Customer Reviews for

A Mercy

Average Rating 3.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

32 out of 34 people found this review helpful.

A gripping novel written in elegant prose

In this short, lyrical and gripping novel, Tony Morrison has undertaken, once again, to explore her favorite subject: the evils of slavery. Written in prose so lovely and mesmerizing that it reminded me of her ¿Sula¿, also a short novel published thirty-five years ago, ...
In this short, lyrical and gripping novel, Tony Morrison has undertaken, once again, to explore her favorite subject: the evils of slavery. Written in prose so lovely and mesmerizing that it reminded me of her ¿Sula¿, also a short novel published thirty-five years ago, ¿A Mercy¿ was a great joy to read.

Jacob Vaark, a Dutch-born farmer and trader, and Rebecca, his English wife own a tobacco plantation. Even though Jacob owned a few slaves, he did so only as a necessity to run his homestead. Jacob is sympathetic towards orphans and waifs because he himself was parentless at a young age, and had to fend for himself on the streets running small errands.

At the heart of the novel is an act of mercy. When Jacob Vaark travels to Maryland to collect debt from a tobacco plantaion owner named Senor D¿Ortega, he finds out that Senor is broke and has no money to pay off the debt. Senor offers Jacob a thin black girl named Florens, a daughter of one of his slaves, as a partial payment of the debt. Florens is smart, and she can read and write also. Florens¿ mother senses that Jacob is more kind-hearted than her master, and so pleads with Senor to give Florens to Jacob. Her hope is that Florens would have a better life in Jacob¿s estate. Florens¿s mother considers this an act of mercy, but the irony is that Florence considers it abandonment.

Several sympathetic characters make the novel interesting and hold a reader¿s attention. Lina (Messalina), a native American, was sold to Jacob by the Presbytarians who had rescued and saved her. Sorrow, a sea captain¿s daughter, survives a ship wreck, but ends up in Jacob¿s plantation as a slave. Willard and Scully are indentured servants who are sent to work at Jacob¿s plantation by their contract holders. A young black man, a blacksmith, arrives to make an iron gate for Jacob¿s new house. He is not a slave, but a free man. This man is also knowledgeable about medicinal herbs, and Florens falls in love with him.

In this novel, Toni Morrison¿s prose shines: ¿A frightened, long-necked child who did not speak for weeks but when she did, her light, singsong voice was lovely to hear. Some how, some way, the child assuaged the tiny yet eternal yearning for the home Lina once knew, where everyone had anything, and no one had everything.¿
Reading this novel was an intense, deeply moving, and satisfying experience. Even though the novel is short, it is bright, deep and weighty.

posted by Yesh_Prabhu_Writer on November 16, 2008

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

Read through this book today...

I read a chapter in the bookstore and decided not to purchase. Toni Morrison has a strange way of writing. Some people love her style and some don't. I do not particularly like her writing style. I found this book to be BORING.

posted by tippiJN on December 6, 2008

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  • Posted November 16, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    A gripping novel written in elegant prose

