In the 1680s the slave trade was still in its infancy. In the Americas, virulent religious and class divisions, prejudice and oppression were rife, providing the fertile soil in which slavery and race hatred were planted and took root.
Jacob 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, "with the hands of a slave and the feet of a Portuguese lady." Florens looks for love, first from Lina, an older servant woman at her new master's house, but later from a handsome blacksmith, an African, never enslaved.
There are other voices: Lina, whose tribe was decimated by smallpox; their mistress, Rebekka, herself a victim of religious intolerance back in England; Sorrow, a strange girl who's spent her early years at sea; and finally the devastating voice of Florens' mother. These are all men and women inventing themselves in the wilderness.
A Mercy reveals what lies beneath the surface of slavery. But at its heart it is the ambivalent, disturbing story of a mother who casts off her daughter in order to save her, and of a daughter who may never exorcise that abandonment.
Acts of mercy may have unforeseen consequences.
©2008 Toni Morrison; (P)2008 Random House Audio
I hadn't finished listening to Ms Morrison narrate her book when I ordered it from Amazon.com. When the book arrived, I read along as Ms Morrison narrated it. Her reading cadence exposes subtleties that I would have missed had I read the story to myself. A Mercy sheds light on our dark history. It also leaves me puzzled about some things. A tremendous amount of research went into writing A Mercy. It is not a off-the-top-of-one's-head novel. I will do some research myself and then read the book again. Oh, and not all indentured people were black. NOTE: A very informative interview follows the narration of this book.
Toni Morrison is a great author, but a poor narrator. I could understand her when she was being a property owner negotiating with big slave owner. But when she was being the adolescent slave girl, the central figure, I couldn't understand most of what she was saying.
Buy the book instead.
Author Toni Morrison has written a great book again. However, she is very difficult to listen to. Monotone voice, lacking in emotion. This book would have been much better served bay a narrator with acting experience. I am always wary of books read by the author, and this book certainly validated that wariness.
Morrison should be flatly prohibited from narrating her books (or any book for that matter) -- she's simply TERRIBLE! The entire narration is basically whispered -- really -- I'm serious! Difficult to understand what she's saying, even with good headphones, and completely impossible in a car.
Retired to mountains of California. Sell on eBay as Prsilla. No TV. Volunteer in wildlife rehab. Knit, sew or embroider while listening.
This book is a treasure, Great Literature, a thought-provoking three listens! It had a strange effect on me with Ms. Morrison's soft voice just taking me to that other place. Mind you, I was only knitting -- not driving a big-rig or watching little kids! I think someone driving would have difficulty listening to this because of the delicacy of the reading. That aside, yes, the book takes more than one listen to get the characters straight and begin to think about the whole thing. Don't anybody listen down to this black author! She is world class educated! This is so much more than a real grown-up chapter book to enthrall dipsticks who barely squeaked through high school! She has chosen every word carefully. Some intellectual authors enjoy writing puzzles diabolically intended to confuse. Not this author nor this book!. . . I had not thought of work situations being so fluid as they are in this book. There are jobs to be done, and many approaches. What we have is a small farm which needs to be kept up and many jobs done daily to make it produce. Who pulls weeds? Who milks the cow? Who starts the supper? These are all basically good people just trying to make their lives work. White indentured servants were also slaves in that their length of service could stretch for decades past the agreed time. They were out in the country with nobody to complain to. Half-grown girls and young women of all races were exploited, sheltered, helped and taught useful job skills. Oh, and given religious training which supplemented their tribal beliefs and psychotic delusions. The women in the story are white, Native American, black African, half black half white. There are pregnancies, burials, illnesses. Sometimes one character is pregnant and much later another character mentions the baby dying or else toddling about. . . . The free black blacksmith is fascinating -- a tall, confident man who knows how to do things! He knows folk medicine as well as true artistry with wrought iron. Prince Charming! A savior! I noticed recently that a sewing pattern company has come out with a long princess-cut coat with big lapels -- for men! In 1970's San Francisco, certain black men wore such coats with boots and hats trimmed with silver studs -- oh, my! The allure! But his devotion lies with no woman. . . . I enjoyed the scene in which a gay slave couple help another slave deliver her baby. Very nice, and as gay people are a percentage of any population . . . But enough! Get the book!
Incredibly beautiful, full of memorable scenes, colours, scents. Morrison encapsulates time and redesigns history with such passion that imagination flies away.
Múltiple narrators take turns to tell a story beyond themselves, a story that is about their lives but also about other people's lives. A daughter who can not forget abandonment and finds in devoted love a way out of her sadness, a mother who can not imagine a better world for her children and gives her daughter away to save her, a man whose home should tell the story of his sacrifice, a woman whose promised family abandons her too soon, a little girl who learns to love when she becomes a mother, a native woman who resists death and struggles for a future away from her own people, a man with healing powers who can save others but not his love. These characters sound profound, deeply human and notoriously kind. They fight a battle against disease, weather and the unkown. Above all, they fight for survival in a complex land, a territory that is vast and scattered with several different beliefs. Individually they are only orphans, astrays, solitary people; together they are capable of more, but to provenientes their worth they will hace to make huge sacrifice. A Mercy is a story about love, dignity and immense possibilities; it cherishes life and honors human bonds.
Morrison's command of voice, tone and timing is matched only by the compelling characters she so completely brings to life.
Genius to locate these characters in pre-America...imagining life before the colonies seems to give context to what came later...extraordinary.
Why rename it?
Not an audiobook
I found the reading to be very difficult to get into, Toni Morrison's voice is very soothing and the prose is lovely, but I kept needing to back track to try and figure out what was actually said.
I will definitely listen to this again. I loved everything about it...and hated when it was done.
I felt connected and invested emotionally in the characters and their lives. I could "see" these people as I listened.
Her voice is captivating...I suppose her being the author allowed for the telling of the story the way she intended as opposed to how another narrator would have interpreted it. The emotion and passion of what she wanted to portray were felt.
I actually did complete all of the book minus about 45 mins in one sitting. It was truly that good!
I love Toni Morrison's work. This was the first time I've listened to a book and now I cannot wait to listen to her "Beloved" even though I've read it twice already!
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