Written by Toni Morrison
Published by Alfred A. Knopf
Review by Meredith Allard
I have been a Toni Morrison fan for years, since my time as an English major in college when we were assigned The Bluest Eye and Beloved as part of a modern literature class. Immediately I fell in love with her style, with the poetry in her prose and the way the language pulled me into her stories and made me part of the worlds she created. It is a style I have more or less successfully (usually less successfully) tried to emulate in my own writing. No one writes like Toni Morrison but Toni Morrison, and if you love her writing you will love her newest novel. Even at a scant 167 pages, A Mercy does not disappoint.
A Mercy is set in the late 17th century during the American colonial period. Florens is a slave girl who is given away from her master’s house where her mother lives to settle a debt with Jacob, a trader. Florens then struggles to create ties in Jacob’s home. After Jacob dies, his wife and servants must make their way without him, not an easy task in the 17th century. Florens falls in love with a blacksmith, but that relationship falters. In the end the story is a tragedy, but it offers a poetic insight into the lives of women during the tumultuous time of the American colonies.
Morrison’s prose in A Mercy has the same fluid flow of her other novels. She moves seamlessly between the voices of the different characters, from Florens to Lina, the Native American servant she bonds with, and from Jacob to his wife. We are drawn into their world, and we understand their struggles and their longings. Though the story is compact, it is complete, and Morrison’s style remains one of the best in the English language today. She is an American master.
Meredith Allard is the Executive Editor of The Copperfield Review.