What a strange book.Beloved by Toni Morrison is basically a ghost story. It delves into both the physical horrors of slavery, as well as an actual horror that is haunting a small family.
The novel follows a woman, Sethe, and her daughter Denver as they work to reconstruct their lives after having escaped from slavery. The home that Sethe and Denver move into, that of her mother in law, is haunted by the ghost of Sethe’s daughter. Not far into the story, the women are visited by Paul D., one of the slaves from Sweet Home, the plantation where Sethe and her husband Halle worked. Paul D. forces out the ghost, and the little family leaves for a day at the carnival. However, on their way back, they see a young woman sitting in the front of the house. She is sick, so they take her in to nurse her back to health. Soon it becomes apparent that the young woman, who calls herself Beloved, is in fact the ghost of Sethe’s daughter - reincarnated. When Beloved is back to her normal health, she begins to bring destruction to Sethe, Paul D. and Denver. Sethe and Paul D.’s haunting pasts are slowly brought to the surface – which brings around a whole new dimension to the story itself.
Many awful explanations of different tortures (both psychological and physical) are explained throughout the novel. I am not sure if maybe I wasn’t paying attention in the 4th grade, or what, but I was surprised to hear about all the atrocities that happened during slavery. I mean, I knew horrible things happened, but perhaps going into detail about them was omitted in the 4th grade. Some of the horrible things that Sethe and Paul D. endured were almost hard to read about - it made me cringe.
I think one of the most hauntingly beautiful images was of Sethe's back. After an extensive whipping at Sweet Home, Sethe's back is described as looking like a chokecherry tree, "See, here's the trunk - it's red and split wide open, full of sap, and this here's the parting for the branches. You got a mighty lot of branches. Leaves, too, look like, and dern if these ain't blossoms."
I think the story line of the novel was very intriguing, and the characters were pretty interesting too, but the way in which the book was written was very hard to follow. I found myself rereading different parts to make sure I had understood it right. I don’t believe that it is badly written by any means, it is just written from an escaped slave’s point of view for the majority of the novel and the dialect gets confusing.
I do not think this will be my last Toni Morrison book but I do feel like I need time away from reading her work for a while.
On to reading!