A Beloved Prelude

A Mercy by Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison’s latest offering, A Mercy, is the author at her best.  A seeming companion to Beloved, the novel tells the story of a household microcosm of the early seeds of slavery in the Americas.  While Morrison shifts artfully between the voices of many, the story focuses primarily around Florens, a young girl offered to a rare un-cruel trader as payment for her own master’s debt.  Florens spends her life under Sir, formally Jacob Vaark, seeking companionship first with Lina, a Native American slave that takes the young girl under wing, and second, with a free black, Vaark’s blacksmith.  Throughout the novel, though, the reader learns the plights of many different walks of human life during this time: the indentured servant in Walter and Scully, the “witch” in Daughter Jane, the savage in Lina, the religiously persecuted European in Rebekka and finally the tragically used-up Sorrow, who is perhaps the representation of what would have happened to Florens had she not been mercifully released by her mother.  This is surely a tragedy, but one that is made even more stark by Morrison’s lyrical prose.

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