    In this short, lyrical and gripping novel, Tony Morrison has undertaken, once again, to explore her favorite subject: the evils of slavery. Written in prose so lovely and mesmerizing that it reminded me of her ¿Sula¿, also a short novel published thirty-five years ago, ¿A Mercy¿ was a great joy to read.<BR/><BR/>Jacob Vaark, a Dutch-born farmer and trader, and Rebecca, his English wife own a tobacco plantation. Even though Jacob owned a few slaves, he did so only as a necessity to run his homestead. Jacob is sympathetic towards orphans and waifs because he himself was parentless at a young age, and had to fend for himself on the streets running small errands.<BR/><BR/>At the heart of the novel is an act of mercy. When Jacob Vaark travels to Maryland to collect debt from a tobacco plantaion owner named Senor D¿Ortega, he finds out that Senor is broke and has no money to pay off the debt. Senor offers Jacob a thin black girl named Florens, a daughter of one of his slaves, as a partial payment of the debt. Florens is smart, and she can read and write also. Florens¿ mother senses that Jacob is more kind-hearted than her master, and so pleads with Senor to give Florens to Jacob. Her hope is that Florens would have a better life in Jacob¿s estate. Florens¿s mother considers this an act of mercy, but the irony is that Florence considers it abandonment.<BR/><BR/>Several sympathetic characters make the novel interesting and hold a reader¿s attention. Lina (Messalina), a native American, was sold to Jacob by the Presbytarians who had rescued and saved her. Sorrow, a sea captain¿s daughter, survives a ship wreck, but ends up in Jacob¿s plantation as a slave. Willard and Scully are indentured servants who are sent to work at Jacob¿s plantation by their contract holders. A young black man, a blacksmith, arrives to make an iron gate for Jacob¿s new house. He is not a slave, but a free man. This man is also knowledgeable about medicinal herbs, and Florens falls in love with him. <BR/><BR/>In this novel, Toni Morrison¿s prose shines: ¿A frightened, long-necked child who did not speak for weeks but when she did, her light, singsong voice was lovely to hear. Some how, some way, the child assuaged the tiny yet eternal yearning for the home Lina once knew, where everyone had anything, and no one had everything.¿ <BR/>Reading this novel was an intense, deeply moving, and satisfying experience. Even though the novel is short, it is bright, deep and weighty.

    32 out of 34 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 21, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Evocative, grippiing, beautiful

    Newly released, A Mercy takes place in the 1680's - the early days of the slave trade in the Americas.<BR/><BR/>Jacob is a trader who takes a small slave girl- Florens - in partial payment for a debt. The mother of the child begs him to take the girl, not herself. It is this act that has consequences for all the lives that are intertwined with that of Florens'. Florens joins Jacob's wife Rebekka, Lina, a servant and Sorrow, an indentured young woman, at their hardscrabble farm. Scully and Willard are also hoping to buy their freedom. Florens yearns for the blacksmith, an African who has never been enslaved.<BR/><BR/>Life at this time in history is defined and described from the viewpoint of each of these characters. Each character is enslaved to something in this new world - an owner, religion, wealth, desire and memory. The most poignant voice is that of Floren's mother. The last chapter of the book belongs to her and it ends on a powerful note.<BR/><BR/>Toni Morrison has a gift with words. Although it is tempting to read straight through to the end, I always take the time to savour and enjoy the language she uses.<BR/><BR/>..."especially here where tobacco and slaves were married, each currency clutching it's partner's elbow".<BR/><BR/>Toni Morrison is an amazingly gifted writer, having won both a Nobel and Pulitzer Prize. If you haven't experienced her yet, I encourage you to pick up any of her books.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 21, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    AN EMBRACING YET STILL SEARCHING VOICE

    To read Toni Morrison is a privilege. To hear her narrate her work is both privilege and pleasure. Her voice will surprise some as it is slight with the smallest bit of huskiness. Such strong, wonderful words from a voice so quiet? At times the sound belies her 77 years; at other times, it reveals all of that time as she tells us a story of 17th century America, the years before slavery became what we know of it as today. <BR/>Set primarily in the home of farmer Jacob Vaark this is a mini masterpiece, the print copy running a brief 169 pages. His household is unique, a blend of the outcast and the wounded. There is his wife, Rebekka, who fled England to escape religious intolerance. Here her closest friend is Lina, a Native American servant who saw her village destroyed by disease. Sorrow is the oddest of the cast, a strange girl who was found much like a piece of drift wood washed up by the sea. <BR/><BR/>Florens, the central character, is a young slave girl whom Vaark took in payment for a debt. After hearing her mother plead with Vaark to accept her she finds herself lost, searching for love. <BR/><BR/>A strange household? Yes. But each in quest of heart's fulfillment, as are we all. <BR/><BR/>Every listener will undoubtedly find something different in A Mercy - all will be sorry it is over so soon. <BR/><BR/>- Gail Cooke

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 4, 2009

    Toni Morrison is a national treasure

    As a companion to "Beloved," this is interesting; as a stand-alone work, it is mesmerizing. In fact, it's a wonderful first book for readers who haven't read Morrion's work. I suggest that once the reader has read through chapter 2, he/she return to chapter 1 and read it again. The plot falls into place neatly and becomes much more accessible to readers who might be confused by Florens' language.<BR/><BR/>A brief work, this is a relatively quick read, but worthy of contemplation.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 25, 2012

