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Publisher's Summary

A powerful tragedy distilled into a jewel of a masterpiece by the Nobel Prize - winning author of Beloved and, almost like a prelude to that story, set two centuries earlier.

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

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  • Overall
  • Suzn F
  • Fletcher, VT, US
  • 12-28-08

Oh, this book

Toni Morrison is one of my favorite authors. This story is stream of consciousness, poetry, beauty, horror, longing and sorrow. The characters have stayed with me. I was engaged and interested every moment. I truly loved this book.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Great book

Magnificent book from Toni Morrison. A story about love and betrayal in the late 1600s. A story told from multiple points of view. Morrison uses stream of consciousness for most of the book, what reminds me of Faulkner and "The Sound and The Fury". Not an easy book to read because until you finish it you really do not get the whole story: literally until the very last sentence of the novel.

I think this book is easier to read that to listen to, because each chapter is narrated by one character, and in the audiobook version the separation between chapters is not clear. Toni Morrison has a wonderful evocative voice, but she does not try to change it for each character of the novel, relying only for identification of each of them on the different way they express themselves. The makes the audition confusing, at least initially. I ended up reading the book on paper at the same time that I was listening to Toni Morrison's voice, and then I was completely hooked on the book.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Hard to follow as an audiobook

I suspect this may be easier to follow in print. The point of view changes constantly from one character to another without notice. After a few paragraphs I would realize it was a new person. Perhaps it is to depict the scattered nature of memory? I had to give it up. An audiobook needs a strong, clear narrative for me to follow.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Read the Book

This book keeps showing up on Top 10 lists...however, Morrison's reading reduces the audiobook to several hours of indistinctive blah-blah. Characters blur together. Paragraphs lack distinction. Why didn't someone do Ms Morrison a favor and tell her that she's not a gifted reader. (A writer, yes...a reader, no) Here's a case where I wish I had read the book.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Toni Morrison

What a gift to have Toni Morrison read her exquisite novel, and to have the pleasure of an interview in addition. How gracious she is as an interviewee, especially given how much of it she must have to do on book tours and so on.

Don't miss this! And even if you've read Beloved on the page, do consider listening to Morrison read that, too.

16 of 20 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Beautiful story, beautiful read

Thank you Toni Morrison for writing this heart-wrenching yet beautiful story of these oh so real people. I have now a deeper understanding of slavery, and of loyalty. I listened twice and loved your voice. This is now on my list of favorites.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


Toni Morrison's language is exquisite; her characters heart-wrenching and her theme of betrayal universal. The interview with Ms. Morrison that follows the book is fascinating as she describes her exhaustive reasearch and personal motivation to write A Mercy. This is a book that will stay with me, read by one the world's great authors.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Listening was a challenge

Sorry, I love Toni Morrison's writing, and she has a lovely rich voice, but her pauses are as regular as a slow ticking clock no matter how long the sentence or how varied its structure. I found myself predicting each pause, which made listening to the story less than optimum, tedious, in fact. I have the same opinion of the spoken version of Beloved, one of my favorite books. Please, Ms. Morrison, your novels deserve professional readers.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Sara
  • Rosemount, MN, United States
  • 04-14-09

Hard to Follow!!

I listened to the first 90 minutes and had to stop, the narrator was so hard to follow she was very monitone and I just could not visualize the picture she was trying to portray.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Karen
  • Vancouver, BC, Canada
  • 03-11-09


This is my new favourite Morrison novel. Compelling characters, deeply empathic engagement with each of those characters. Ample stylistic exploration without cutesy tricks. But Morrison's reading of her own novel is strangely sporadic, consisting of short phrases, disconnected. She sounds like she may have emphysema or something. Very distracting. Further, while her experessiveness, apart from the tic mentioned above, is fine, books narrated by actors capable of making the characters distinct work better in this medium.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful