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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

A Mercy

A Mercy - Toni Morrison Don't you just hate it when others get a joke you don't? Find meaning in a mundane object? Discover the hidden image in those pictures you stare into? Love a book that really isn't all that wonderful?"Powerful." "Spellbinding." "Amazing." "A masterpiece." "Magnificent." "Astonishing." These are all words I pulled from the big paper's editorial reviews of Toni Morrison's latest novel, A Mercy. I love Morrison, and I have been excited about reading her newest work since I first heard it was coming out. Despite my hope for this book, however, I cannot find what is so "Amazing" about it. Of course anything by Morrison is worth celebrating, especially after five years, but regrettably, it could have been done better.Like many of Morrison's novels, A Mercy focuses largely on a cast of characters in slavery. This one jumps back in time, however, to the 1600's, when North America was greatly different from the post revolutionary America we often think of. I learned much from this and found this change in period a refreshing change to the typical slave narrative.The characters are interesting, but virtually unknown by the end. Morrison focuses on nearly every character she breathes into existence in this work and the result is several character sketches crammed in to a work with less than 170 narrow pages. Some of these "sketches" seemed irrelevant and only hindered the story I wanted to read. I hoped to know more about their lives and their stories, but, having no attachment to any of the characters, was content with just letting go.The story itself jumped around too often and just didn't grab me. I can accept Morrison's changes in narrator, point of view, time, and so forth, but with this novel it was asking for too much for too little in return.Perhaps I am just a bumbling idiot—a man starring at a Jackson Pollack and seeing nothing but paint splatters. And if so, I hope Morrison would be able to show a little mercy to me. But despite my love for greats like Beloved, I cannot see the "masterpiece" in A Mercy. Regardless, Morrison's canon of great reads make up for any "less than wonderful" work she creates and I look forward to her next.Review available at The Literary Snob