God Help the Child by Toni Morrison
I have a confession to make, this is my first ever Toni Morrison book. I have to tell you, I was expecting more. This seems to be a matter of so much author hype and awards that I would have thought any book by Toni Morrison would blow me away. I was expecting to be emotionally wrung out and in one of those post-book funks when I finished and that just wasn’t the case.
Publisher’s Description: Spare and unsparing, God Help the Child—the first novel by Toni Morrison to be set in our current moment—weaves a tale about the way the sufferings of childhood can shape, and misshape, the life of the adult.
At the center: a young woman who calls herself Bride, whose stunning blue-black skin is only one element of her beauty, her boldness and confidence, her success in life, but which caused her light-skinned mother to deny her even the simplest forms of love. There is Booker, the man Bride loves, and loses to anger. Rain, the mysterious white child with whom she crosses paths. And finally, Bride’s mother herself, Sweetness, who takes a lifetime to come to understand that “what you do to children matters. And they might never forget.”
A fierce and provocative novel that adds a new dimension to the matchless oeuvre of Toni Morrison.
Possible spoilers beyond this point.
Agent Annie says…
I thought the story of a young woman figuring out who she is and what’s important to you was a valid premise, but I didn’t connect with the main character, Bride nor her troubles. It’s obvious that Toni Morrison hits the mark with modern day issues and the experience of a poor black woman and how hard it is to raise children as a single mother. She even does a fair job of illuminating how children are preyed upon when they are so powerless, but I feel that story has been told…MANY times. What was different was the use of the physical changes in her main characters as she reverted back to her childhood thinking. It added a bit of mystery to the outcome, but I don’t think it was strong enough.
The ending fell flat for me as well. Throughout the story, we have Bride reflecting on her mother and how she was raised and the mental messages from her mother that still did damage to the adult Bride. Morrison chooses to start and complete the novel from the perspective of the mother, but there is no great catharsis or confrontation. It just seems to fizzle flat and as an aside almost, a mention is made that the cycle is doomed to repeat and the title should speak for itself. I give this book a 3 at most and that’s a real stretch.
If you like this book…
…hmm, maybe stick with Beloved or some of the more popular Toni Morrison novels.