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Reviews for A Mercy

by Toni Morrison

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

*Starred Review* In its first pages, Morrison's latest novel seems to be a retread of the author's old themes, settings, and narrative voice; however, it quickly achieves its own brilliant identity. 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. These factors coalesce to provide the atmosphere and plot points for Morrison's riveting, even poetic, new novel. She has shown a partiality for the chorus method of storytelling, wherein a group of indivuals 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, who has quickly risen from ratty orphan to a man of means; 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.--Hooper, Brad Copyright 2008 Booklist


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

In 1690, Anglo-Dutch trader Jacob Vaark sets off from New Amsterdam to collect a debt from a landowner in Maryland. Arriving at the plantation, Vaark discovers that the debtor cannot pay, and Vaark reluctantly decides to accept a young slave girl, Florens, as partial compensation. 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. Knitted together with Florens's own tale of her search to be reunited with her mother are the wrenching stories of Sorrow, a young woman who spent most of her time at sea before coming to Vaark's home; Lina, a Native American healer and storyteller who looks after Florens as a mother would a daughter; and Rebekka, Vaark's wife and Florens's mistress, who endures her own persecution, loss, and sorrow. Magical, mystical, and memorable, Morrison's poignant parable of mercies hidden and revealed belongs in every library. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/08.]--Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Evanston, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

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, the book 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. Jacob's wife, Rebekka, struggles with her faith as she loses one child after another to the harsh New World. A Native servant, Lina, survivor of a smallpox outbreak, craves Florens's love to replace the family taken from her, and distrusts the other servant, a peculiar girl named Sorrow. When Jacob falls ill, all these women are threatened. 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. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

In this prequel to Beloved, a Catholic plantation owner satisfies a debt by offering Anglo-Dutch trader Jacob Vaark a young slave girl-whose mother hopes she will find a better life. What follows is a tale of love, disease, and the brutality of slavery. (LJ 10/15/08) (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Is it truly a mercy for a mother to give up her daughter to a less fearsome owner? Nobel laureate Morrison explores that awful question in coruscating prose, tracing the human cost of slavery back to Colonial America while reminding us of love's binding power. It's almost unimaginable that Morrison could best herself-but she has. (LJ 10/15/08) (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

In the 1680s, as payment for a bad debt, Anglo-Dutch trader Jacob accepts a slave girl named Florens, whose anguished mother hopes she'll have a better life. With a four-city tour. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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