-God Help the Child: A (short) Review-

My friend and i are at the bookstore on a Friday night. i am looking, reading, smelling books when i chance upon Toni Morrison’s God Help the Child. Okay, i will admit. i was drawn to this book by the title. i like lyrical titles. Something about this title. So of course i bought the book.

Rain. Sweetness. Bride. Brooklyn. Queen. Booker. Here, this is the richness of naming that Morrison gifts us in God Help the Child. Naming characters is like giving life to said characters. What every writer does while creating magic. i am always naming my short fiction after my lead characters who are women. When i started, i didn’t set out to gender my titles. It sort of just happened; and i am glad it did. I digress. I loved these characters.

A major theme is childhood and how childhood can fuck us up all the way to adulthood. But within this theme are other important themes. Racism. Sexual violence. The main character, Bride, and the man she comes to love and (not) know are both dealing with issues that happened when they were kids. Issues that have shaped the adults they have grown into.

i am not one to like and indulge such issues as violence when they are written. Often times i will actually skip those parts. Because they have some energy to them. This time though i read through the gory descriptions of abuse in Morrison’s book. i know it has to do with my class texts. We are reading some pretty heavy stuff now in my class. And every week we sit round a table, the eight of us and tear these readings apart. We walk the (dark) journey with the writers and ask ourselves questions and more questions. So expect to find violence here. And when you encounter it ask yourself where this violence sits. How can a mother, Sweetness, turn her heart from a daughter, Bride, because the child is born not black black like herself?

As is usual with Morrison, her language in this book is beautiful. Poetic even. A language that you want to hug you through a crisp November night. The characters are also very well developed. Even when they sneak in and out of the story like Sweetness does, we have a clear picture of who this woman is.

The story weaves between the past and the present; by doing this Morrison reminds us how our childhood matters. Reading this book reminded me of this quote by Pam Leo that i love. Let us raise children that won’t have to recover from childhood. I am still recovering. The plot twist towards the end of the story will shake you and show you the extent to which we will go to find acceptance and love.

A great story. Thought-provoking. I would have loved to see more of Booker’s writing because the few pieces shared in the end were gorgeous.

Highly recommend this read. Truly, God Help the Child.

j.

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