Song of Solomon

Song of Solomon

by Toni Morrison


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New York Times Bestseller

Milkman Dead was born shortly after a neighborhood eccentric hurled himself off a rooftop in a vain attempt at flight. For the rest of his life he, too, will be trying to fly. With this brilliantly imagined novel, Toni Morrison transfigures the coming-of-age story as audaciously as Saul Bellow or Gabriel García Márquez. As she follows Milkman from his rustbelt city to the place of his family’s origins, Morrison introduces an entire cast of strivers and seeresses, liars and assassins, the inhabitants of a fully realized black world.

"You can't go wrong by reading or re-reading the collected works of Toni Morrison. BelovedSong of Solomon, The Bluest EyeSula, everything else — they're transcendent, all of them. You’ll be glad you read them."—Barack Obama

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780756940546
Publisher: Random House Inc
Publication date: 01/28/2001
Pages: 337
Sales rank: 599,189
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Toni Morrison is the author of eleven novels, from The Bluest Eye (1970) to God Help the Child (2015). She received the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and in 1993 she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. She died in 2019.


Princeton, New Jersey, and Manhattan

Date of Birth:

February 18, 1931

Date of Death:

August 5, 2019

Place of Birth:

Lorain, Ohio

Place of Death:

New York


Howard University, B.A. in English, 1953; Cornell, M.A., 1955

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

The North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance agent promised to fly from Mercy to the other side of Lake Superior at three o'clock. Two days before the event was to take place he tacked a note on the door of his little yellow house:

At 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday the 18th of February, 1931, I will take off from Mercy and fly away on my own wings. Please forgive me. I loved you all.
(signed) Robert Smith,
Ins. agent

Mr. Smith didn't draw as big a crowd as Lindbergh had four years earlier—not more than forty or fifty people showed up—because it was already eleven o'clock in the morning, on the very Wednesday he had chosen for his flight, before anybody read the note. At that time of day, during the middle of the week, word-of-mouth news just lumbered along. Children were in school; men were at work; and most of the women were fastening their corsets and getting ready to go see what tails or entrails the butcher might be giving away. Only the unemployed, the self-employed, and the very young were available—deliberately available because they'd heard about it, or accidentally available because they happened to be walking at that exact moment in the shore end of Not Doctor Street, a name the post office did not recognize. Town maps registered the street as Mains Avenue, but the only colored doctor in the city had lived and died on that street, and when he moved there in 1896 his patients took to calling the street, which none of them lived in or near, Doctor Street. Later, when other Negroes moved there, and when the postal service became a popular means of transferring messages among them, envelopes from Louisiana, Virginia, Alabama, and Georgia began to arrive addressed to people at house numbers on Doctor Street. The post office workers returned these envelopes or passed them on to the Dead Letter Office. Then in 1918, when colored men were being drafted, a few gave their address at the recruitment office as Doctor Street. In that way, the name acquired a quasi-official status. But not for long. Some of the city legislators, whose concern for appropriate names and the maintenance of the city's landmarks was the principal part of their political life, saw to it that "Doctor Street" was never used in any official capacity. And since they knew that only Southside residents kept it up, they had notices posted in the stores, barbershops, and restaurants in that part of the city saying that the avenue running northerly and southerly from Shore Road fronting the lake to the junction of routes 6 and 2 leading to Pennsylvania, and also running parallel to and between Rutherford Avenue and Broadway, had always been and would always be known as Mains Avenue and not Doctor Street.

It was a genuinely clarifying public notice because it gave Southside residents a way to keep their memories alive and please the city legislators as well. They called it Not Doctor Street, and were inclined to call the charity hospital at its northern end No Mercy Hospital since it was 1931, on the day following Mr. Smith's leap from its cupola, before the first colored expectant mother was allowed to give birth inside its wards and not on its steps. The reason for the hospital's generosity to that particular woman was not the fact that she was the only child of this Negro doctor, for during his entire professional life he had never been granted hospital privileges and only two of his patients were ever admitted to Mercy, both white. Besides, the doctor had been dead a long time by 1931. It must have been Mr. Smith's leap from the roof over their heads that made them admit her. In any case, whether or not the little insurance agent's conviction that he could fly contributed to the place of her delivery, it certainly contributed to its time.

