God Help the Child
By Toni Morrison
Vintage, Paperback, 9780307740922, January 2016, 192pp.
The Short of It:
What you say to a child, whether good or bad, affects them long into adulthood.
The Rest of It:
A baby born with blue-black skin is raised by her mother, Sweetness, who can easily pass for white. The difference in skin color is a constant burden to Sweetness, who takes it upon herself to “toughen” the girl up. Perhaps, to save her from future hurt.
As the girl grows into a young woman, she assumes the name Bride and reinvents herself; embracing the skin color she’s been given. But the events of the past and the lack of affection she received as a child carry into her other relationships. Her boyfriend leaves her without any explanation, her friend sits in the wings waiting for the perfect opportunity to take over her business, and the relationship with her mother continues to test the boundaries of what a mother-daughter relationship should be.
God Help the Child is both the title of this book and Morrison’s plea to the reader. Her message is clear. What you say and you do to children leaves a mark and all of the characters in this book are examples of this. Although it’s a short read, I never felt as if it was too short or underdeveloped. Some of the members of my book club did feel that it was somewhat abbreviated in the telling but there was still plenty to discuss.
Of course, the writing is lovely. There were some passages that I just read over and over again because they were so beautifully written. For a book club read, you really can’t go wrong with Morrison.
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