This selection is one that has been on my radar for quite some time and recently I feared I had omitted it from my current list of 100. Quite fortunately, once I confirmed its inclusion, I decided it was high time I read this well-known book.
While I typically skip forewords, in this instance I did not, and after doing so was certain I was in for quite a treat. Ms. Morrison’s writing is so extraordinary, she is more than worthy of all the accolades she has received. I believe this should be required reading for all students, whether in an English or a History class. I must say this is one of the best books I have ever had the pleasure to read and I certainly plan on reading more of her works.
Based on the true life of Margaret Garner, Beloved unfurls the sorrowful life of an enslaved mother of four who escapes slavery only to be found. In desperation, she resorts to an extreme act she believes is in the best interest of her family. Through various voices, we learn the horrors of slave life and how those who do manage to survive, exist or barely endure their remaining days.
Sethe is the mother whose life has always included suffering. Born a slave, she never knows her mother and endures physical, sexual and emotional tortures no one should have to experience. She is very protective of her family and is driven by her desire to all she can to keep them from the horrors she has been forced to bear. After escaping, unthinkable tragedy follows and the freedom she eventually gains is nearly for naught as she is a prisoner without a cell, shunned by her community and haunted by her transgressions.
Born in a boat during her mother’s escape, Denver is a caring and introspective young woman. She has inherited her protection of family and remains isolated, the child of the town’s pariah. Able to see beyond what lies before her, she eventually steps outside 124 Bluestone Road with little more than hope and curiosity.
Another escapee, Paul D. arrives at Sethe’s after years of roaming and working on a chain gang. Like Sethe he has repressed much of his past experiences and is not eager to revisit them. He asks little and seems unaware of the family’s situation. After he uncovers the truth about Sethe, he leaves abruptly in fear of opening his emotional tobacco tin and attempts to drown himself in alcohol. Ultimately, he redeems himself and Sethe as well.
I fear I would stutter and fumble in the presence of Ms. Morrison, but I believe she would be gracious and kind and put me at my ease. I’d love to ask her about her early love of reading and how it influenced her adult life. Perhaps she’d allow me to squeeze her hand upon departing and pass along some literary juices to flow into my finders.
My rating for Beloved is a 10 out of 10.
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