50 Books by Authors of Color: Book 36
Title: A Mercy
Author: Toni Morrison
I’m not sure why Toni Morrison names female characters after intangible things, Beloved, Sorrow, but by doing so she gives us a hint as to what the books overall theme would be. While Beloved is the tale of how far a mother’s love can go A Mercy is about the sorrow that the beloved children and mother’s go through after their separation from each other.
A Mercy is the story of three women all from different backgrounds who all reside on the farm of Jacob Vaark. The first is Lina, a Native American servant/slave, one of the few survivors of her tribe’s decimation by small pox. Florens, a black slave who believes that she was her mother’s ‘throw away child’ when she is offered up as repayment to her mother’s owner’s debt. And Rebekka, Jacob’s wife, a white woman who moved from England, who lost three sons within a year of their birth, and her daughter Patrician, who outlived the boys only to die of a horse kick at the age of five.
When the family patriarch Jacob becomes ill and dies of small pox, the women are both brought together and forced apart in their time of sorrow – see there’s that word again -. Anyway, Florens is sent to seek help from a free African blacksmith who knows something of herbal remedies, and whom Florens loves, after Rebekka becomes ill. Lena tries to maintain the house while wondering if Florens, whom she loves like a daughter will return and Sorrow, alone and psychotic, is preoccupied with her imaginary “twin” and her pregnancy.
This books is so bittersweet, each woman has her own private loss that she is dealing with and it’s touching to see how all of the women work together to try and survive. This book shows how the loss of Jacob brings them as close as they could possibly be, while fracturing their relationship and changing everything forever.
Overall Rating: 4/5