When the dead doctor's daughter saw Mr. Smith emerge as promptly as he had promised from behind the cupola, his wide blue silk wings curved forward around his chest, she dropped her covered peck basket, spilling red velvet rose petals. The wind blew them about, up, down, and into small mounds of snow. Her half-grown daughters scrambled about trying to catch them, while their mother moaned and held the underside of her stomach. The rose-petal scramble got a lot of attention, but the pregnant lady's moans did not. Everyone knew the girls had spent hour after hour tracing, cutting, and stitching the costly velvet, and that Gerhardt's Department Store would be quick to reject any that were soiled.

It was nice and gay there for a while. The men joined in trying to collect the scraps before the snow soaked through them—snatching them from a gust of wind or plucking them delicately from the snow. And the very young children couldn't make up their minds whether to watch the man circled in blue on the roof or the bits of red flashing around on the ground. Their dilemma was solved when a woman suddenly burst into song. The singer, standing at the back of the crowd, was as poorly dressed as the doctor's daughter was well dressed. The latter had on a neat gray coat with the traditional pregnant-woman bow at her navel, a black cloche, and a pair of four-button ladies' galoshes. The singing woman wore a knitted navy cap pulled far down over her forehead. She had wrapped herself up in an old quilt instead of a winter coat. Her head cocked to one side, her eyes fixed on Mr. Robert Smith, she sang in a powerful contralto:

O Sugarman done fly away
Sugarman done gone
Sugarman cut across the sky
Sugarman gone home....

A few of the half a hundred or so people gathered there nudged each other and sniggered. Others listened as though it were the helpful and defining piano music in a silent movie. They stood this way for some time, none of them crying out to Mr. Smith, all of them preoccupied with one or the other of the minor events about them, until the hospital people came.

They had been watching from the windows—at first with mild curiosity, then, as the crowd seemed to swell to the very walls of the hospital, they watched with apprehension. They wondered if one of those things that racial-uplift groups were always organizing was taking place. But when they saw neither placards nor speakers, they ventured outside into the cold: white-coated surgeons, dark-jacketed business and personnel clerks, and three nurses in starched jumpers.

The sight of Mr. Smith and his wide blue wings transfixed them for a few seconds, as did the woman's singing and the roses strewn about. Some of them thought briefly that this was probably some form of worship. Philadelphia, where Father Divine reigned, wasn't all that far away. Perhaps the young girls holding baskets of flowers were two of his virgins. But the laughter of a gold-toothed man brought them back to their senses. They stopped daydreaming and swiftly got down to business, giving orders. Their shouts and bustling caused great confusion where before there had been only a few men and some girls playing with pieces of velvet and a woman singing.

One of the nurses, hoping to bring some efficiency into the disorder, searched the faces around her until she saw a stout woman who looked as though she might move the earth if she wanted to.

"You," she said, moving toward the stout woman. "Are these your children?"

The stout woman turned her head slowly, her eyebrows lifted at the carelessness of the address. Then, seeing where the voice came from, she lowered her brows and veiled her eyes.


"Send one around back to the emergency office. Tell him to tell the guard to get over here quick. That boy there can go. That one." She pointed to a cat-eyed boy about five or six years old.

The stout woman slid her eyes down the nurse's finger and looked at the child she was pointing to.

"Guitar, ma'am."



The nurse gazed at the stout woman as though she had spoken Welsh. Then she closed her mouth, looked again at the cat-eyed boy, and lacing her fingers, spoke her next words very slowly to him.

"Listen. Go around to the back of the hospital to the guard's office. It will say 'Emergency Admissions' on the door. A-D-M-I-S-I-O-N-S. But the guard will be there. Tell him to get over here— on the double. Move now. Move!" She unlaced her fingers and made scooping motions with her hands, the palms pushing against the wintry air.

A man in a brown suit came toward her, puffing little white clouds of breath. "Fire truck's on its way. Get back inside. You'll freeze to death."

The nurse nodded.

