Beloved (Review)

Labels: Great Works


Toni Morrison, 1987
316 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
March 2008

This book is too recent to have stood the "Test of Time" of the great classics. But it will. Toni Morrison is a Nobel Prize winner, and Beloved is her crowning achievement—so this work well deserves its place in the pantheon of enduring Literature.

Possibly the most powerful and imaginative rendering of slavery we have, Beloved confronts the horror of both its practice and legacy.

The story centers on an African-American household in Post Civil War Cincinnati—Sethe, her daughter Denver, and Sethe's mother Baby Suggs, who live together at the house simply known as 124.

The story is told on two levels—past and present. Paul D, a former fellow slave, arrives at 124, which sets off a series of fragmented flashbacks as Sethe and Paul D tell each other stories of what happened since they had last seen one another. Morrison's language is packed with emotional force—at times soaring and lyrical, at other times guttural and incomprehensible. Language, it seems, is not always capable of articulating the truths of our deepest pain.

It is in the present that Beloved, a young woman, suddenly appears, taking the name from the tombstone of one of Sethe's daughters. Manipulative, strangely vacant, she haunts the house and torments Sethe—and becomes the past that Sethe must overcome.

The story, though sometimes raw, always returns to the redemptive presence of family and community. This is a work you must not overlook—it is the story of our country. Read this!

See our Reading Guide for Beloved.

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