God Help the Child–Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison’s Beloved was a terrifying eye-opener for me on several levels–race, gender, class to start.   That wood shed still haunts me.

I was excited to read that she would be publishing a new novel and I opened her pages ready for the rich characters I had come to expect from her.  She did not disappoint.

Bride is born too dark to light-skinned parents.  Unable to believe she is his, her father abandons his family and her mother punishes Bride for the darkness her genes gave her. Bride is not horribly physically abused, but the emotional abuse she reveals throughout the brief novel is terrible.  Bride turns all of the negative feelings about her skin into an asset when she leaves home, hires a consultant, becomes a makeup mogul and dresses in whites to offset her blue-black skin.  The darkness that caused her mother to shun her becomes her brand and the element that draws men to her.  She is the image of confidence until her current lover, Booker, walks out saying she is not the woman he wants.  Her confidence is shattered and her body begins regressing to girlhood–her pubic and armpit hair disappear, then her hips and breasts.  She tries to make good on a mistake she had made as a child and discovers sometimes there is no forgiveness.  She is adrift, on leave from work, uncertain about her future, until she takes a road trip to find Booker and ends up in a cabin more likely found in a Stephen King novel, where she meets an enigmatic young girl whose attention brings her back to herself.

Bride is the character I expected from Morrison, but the novel’s ending left me wondering about the title.  There is no forgiveness for Bride’s mother and Bride’s future at novel’s close is still uncertain.  Bride’s mother warns us to be careful of how we treat children, but her words are hardly necessary.  Bride has shaped her entire life to deny what her mother’s parenting drilled into her.  Parents beware.  God help the child–and grant parents forgiveness for the wrong that they do.

Finished 10/30/15

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