"You left out a s, ma'am," the boy said. The North was new to him and he had just begun to learn he could speak up to white people. But she'd already gone, rubbing her arms against the cold.

"Granny, she left out a s."

"And a 'please.' "

"You reckon he'll jump?"

"A nutwagon do anything."

"Who is he?"

"Collects insurance. A nutwagon."

"Who is that lady singing?"

"That, baby, is the very last thing in pea-time." But she smiled when she looked at the singing woman, so the cat-eyed boy listened to the musical performance with at least as much interest as he devoted to the man flapping his wings on top of the hospital.

The crowd was beginning to be a little nervous now that the law was being called in. They each knew Mr. Smith. He came to their houses twice a month to collect one dollar and sixty-eight cents and write down on a little yellow card both the date and their eighty-four cents a week payment. They were always half a month or so behind, and talked endlessly to him about paying ahead—after they had a preliminary discussion about what he was doing back so soon anyway.

"You back in here already? Look like I just got rid of you."

"I'm tired of seeing your face. Really tired."

"I knew it. Soon's I get two dimes back to back, here you come. More regular than the reaper. Do Hoover know about you?"

They kidded him, abused him, told their children to tell him they were out or sick or gone to Pittsburgh. But they held on to those little yellow cards as though they meant something—laid them gently in the shoe box along with the rent receipts, marriage licenses, and expired factory identification badges. Mr. Smith smiled through it all, managing to keep his eyes focused almost the whole time on his customers' feet. He wore a business suit for his work, but his house was no better than theirs. He never had a woman that any of them knew about and said nothing in church but an occasional "Amen." He never beat anybody up and he wasn't seen after dark, so they thought he was probably a nice man. But he was heavily associated with illness and death, neither of which was distinguishable from the brown picture of the North Carolina Mutual Life Building on the back of their yellow cards. Jumping from the roof of Mercy was the most interesting thing he had done. None of them had suspected he had it in him. Just goes to show, they murmured to each other, you never really do know about people.

The singing woman quieted down and, humming the tune, walked through the crowd toward the rose-petal lady, who was still cradling her stomach.

"You should make yourself warm," she whispered to her, touching her lightly on the elbow. "A little bird'll be here with the morning."

"Oh?" said the rose-petal lady. "Tomorrow morning?"

"That's the only morning coming."

"It can't be," the rose-petal lady said. "It's too soon."

"No it ain't. Right on time."

The women were looking deep into each other's eyes when a loud roar went up from the crowd—a kind of wavy oo sound. Mr. Smith had lost his balance for a second, and was trying gallantly to hold on to a triangle of wood that jutted from the cupola. Immediately the singing woman began again:

O Sugarman done fly
O Sugarman done gone . . .

Downtown the firemen pulled on their greatcoats, but when they arrived at Mercy, Mr. Smith had seen the rose petals, heard the music, and leaped on into the air.

The next day a colored baby was born inside Mercy for the first time. Mr. Smith's blue silk wings must have left their mark, because when the little boy discovered, at four, the same thing Mr. Smith had learned earlier—that only birds and airplanes could fly—he lost all interest in himself. To have to live without that single gift saddened him and left his imagination so bereft that he appeared dull even to the women who did not hate his mother. The ones who did, who accepted her invitations to tea and envied the doctor's big dark house of twelve rooms and the green sedan, called him "peculiar." The others, who knew that the house was more prison than palace, and that the Dodge sedan was for Sunday drives only, felt sorry for Ruth Foster and her dry daughters, and called her son "deep." Even mysterious.

"Did he come with a caul?"

"You should have dried it and made him some tea from it to drink. If you don't he'll see ghosts."

"You believe that?"

"I don't, but that's what the old people say."

"Well, he's a deep one anyway. Look at his eyes."

And they pried pieces of baked-too-fast sunshine cake from the roofs of their mouths and looked once more into the boy's eyes. He met their gaze as best he could until, after a pleading glance toward his mother, he was allowed to leave the room.

