A Mercy by Toni Morrison

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Synopsis

National Bestseller

One of The New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year

In the 1680s the slave trade in the Americas is still in its infancy. Jacob Vaark is an Anglo-Dutch trader and adventurer, with a small holding in the harsh North. Despite his distaste for dealing in “flesh,” he takes a small slave girl in part payment for a bad debt from a plantation owner in Catholic Maryland. This is Florens, who can read and write and might be useful on his farm. Rejected by her mother, Florens looks for love, first from Lina, an older servant woman at her new master's house, and later from the handsome blacksmith, an African, never enslaved, who comes riding into their lives.

A Mercy reveals what lies beneath the surface of slavery. But at its heart, like Beloved, it is the ambivalent, disturbing story of a mother and a daughter—a mother who casts off her daughter in order to save her, and a daughter who may never exorcise that abandonment.




From the Trade Paperback edition.
 

About Toni Morrison

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Toni Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. She is the author of many novels, including The Bluest Eye, Beloved (made into a major film), Paradise and, most recently, Home. She has also received the National Critics Circle Award and a Pulitzer Prize for her fiction. In addition to Desdemona her theatrical work includes writing the text for Margaret Garner (music composed by Richard Danielpour) and Dreaming Emmett, an published play directed by Gilbert Moses and performed at the Marketplace Capitol Repertory Theater of Albany. Ms. Morrison has written lyrics for Kathleen Battle (commissioned by Carnegie Hall), Sylvia McNair, Jessye Norman, and Andre Previn. Ms. Morrison founded the Princeton Atelier which for fifteen years has brought actors, composers, writers, and artists of all genres together to work with students on the artists' own projects. Several of her novels including The Bluest Eye have been adapted for the stage.Rokia Traoré is a Victoires de la Musique award-winning Malian singer, songwriter and guitarist.Peter Sellars is one of the most innovative and powerful forces in the performing arts in America and abroad. A visionary artist, Sellars is known for his groundbreaking interpretations of classic works.
 
Published November 4, 2008 by Vintage. 290 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for A Mercy

The New York Times

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Toni Morrison’s remarkable new novella, “A Mercy,” is, at once, a kind of prelude to “Beloved” and a variation on that earlier book’s exploration of the personal costs of slavery.

Nov 04 2008 | Read Full Review of A Mercy

The New York Times

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In this novel of the 17th century, Morrison performs her deepest excavation yet into America’s history and exhumes our twin original sins: the enslavement of Africans and the near extermination of Native Americans.

Nov 30 2008 | Read Full Review of A Mercy

The Guardian

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Tiny communities of people who have come across the Atlantic to escape religious persecution or prison do their best to survive whatever this raw place throws at them: blighted crops, bears, attacks by natives, smallpox.

Jun 19 2009 | Read Full Review of A Mercy

The Guardian

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A Mercy by Toni Morrison Buy it from the Guardian bookshop Search the Guardian bookshop It's 1690 on the eastern seaboard of America.

Jun 20 2009 | Read Full Review of A Mercy

The Guardian

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A Mercy by Toni Morrison Buy it from the Guardian bookshop Search the Guardian bookshop Seventeenth-century North America: a time when deep superstition fights for ...

Jun 21 2009 | Read Full Review of A Mercy

The Guardian

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When Florens, the central figure of Toni Morrison's new novel, asks on the first page "Can you read?", she is not inquiring about any simple kind of literacy.

Nov 08 2008 | Read Full Review of A Mercy

The Guardian

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In her essay 'Playing in the Dark', Toni Morrison looked back to the founding of America and observed: 'What was distinctive in the New World was, first of all, its claim to freedom, and second, the presence of the unfree within the heart of the democratic experiment.' This sentiment - that ideal...

Oct 26 2008 | Read Full Review of A Mercy

BC Books

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Toni Morrison’s new book A Mercy is not much longer than a novella. But don’t ...

Dec 01 2008 | Read Full Review of A Mercy

BC Books

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Continued on the next page Page 1 — Page 2 — Page 3

Dec 01 2008 | Read Full Review of A Mercy

Star Tribune

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An evocative, very human novel about a slave girl in love with a free black man.

Nov 17 2008 | Read Full Review of A Mercy

Book Reporter

Like many Americans, I was first introduced to the work of Toni Morrison during my freshman year of college, when I read THE BLUEST EYE as part of a literature survey course.

Nov 11 2008 | Read Full Review of A Mercy

AV Club

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Toni Morrison's latest is little more than a novella, but it's surprisingly rich all the same.

Dec 03 2008 | Read Full Review of A Mercy

AV Club

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apart from Lina, he owns no slaves and has no interest in them, but the Florens' mother offers up her child for reasons beyond Jacob or Florens' understanding, and he can't help but accept.

Dec 03 2008 | Read Full Review of A Mercy

The Telegraph

Morrison's fiction is never prescriptive: just as there are good men - even good white men - in her novels, there is always the possibility of humanity breaching barriers.

Nov 14 2008 | Read Full Review of A Mercy

Pajiba

As Morrison makes clear, all women in this world are at the mercy of the men in their lives;

Dec 17 2008 | Read Full Review of A Mercy

Curled Up

Black men, most of them free, worked side by side with the newly arrived whites, .

Feb 02 2015 | Read Full Review of A Mercy

About.com Bestsellers

Indeed, the the simple story is told in several voices, but reading these voices in succession weaves a tapestry that tells a larger story about America's history of slavery and the extermination of Native Americans.

Jan 27 2013 | Read Full Review of A Mercy

New York Magazine

But her stated purpose—defining an America where race isn’t everything—couldn’t be clearer: “There is no civilization that did not rest on unpaid labor—not Athens, not Russia, not England, no one,” she says.

Aug 24 2008 | Read Full Review of A Mercy

The Novel World

I read Beloved in high school and in college and I’ve read a few other Morrison novels but not Song of Solomon and not for a few years.

Nov 10 2008 | Read Full Review of A Mercy

Reviews of Books

Washington Post reviewby Ron Charles.

Feb 02 2015 | Read Full Review of A Mercy

truthdig

Hoping to find out what happens to the children once they arrive in the United States, I visited the health center, St. John’s Well Child & Family Center, which runs a network of clinics serving the poor in a wide area of South Los Angeles.

Aug 07 2014 | Read Full Review of A Mercy

truthdig

Standing stalwartly against any regulation of these weapons and high-capacity magazines, the National Rifle Association continues to block any gun-control laws whatsoever, and even trumpets its efforts to block the global Arms Trade Treaty, slated for negotiations at the United Nations this March.

Dec 26 2012 | Read Full Review of A Mercy

truthdig

Paul believes this nonsense , if you don’t believe me just check out Newsweek from several weeks ago , its all there .

Dec 22 2007 | Read Full Review of A Mercy

truthdig

Invasion of the Body Snatchers comes to mind and War .

Nov 10 2009 | Read Full Review of A Mercy

truthdig

for then we are simply taking the shysters place and justifying our actions ( we’ll be blinded to the truth and reality and may trade temporary comfort for a clear conscience ).

Sep 07 2010 | Read Full Review of A Mercy

Nonsuch Book

Morrison responded directly noting that historically "regional writer" was used as a pejorative term against women writers, noting the popular notions about Eudora Welty as a "regional writer" — as if to say that these women writers' "regional" work did not sufficiently carry the weight to speak ...

Dec 05 2008 | Read Full Review of A Mercy

Reader Rating for A Mercy
72%

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