Tag Archives: A Mercy

Review: A Mercy

A Mercy
Toni Morrison
Pub. Date: November 2008
Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
Format: Compact Disc
ISBN-13: 9780739332542
ISBN: 0739332546
Edition Description: Unabridged, 4 CDs

The blurb from the publisher:

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.

The Short of It:

Read by the author, this is a mesmerizing story of love, betrayal and pain.

The Rest of It:

I’ve read a few of Morrison’s books and I always have trouble with them. For me, the words lack a certain rhythm and I find myself re-reading pages that I’ve just read. I never understood the draw. That said, my book group chose A Mercy for October’s discussion and I was sort of dreading it and looking forward to it at the same time.

For one, it’s been years since I’ve read one of her books. Perhaps I’ve grown as a reader. Perhaps my experience this time will be different. I promptly went out and got the book, read a chapter or two and then stopped. Nope, still the same. Still haltingly strange for me. So then I ordered the book on audio. It’s read by Toni Morrison and I figured that if it didn’t strike a chord with me, and she was reading it as it was meant to be heard, then I would give up on Morrison altogether.

I’m happy to report that I loved it! Morrison’s voice is melodic at times but definitely has a certain cadence to it. That haltingly strange way of speaking that I mentioned in the book form, is present in her speech patterns, but hearing her voice brought it all together for me. I then went back to the book and had no problems reading it. Have you ever done that?

After smoothing all this out, I settled into the story and found it to be haunting at times, yet the strength of these women amazed me. There is a wonderful interview with the author at the end of the audio book which should not be missed. Now that I’ve had this experience, I plan to re-read some of her other books.

Have you ever had a hard time reading a famous author and then wondered what all the fuss was about? Have you ever resorted to the audio book to see if it was different in some way?