It took some planning to walk out of the parlor, his back washed with the hum of their voices, open the heavy double doors leading to the dining room, slip up the stairs past all those bedrooms, and not arouse the attention of Lena and Corinthians sitting like big baby dolls before a table heaped with scraps of red velvet. His sisters made roses in the afternoon. Bright, lifeless roses that lay in peck baskets for months until the specialty buyer at Gerhardt's sent Freddie the janitor over to tell the girls that they could use another gross. If he did manage to slip by his sisters and avoid their casual malice, he knelt in his room at the window sill and wondered again and again why he had to stay level on the ground. The quiet that suffused the doctor's house then, broken only by the murmur of the women eating sunshine cake, was only that: quiet. It was not peaceful, for it was preceded by and would soon be terminated by the presence of Macon Dead.

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Song of Solomon 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 139 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The language in this book is absolutely breathtaking. Toni Morrison literally draws you into the story until you completely believe you are a witness to the passionate (and sometimes magical) situations in Milkman's life. Though you may feel like Morrison has left you hanging at some parts, lacking all the informtion, just wait it out--situations are resolved and your curiosity will be satisfied. Some of the topics that are included in the book are quite interesting and make you sit back and think about their application to real life, and to your life. The relationships between the characters in this book are so full of life, especially Milkman and Hagar's realationship. The characters feel like real people--they have flaws, they have weaknesses--they are people you feel that you know as well as yourself, because it is so easy to identify with their emotions. Overall, I greatly enjoyed this book because it was beautifully written and showed a part of love that I'd never thought about before. Also, Milkman's story is absolutely captivating and inspiring. I highly recommend this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
i just got finished reading this book for my AP lit class and its awesome! i didnt know what to expect from Toni Morrison but i figured it would be good if she had won a nobel prize but i was really suprised in the book and i felt like i personally knew each character at the end and i recommend the book to any one even if they dont like to read you'll find you end up a better person after reading this book
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think that this is an amazing book, besides the sex and violence, which I understand are necessary in the book. This book is a true journey through a young man's life. Not only does he try to find himself,but he discovers much more.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Milkman's graveyard love affair with Pilate's daughter was a lesson for me. I don't ever want to love someone that much where it drives me to...all I can say is read it for yourself. A sensual love story about a young man's discovery of life itself.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was assigned Toni Morrison as an author for a novel study I was in and was skeptical at first, but Toni Morrison proved me wrong! This book was amazing! From the moment I picked up the book I couldn¿t set it down. She draws you in and makes you never want to put her book down. Dramatic, intense, romantic, captivating and exhilarating are just a few words that describe this novel. I loved how she described the characters and made you a part of their life so much so that you insert yourself in their situations and vice versa them into yours and question how they would react. In my mind when I see how people respond to certain situations I title them as a character from Song of Solomon 'for example he just pulled a milkman or she is so much like Hagar'. This is most definitely not a children¿s book or a bed time story. This book is written at a mature level that is still enjoyable for high schooler and up. As a high schooler my self I enjoyed many of the qualities of this book. Like many things I am sure it would be just as enjoyable as an adult if not more so. I feel that this point of view chose of third person was both captivating and impressive. It allowed greater Character development to occur. Guitars development left me amazed at how little he trusted his friend. It was just so captivating. Not only the characters but also the settings become real and vivid she left me feeling as though I had walked on Not Doctor Street, and visited all of the places throughout the novel. I just can not sing enough praises for this novel. I am ready to read it over and over to draw more conclusions, and catch things from this novel that I missed the first time through. Toni Morrison¿s novel impressed me so much that I can¿t wait to get another one. The storyline is spectacular and the language is simply stunning, and I would have to call this novel breathtaking. I give Song of Solomon two thumbs up. I would recommend it to anyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading this book, you will feel as if you have just inherited a great wisdom that you must share with everyone around you. This is my all-time favorite book. I've read it 3 times. Toni Morrison's writing embodies what every author can only dream to accomplish.
