God Help the Child by Toni Morrison

imagesToni Morrison’s latest novel, God Help the Child, is riveting. It may be my favorite Toni Morrison novel yet…and it’s hard for me to even have a favorite Toni Morrison novel. I enjoy entertainment…the high arts of existential drama and the low arts of tv sitcom. Toni Morrison doesn’t do entertainment…she said so when she received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. There is a reason why she is the Nobel prize winner. She’s brilliant.

As always, Morrison’s theme is the experience of African-Americans, particularly women. She has a way of interweaving mythic and poetic themes into her novels. This story is about the journey of a woman born too black, unloved by her mother, trying to become a woman herself, the path that led her on and the mistakes she made because of it all. It is a triumphal story of Lula Ann, who changes her name to Bride, and her story of neglect and child abuse. It’s also about perseverance and the lies we tell ourselves to justify our actions. Kara Walker, of the New York Times calls it a “modern-­day fairy tale with shades of the Brothers Grimm: imaginative cruelties visited on children; a journey into the woods; a handsome, vanished lover; witchy older women and a blunt moral —What you do to children matters. And they might never forget.” And it is that and much more. The witchy older woman, Queen, who plays a transformative role in Bride’s life, may actually be a stand-in for Morrison herself. If you have read any of Morrison’s books you know that her writing can be brutal. This one is not…it’s very grounded and cohesive. The novel is less than 200 pages and the prose is poetic. Highly recommended.

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