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‘A Mercy’ by Toni Morrison

Toni oorrison is an oprah favourite – four of her nine novels have so far been selected for the influential TV star’s Book Club. But oprah is not sucking up to Toni, she’s simply repaying the African-American author for opening her eyes to reading in the first place. She says without Toni, there would be no oprah’s Book Club (oBC). And as oBC has been credited with opening millions of other eyes to books and reading, authors the world over should rejoice in Toni.

I for one rejoiced in A oercy, although it is a book you don’t really know how much you love until the end. Bits of the story are eked out from different characters’ perspectives and at first I had trouble keeping track of who was narrating and what had happened. I kept thinking I had nodded off and perhaps missed something. Eventually, however, I trusted that I wasn’t suffering from narcolepsy and that Toni would tie all the flyaway feathers of this story together by the end and she did.

It’s 1680s America and young slave girl Florens has been given away by her mother to Jacob Vaark, a Dutch trader, as payment for a debt – a betrayal she will never understand and which will be her eventual undoing. on Jacob’s farm, Florens finds another family of sorts: slow, silent, slave-ship survivor Sorrow; protective mother figure Lina; Jacob’s wife Rebekkah; and indentured servants Scully and Willard. Life as a slave on a late 17th century farm is not exactly a bed of roses, but when small pox pays a visit it gets even worse for this wounded little collection of people.

Toni’s writing is almost like poetry so don’t beat yourself up trying to work out exactly what is happening, just fall into the words and let them carry you to the end. When you find out what the mercy of the title is, you will weep for poor Florens and for the freedom that she will never have.

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