    I'd never read anything by Toni Morrison, so I had no expectatio

    I'd never read anything by Toni Morrison, so I had no expectations. I loved the various character perspectives, and the way the world was drawn through those characters' eyes. This book is a lyrically beautiful and diverse encapsulation of the beauty, brutality, and fundamental injustice of colonial North America.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 9, 2009

    The last page...

    will remain in your mind for a long time for on it is revealed<BR/>the reason for the composition. This is a marvelous book. I have ordered more of Toni Morrison's works as a result of reading A Mercy.<BR/>She is an incredible writer.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2012

    Vivid Character Development

    This is the first Toni Morrison I have read. Her unique approach to character development puts the reader immediately inside the thoughts of each individual. We learn about the world of slavery and prejudice through the eyes of women who lived it. The reader experiences the unique understanding and focus of each character as their lives are woven into a dramatic web of interdependence. The final page reveals a perspective so riveting that the story has stayed with me weeks after I finished reading it.

    This book offers a powerful glimpse into the lives that were shaped by the degridation of prejudice against women and slaves. I am haunted by a new understanding of what it must have felt like to live in that world. I am chagrined to discover blind spots in my own existence that have kept me from seeing the continued segregation in our own society. Thank you, Toni Morrison, for being a conscience for all of us.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 16, 2012

    Another Toni Morrison Great

    This book is wonderful as are all Morrison books. It climbs the scale of emotions on every page. The characters are clearly drawn and the plot keeps you reading. Don't expect happy endings for everyone, because TM does not do that.

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  • Posted January 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    You are instantly swept away, standing in the atmosphere

    I could not put this book down. I found myself turning on the bedside lamp in the middle of the night just to find out what would happen next. Toni Morrison is a master at her craft and does not skimp on keeping her readers tantalized, ready to turn each page. The characters are well crafted, complicated, connected and sumptuous as only Toni Morrison could create them. You are neither angered or annoyed by each character, just curious as to how they became the people they are in a time so far out of reach. A gem of a novel. Definately a must read.

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  • Posted May 3, 2010

    A haunting tale

    Reviewed by Naomi Noon, author of "Once Upon Yesterday". A Mercy is a tale of the hardship and struggle of men and women, mostly women, Caucasian or black, in this beautiful, wide and wild land that was America of the seventeenth century. This book has depth.

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  • Posted February 20, 2010

    I reviewed "A Mercy" for our Lifelong Learning Group's book club.

    Toni Morrison is one of my favorite authors, and I found this book to be more accessible to the first-time Morrison reader than her others. Reading Toni Morrison is like reading poetry; her wordsmithing is unmatched.
    We in our book club particularly enjoyed looking at the historical setting and discussing the author's message to the reader, especially the 21st century white middle-class reader, as part of our Black History Month studies. I feel that by placing her story in the time period she chose, Ms. Morrison has explored the horrors of slavery, both physical and emotional, in a truly fresh, original manner.
    This reading and discussion experience was satisfying and enjoyable to our entire group.

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  • Posted August 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Well worth the effort-

    A Mercy is a challenging read. Toni Morrison employs an array of voices, some Faulkneresque in their vague almost inarticulate tones. She creates a gritty, brutal, natural world. The first segment is a tough slog, but it's worth persevering. By the time you're 30 pages into this story, you will be hooked, and the ending is a literary crecendo. It's a tough read, but it's short and well worth the effort.

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  • Posted April 10, 2009

    so much said via so few words

    this book is another example of her special gifts ; poet,storyteller and narrator .( her reading the audio version is breathtaking ). before this novel "sula" was my favorite, now i'm not so sure. i love this book and like her other work , i'll be read it again.

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  • Posted March 23, 2009

    Must read.

    The book was very hard to follow in the beginning. It did not help that Toni Morrison's books are very discouraging to me but as I began to know the characters the book became easier to follow. Toni is an amazing writer. The book was well written and thought provoking. I loved it.

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