doesn t let go until the wrenching final-page crescendo.
Publishers Weekly (starred)

Brilliant . . . Riveting, even poetic. . . . The time is the late 1600s, when what will become the U.S. remains a chain of colonies along the Atlantic coast. Not only does slavery still exist, it is a thriving industry that translates into plenty of business for lots of people. . . . [Morrison] has shown a partiality for the chorus method of storytelling, wherein a group of individuals who are involved in a single event or incident tell their versions of what happened, the individual voices maintaining their distinctiveness while their personal tales overlap each other with a layering effect that gives Morrison s prose its resonance and deep sheen of enameling. Here the voices belong to the women associated with Virginia planter Jacob Vaark . . . these women include the long-suffering Rebekka, his wife; Lina and Sorrow, slave women with unique perspectives on the events taking place on Vaark s plantation; and Florens, a slave girl whom Vaark accepts as partial payment on a debt and whose separation from her mother is the pivotal event around which Morrison weaves her short but deeply involving story. A fitting companion to her highly regarded Beloved.
Brad Hooper, Booklist (starred)

Abandonment, betrayal and loss are the themes of this latest exploration of America s morally compromised history from Morrison. All of the characters she sets down in the colonial landscape circa 1690 are bereft, none more evidently so than Florens, 16-year-old slave of Jacob Vaark and his wife Rebekka. . . . Jacob reluctantly took Florens in settlement of a debt from a Maryland landowner. Her own mother offered her so as not to be traded with Florens infant brother, the girl thinks. (The searing final monologue reveals it was not so simple.) Florens joined a household of misfits somewhere in the North. Jacob was a poor orphan who came to America to make a new start; Rebekka s parents essentially sold her to him to spare themselves her upkeep. . . . They take in others similarly devastated. Lina, raped by a Europe, has been cast out by her Native American tribe. Mixed-race Sorrow survived a shipwreck only to be made pregnant by her rescuer . . . Willard and Scully are indentured servants, farmed out to Jacob by their contract holders, who keep fraudulently extending their time. . . . America was founded on the involuntary servitude of blacks and whites, [and] the colonies are rife with people who belong nowhere else and anxiously strive to find something to hold onto in the New World. [With] gorgeous language and a powerful understanding of the darkest regions of the human heart . . . this allusive, elusive little gem adds its own luster to the Nobel Laureate s shimmering body of work.
Kirkus Reviews

An intimate, insightful, and surprisingly relevant look at the ties that bind us in relationships.
Good Housekeeping

Morrison s storytelling genius is fully blooming in A Mercy, told from the viewpoints of a number of characters, the most significant being Florens, a young black slave. . . . Morrison creates a magical voice for Florens that lifts readers up on a swirling arc of prose, which makes all [her] despair and heartbreak almost tolerable. Florens could be describing how Morrison captivates her readers when she says I can never not have you have me.
Vick Mickunas, Dayton Daily News

The fact that readers will be astonished by what they discover [in 17th-century Virginia] is a testament to how different that world was from our own, and also to the author s uncanny gift for inhabiting the nuances of place, character and situation. . . . Morrison weaves a rich tangle of human stories and interactions . . . [She has created] a world filled with wonder that we have to piece together for ourselves, out of the characters wildly divergent partial impressions and imperfect understandings. By requiring this act of imagination from her readers, Morrison enriches the experience and brings it closer in, sometimes so close it seems to jump off the page.
Peter Magnani, San Jose Mercury News

[Morrison] negotiates the twisted intersection of race, class and gender in America better and more fully than any writer has ever done. A Mercy, continues this journey, following the tangled threads of our history all the way back to the beginning, when the very idea of America was still struggling to be born. The result is Morrison s best novel since Beloved. . . . Using her trademark kaleidoscopic approach, Morrison allows [her] characters to unspool their unique stories [which] succeed in depicting complicated, conflicted beings. . . . The overarching lesson of A Mercy is that history is not foreordained. In an ending that both echoes and diverges from the infanticide hanging over Beloved, we watch another mother make a very different and more hopeful choice regarding her daughter s fate. In its repeated insistence that such choice is possible, A Mercy not only transcends a monolithic and static view of slavery, racism and the American past. It also pays homage to our collective power to imagine a better future.
Mike Fischer, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Achingly beautiful . . . A Mercy reads like poetry, with vivid descriptions and emotional dialogue. . . . It is full of sorrow, sacrifice and pain. But it ends with a ray of light, a description of the ultimate mercy.
Laura L. Hutchinson, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star

Morrison is a woman whose stories find transcendence in even the darkest periods of history. Her latest novel, A Mercy, casts an unflinching eye on slave trade in the 17th century. It s heartbreaking, luminous, and a solemn reminder of our nation s history.
Redbook

A Mercy takes on slavery in its infancy and reveals what lies beneath the surface. It s an ambivalent and disturbing story, sparingly written, including rejection, abandonment and acts of mercy with unforeseen consequences.
Ebony

Morrison is as good as her many awards say. . . . Her use of language . . . makes you feel the emotion of the characters, demanding understanding and sympathy, not letting you avoid it with the explanation it s only a story. A Mercy is an outstanding addition to Morrison s list, probably destined for the next best work of American fiction poll in 2020.
Sacramento Book Review

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