Alyssa Cadriel More than 1 year ago
The novel I chose for Book Talk was Song of Solomon. The author of the novel Song of Solomon is Nobel Prize winner, Toni Morrison. The main genres of the novel are known as African-American literature and fiction. The novel is about the coming-of-age of the main character Milkman and how he transforms from a naive, egotistical young man into a poised adult who understands the importance of family and morals. Over the course of his journey, he uncovers his families worth and decent and clears himself of the expectations his father and society have for him. Towards the end of the novel, he is free from all the limitations and expectations that weigh him down. He finds his identity and place in life and he learns how to fly. The point of view of the novel is Third Person Omniscient as the narrator knows the thoughts and feeling of all the characters. Morrison put much thought and detail into the novel which is why the overall book was slow. The novel did not drag because Morrison captures the reader’s attention with emotion, imagery, and meaningful information. The antagonist in the novel is Macon Dead (Milkman’s father) who is a greedy, selfish, aristocratic man who is not satisfied with his life or family. He is the ultimate reason Milkman has such unlikeable qualities towards the first half of the novel. The protagonist in the novel is Milkman himself. Readers see him transform from a greedy and egotistical being into a compassionate and loving character. The audience is right alongside Milkman as he grows and becomes a better version of himself. The major conflict in the novel takes place when Milkman leaves his parents’ home and tries to become an independent adult. He encounters many obstacles dealing with wealth and class along the way. My favorite character in the novel is Pilate Dead (Milkman’s aunt) because, throughout the novel, she displays affection and compassion to all of the characters. She is a strong and fearless mother and grandmother who is devoted to the well-being of others. I would not change anything about the novel because everything was flawlessly written in fine detail. Everything in the novel fell perfectly into place because it was well articulated. Overall, I enjoyed the novel very much and would definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in novels that have historical and bible references.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In Song Of Solomon Toni Morrison, better known for her novel Beloved, creates a world where believable characters exist in a surreal environment where oddities are the norm and the Dead walk. Weather they are butchering vagrants in caves or stealing a sack of human bones the characters in the story go about strange and often disconcerting tasks with an altered and demented moral perspective. My reasoning behind a three out of five rating for this particular work stems not from these sometimes disturbing images, the issues in history and present the book means to address are disturbing, but in the method in which they are presented. For the first half of the story no discernable plot shows through and all Morrison provided to hold the readers attention exists purely in her abilities as a very descriptive writer. About half way through the book the major characters become apparent and I was able to form valid opinions on their validity to the work as a whole and understand their internal conflicts. This epiphany comes to late in the story and when it does show through the plot is not powerful enough to compensate for what was often a tired read. Do not think that because I say the book lacks structure I am discrediting Morrison¿s ability to delve deep into the underlying as well as the obvious evils of racism and human discrepancy. She does so with a prowess equal to that of the greats on the subject but needs to evolve the ways in which she conveys her message.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Macon Dead the III was given the nickname ¿Milkman¿ when his mother was caught breastfeeding him well into his toddler years. Milkman is a self-absorbed arrogant man living off his fathers money and his grandfathers name. Completely oblivious to his surroundings, Milkman treats the women in his family like strangers. It wasn¿t until he meets his Aunt Pilate that he shows emotion and gratitude towards a family member. After hearing Pilate¿s stories of a family long lost, Milkman sparks a greedy interest to the family inheritance. In turn, he is spun into a journey that would teach him about family ties, commitment and love. The Story of family connections when we are well past the halfway point and the reader may struggle through the sub-plots. It is not until the very end that the reader can tie the beginning to the overall story. But stick with it, the stories and lessons they teach are well worth the read.
joyfiction on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very enjoyable read. I've read it more than once and would read it again.
