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Large Print : A Mercy

3.65 (16,250 ratings by Goodreads)
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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. "From the Hardcover edition."show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 288 pages
  • 140 x 230 x 22mm | 281.23g
  • Random House USA Inc
  • Random House Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Large type / large print
  • Large type / large print edition
  • 0739326309
  • 9780739326305

Review quote

"A horrifying act stood at the center of Toni Morrison's 1987 masterwork, "Beloved: " a runaway slave, caught in her effort to escape, cuts the throat of her baby daughter with a handsaw, determined to spare the girl the fate she herself has suffered as a slave. A similarly indelible act stands at the center of Ms. Morrison's remarkable new novella, "A Mercy, " a small, plangent gem of a story that is, at once, a kind of prelude to "Beloved" and a variation on that earlier book's exploration of the personal costs of slavery-a system that moves men and women and children around 'like checkers' and casts a looming shadow over both parental and romantic love. Set some 200 years before "Beloved, ""A Mercy" conjures up the beautiful, untamed, lawless world that was America in the 17th century with the same sort of lyrical, verdant prose that distinguished that earlier novel. . . . Ms. Morrison has rediscovered an urgent, poetic voice that enables her to move back and forth with immediacy and ease between the worlds of history and myth, between ordinary daily life and the realm of fable. . . . A heartbreaking account of lost innocence and fractured dreams, [that] also stands, with "Beloved, " as one of Ms. Morrison's most haunting works yet." -Michiko Kakutani, "The New York Times" "Spellbinding . . . Dazzling . . . ["A Mercy"] stands alongside "Beloved" as a unique triumph in Morrison's body of work. The lush poetry and amorphous structure of [the novel] reflect the story's distant setting in the mist of America's creation, when independence and the three-fifths compromise of the Constitution were still a century away. . . . Morrison, who has written so powerfully of catastrophe, cruelty and horror, here adds to that song of tragedy equally thrilling chords of desire and wonder, which in their own way are no less tragic. Where "Beloved" ends with the cathartic exhaustion of an exorcism, "A Mercy" concludes with an ambiguous kind of prayer, redolent withkshow more

About Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison is the Robert F. Goheen Professor of Humanities, Emerita, at Princeton University. She has received the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. In 1993 she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. She lives in Rockland County, New York, and Princeton, New more

Rating details

16,250 ratings
3.65 out of 5 stars
5 22% (3,572)
4 37% (5,990)
3 29% (4,690)
2 9% (1,500)
1 3% (498)
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