Tag Archives: beloved

Books: Beloved by Toni Morrison

There’s a fine line between relaxation and going stir crazy. Thankfully, right now I’m on the good side of that line, living the suburban life, and trying to see it as a gift. I’ve been at home with my family the past 3 days, after moving all my things back to my parents’ house. And I feel like I’ve finally been able to to rest. I’ve spent an embarrassing number of hours indoors, sitting on my bed or our recliner, or taking 4 mile walks to Coffee Bean and back, because what else is there to do in the ‘burbs? My frantic mind has quieted down (the calm before the storm) long enough for me to actually read and finish a book, the first one in months!

I read Beloved by Toni Morrison. SPOILER: it’s about a 19th century slave woman, Sethe, who runs away to find freedom in the north. The event that alters everything for Sethe and the other characters is when Sethe chooses to kill her own child to save her from being enslaved as well.

That’s the plot anyway, but really it’s about freedom and what it meant to people who didn’t have it most of their lives. It’s beautiful to hear freedom described through the characters eyes as they discover it for the first time. It means being able to love another or yourself without fear that losing either will break your spirit. It mean you are your own most prized possession. In one of my favorite passages, freedom is owning and loving your very body:

In this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it. They don’t love your eyes; they’d just as soon pick em out. No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face ’cause they don’t love that either. You got to love it, you!

I appreciated that Morrison is not an overly ‘flowery’ writer, though she paints beautiful word pictures. She tells the story in a non-linear fashion, adding layers of depth to each character as she reveals their past in pieces; each event helps you understand how they became the people they are.

I’m not sure why, but I love literature about the south. I’m also not sure why it took me so long to get around to picking up this book, but I’m glad I did, and I recommend it to you if you haven’t read it already. I don’t know that I’d call it an ‘upper’ – some of the story is dark, and much of it is sad. There were some scenes I wished I hadn’t read in the hour before bed, as they left unpleasant images in my brain. But anytime an author tries to peddle hope through a story without significant loss for the characters, I have a hard time believing them.  It seems like the sad stories are usually the honest ones.

What about you all, any good recent reads? Or all-time favorites in the fiction category that you’d recommend?