Beloved by Toni Morrison

belovedReminder: Page Turners Book Club will be meeting to discuss this book on Thursday, June 8 at 3:00 PM.

This is the story of a formerly enslaved woman named Sethe who makes an incredibly difficult and shocking decision upon being faced with the possibility of being taken back to Kentucky. We don’t learn the full details of what she did until about two-thirds of the way through the book, but really early on we know that it involves the death of one of her children. She gets a pink gravestone for this daughter with the world “Beloved” cut into the stone.

Fast-forward about 18 years and her youngest daughter is still living at home. Her two sons have long ago left to make their own way in the world. Paul D, whom Sethe knew back the Sweet Home plantation, drops by for a visit and encounters the anger of the ghost that haunts the house. It is generally understood that this ghost is Sethe’s dead daughter. A few days later, Beloved arrives on the doorstep. She is about 19 or 20 years old and has no history and no family. She just shows up and there’s something very odd about her.

I really loved this book. I had not realized at the start that it would be a ghost story, but it works really well. It makes sense that the horrors of slavery and its many casualties would manifest in new horrors. It also serves as a good argument against the notion of “good” slaveowners. Sweet Home as run by Mr. Garner was not as cruel as other plantations. Yet when Baby Suggs gets her first taste of freedom in her 60s, she can’t imagine anything better. She realizes that she had never truly lived before that moment.

Beloved tells the history of slavery from the perspective of those hurt most by it. It can be a difficult read at times, but it’s well worth it. This is history that needs to be told, and doing so in this manner, in a novel where we sympathize with each of the protagonists, the emotional impact of this history can be keenly felt by the reader. I really enjoyed this book and look forward to discussing with my book club later this week.

Review by Jessica A.

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