Ravishingly beautiful and emotionally incendiary, Tar Baby is Toni Morrison’s reinvention of the love story. Jadine Childs is a black fashion model with a white patron, a white boyfriend, and a coat made out of ninety perfect sealskins. Son is a black fugitive who embodies everything she loathes and desires. As Morrison follows their affair, which plays out from the Caribbean to Manhattan and the deep South, she charts all the nuances of obligation and betrayal between blacks and whites, masters and servants, and men and women.
©1982 Toni Morrison (P)2011 Random House
“Deeply perceptive. . . . Return[s] risk and mischief to the contemporary American novel.” (John Irving, The New York Times Book Review)
“Toni Morrison has made herself into the D. H. Lawrence of the black psyche, transforming individuals into forces, idiosyncrasy into inevitability.” (New York)
“Arresting images, fierce intelligence, poetic language . . . One becomes entranced by Toni Morrison’s story.” (The Washington Post)
I've enjoyed Morrison's *Beloved* and *The Bluest Eye* for years, but hadn't heard of *Tar Baby* until recently. Now that I've listened to *Tar Baby*, though, it's quickly replaced *The Bluest Eye* as my favorite Morrison text!
*Tar Baby* is a rich, complex love story that explores many questions, particularly those of race solidarity, heritage, and trauma. Valerian Street, a rich white retiree, lives on a tiny island in the Caribbean with his troubled younger wife, Margaret, as well as two faithful old servants, Sydney and Ondine—both black. Sydney and Ondine have long acted as guardians for their orphaned mixed-race niece, Jadine Childs, now 25 years old, a college graduate, and a successful international fashion model.
The household is thrown into chaos when Margaret discovers a strange black man hiding in her closet. This man, known as “Son,” has been squatting in the house for several days, yet Valerian inexplicably invites him to stay at the house as an honored guest. Jadine, though initially repulsed by the filthy, scruffy intruder, soon begins a clandestine sexual relationship with him. The ensuing romance drives most of the remainder of the novel and forms the backdrop for Morrison's provocative questions regarding race, gender, love, and power.
Desiree Coleman's narration of this book is excellent. I am moderately hearing-impaired, yet had very little trouble understanding her. The ways in which she dramatizes various characters' voices are consistent and appropriate--neither boringly bland nor over-the-top. Her narration was smooth and distraction-free, allowing me to get lost in Morrison's story instead of Coleman's reading.
In short, highly recommended!
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