A Mercy

A Mercybook by Toni Morrison

annotation by Aaron Gansky

This was my first Morrison book. I was eagerly anticipating it, as I’ve heard many good things about her work. But I found it very different. I’m not sure exactly what I expected—maybe it’s exactly what I got. It took me a long time to figure out who was who. The shifts in POV, while they provided depth to the characters, seemed so different that I found it hard to follow. For example, many were in first person, some weren’t. Often, in the first person POVs, she would write “you,” as if the narrator was speaking to someone in particular, like it was a letter. This seemed to distract me, because I was trying to figure out who the narrator was AND who they were speaking to. A challenge, to say the least. For whatever reason, it didn’t really become clear to me until the end. I wonder if she did this purposely, so as to create mystery, but I never felt like I knew enough to know mystery. I was just confused.

On the positive side, the characters are definitely well developed, very round. Still, I found it hard to tell them apart at times. I think the dialect was another obstacle for me to overcome. I kept thinking I was simply missing something great—like the rest of the world could read this and would love it, and call it genius. But I struggled just to figure out who was on first.

Perhaps what I take away from this book is simply the idea that when I work with multiple POVs, I should make sure it is clear who is speaking, and WHEN they are speaking. Jumping POVs is one thing, but jumping POVs and time is REALLY hard to follow.

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