A historical novel set in 1690 about the origins of racism in the United States that isn't obvious or cliched in any way. Morrison creates a sense of the narrow confines of this society. These characters, each suffering from a lack of mothering, do the best they can in lives that are severely circumscribed. Amazing stuff on the origins of racial prejudice and ideas of slavery, ownership of persons and indentured servitude--and how people treat children. A particularly compelling scene is the young slave woman at the center of the novel being examined by some people who suspect her of witchcraft--she's been enslaved her whole life and seen harsh things, but she's stunned that they view her body in this way. It's like watching the beginning of something horrible unfolding right there.
I found the book difficult to read. The author used long run on sentences making the story hard to follow. She often used she or he, then changed characters using he or she again making it confusing to know who she, the author, was talking about. There were some interesting characters, but the book jumped around so it was difficult to keep up with where the story was going.
Character-driven rather than plot-driven, the genius of this story lies in the distinct voices Morrison has created for each of her narrators. From the struggling young farmer yearning for riches to the black girl he reluctantly accepts as payment for a debt, from the mad castaway taken into his household for pity to the wife he accepted sight unseen, from the quiet slave who mothers them all to the black freeman whose coming unhinges them all, each voice tells part of the story.
This book is a bit confusing, but if you stick with it, it will all make sense. It's an interesting read, for sure. It's short, but a good look at early slavery and the life of a young girl caught up in a world she has no control over. Morrison uses several characters to tell the story, in their own way and time. The prose is beautiful, haunting, and painful.
Only 167 pages long, A Mercy is a much easier read than Beloved, but doesn't have the narrative pull of Song of Solomon. The prose is typical Toni Morrison, lyrical and vague. I always feel like I'm missing something when I read Morrison, but that piece almost always gets put into place later in the story - it seems like an afterthought, but of course it's so deliberate. I enjoyed this book, but would have liked more concrete narrative and a more definite plotline.
This was my first Toni Morrison book. She is a gifted writer and parts of the book read like poetry. Read to the end. Deals with issues of slavery in very early colonial America. Interesting expressing the thoughts and feelings of a person that has little language. I found it very thoughtful.