I think I’m in a little bit of a reading slump… sort of. Or I’m just too damn busy. I have taken a break from unpacking the apartment, but school starts next week and I realized I had a ton of things to take care of before then, like getting my bow rehaired, bike tuned up, etc. But while I was doing some of my unpacking last week and weekend, I listened to Beloved by Toni Morrison, read by the author. From Goodreads:

Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby. Sethe, its protagonist, was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe’s new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a towering achievement by Nobel Prize laureate Toni Morrison.

Wow. I mean, what is there to say? Beloved is a haunting, suspenseful, painful, powerful, gothic novel. Sethe is a deeply disturbed and heartrending character, based on a real-life fugitive slave Margaret Garner, who fled to Ohio and was pursued by bounty hunters under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Garner killed her baby daughter rather than allow her to grow up in a life of slavery. Beloved explores the main themes of maternal bonds, and psychological damage done by slavery to individuals and communities.

Sethe is a pretty messed up mom. After all the unspeakable horrors Sethe endured at Sweet Home, she’s severely emotionally stunted, with little to no sense of her own identity. Denver, Sethe’s younger daughter, is a recluse, terrified to venture out into the community. Sethe is not really being the mother that Denver needs. Paul D, another former slave from Sweet Home, joins them in Cincinnati and brings with him a sense of reality, urging them to have a life with some semblance of normalcy. They go to a fair, and on their way home they meet a mysterious woman calling herself Beloved. Sethe is enraptured by the young woman, believing her to be the ghost of the daughter she killed almost two decades earlier. Anyway, things get really dark and weird, but totally captivating.

I have wanted to read Toni Morrison for a long time, and Beloved was my first book of hers. I’m actually really glad I listened to this on audio, read by Morrison. I think her pacing and affectation of her own expressive, poetic prose is just about perfect and stays with you.

Listened to audiobook from August 7 to 11, 2013.

7 thoughts on “beloved

  1. I first read this as an undergraduate and I have re-read it three times since then and it still ranks as one of the most difficult books I have ever read. Emotionally and intellectually. I have also read Sula and The Bluest Eye, both of which I would recommend.

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