I just finished reading A Mercy, Toni Morrison’s latest novel. I should call it a novella since it’s only 167 pages, but though this volume might be slim, it packs plenty of substance. It is suggested that this story is a kind of prequel to Beloved, her Novel Prize-winning masterpiece. As it happens, Beloved was my first experience with Morrison, whom I only decided to delve into last year. I have no intention of comparing the two stories, especially since I find the only thing the two books have in common is the theme of slavery.
A Mercy brings us back to the 1680’s when America was still made up of collonies and slavery was in its early stages. Jacob Vaark settles into farm life with a mail-order bride from England and though he is opposed to slavery, is cornered into taking little Florens as payment for a bad debt. As the story progresses, we learn more about each character living on that farm; Rebekka, his wife, Lina, a native indian girl, and Sorrow, a black orphaned girl found on a ship. The narrative takes us from one character to another, with Florens’ voice describing a solitary journey to go find the man she is in love with. Morrison’s prose is beautifully poetic and the voice she uses when writing from Florens’ perspective seems to truly come alive.