pinkcrayon99 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am trying to work my way through all of Toni Morrison¿s novels even the ones I have read before. I needed something to get me through the work day and my podcasts were just not cutting it so I decided to download the audio version of Song of Solomon. The title of the book also made me inch it up TBR pile because of the allusion to the Biblical book Song of Solomon. Needless to say, when I hit play on itunes I was in for a literary whirlwind that only Toni Morrison can produce. The beginning of this novel was utter chaos. Mr. Smith the insurance agent jumping to his death from the top of Mercy Hospital and a baby, the protagonist, being born all at the same time. Macon ¿Milkman¿ Dead II was born into a dysfunctional family that had skeletons in every closet. He got his nickname ¿Milkman¿ from being observed breastfeeding at a late age. Rose Dead, Milkman¿s mother, has one or two strong moments in the story but mainly she is this passive detached wife and mother. Macon Dead Jr. is the iron fist ruling father that has emotional baggage from a terrifying childhood. Magdelena and First Corinthians Dead are Milkman¿s sisters whom he seems not to remotely have a thought or care about. Pilate, Milkman¿s aunt who is his father¿s sister, is the most endearing character. Pilate has a way of drawing you in. The mystery surrounding Pilate is that she has no navel. Pilate¿s daughter, Reba, is mother to Hagar who falls in love Milkman. Guitar, Milkman¿s best friend, has to be my least favorite character of entire novel. He is a snake and a betrayer. I found Milkman to be quite ambiguous. I could never really connect with him. I read a review that stated that they felt he was arrogant and I couldn¿t agree more. He seemed to have no connection whatsoever with his sisters and or the woman that was madly in love with him, Hagar his cousin. Milkman only seemed to relate to his aunt Pilate who was the connecting force of the entire family. Which was ironic seeing that she had no navel (go deeper). Milkman was loyal to his best friend Guitar who ultimately betrayed him. I propose that Guitar¿s paranoia developed from all the ¿secrets¿ he was trying to keep. Hagar left quite an impact on me. Morrison referred to her love for Milkman as an ¿anaconda¿ type love. This love ultimately squeezed the life out of her. At one point, I thought she would kill herself if she could not have Milkman. It was love that bordered on madness. Hagar went on an unsuccessful mission where she bought a new wardrobe and cosmetics to try and make herself more desirable for Milkman. It all faded away in the rain. Another small part of this novel that stood out to me was the plight of First Corinthians. Educated black woman, no children yet she could not find a job in her area of study or a companion that met her ¿social standards.¿ First Corinthians had to turn to domestic work to make a living and she fell in love with a blue collar worker instead of the doctor her mother hoped for. Both of these she hid from her family because of the pressure they put on her. These are similar situations I believe a lot of black women are facing today. ¿¿her voice was light and sprinkled with gravel.¿ ¿Pilate This quote from the novel best describes how I felt about it over all.
BrianDewey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Morrison, Toni. Song of Solomon. Plume, New York, 1977. One of my favorite Morrison novels.
Kristelh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Toni Morrison deserves her accolades and Nobel Prize in Literature. What a gifted writer. Song of Solomon is a story of the Dead family and specifically Milkman Dead or Macon Dead III. It is set in Michigan but also covers Danville, Pennsylvania and Shalimar, Virginia. Milkman is the only son born to Ruth and Macon and brought about by a spell prescribed by his aunt Pilate. From Milkman¿s conception it seems someone always wants him dead. The epigraph of the story is The novel's epigraph reads, "The fathers may soar/ And the children may know their names." This book explores the importance of names but also connecting with your family history and personal self awareness and growth. The story starts with Milkman¿s birth with the ¿flight¿ of an insurance man from the hospital roof and the theme of flight is followed through the book as a means of escape. The use of flying as literal pushes this work into the magical realism genre. Names are very interesting in this book and have layers of meaning such as pealing an onion. Milkman¿s aunt Pilate, named from the Bible¿s Pilate is also significant for her role of piloting Milkman on his journey to self discovery. This novel is very rich in detail but also extremely readable and enjoyable. This book won the National Books Critics Award, was chosen for Oprah Winfrey's popular book club, and was cited by the Swedish Academy in awarding Morrison the 1993 Nobel Prize in literature.
estellen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've read this a million times and it continues to leave me breathless. I wish I wrote it!
cjbarton on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of her most approachable titles, showing the power of her language also.
bexaplex on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Song of Solomon is an absolutely brilliant synthesis of a mythic journey, family drama and story of origin. There are strong echos of James Baldwin, and probably many other authors of whom I am ignorant. Morrison juggles a lot of ideas without looking like she's trying too hard. The characters are compelling and real, and they grow and learn in a bumpy real-world way. Milkman, who chafes at his father's attitudes about life, waits until he is in his thirties to take his voyage of self-discovery. My favorite up-ended traditional character is Pilates, who is an earth-mothery root worker who ends up being just plain wrong about the dominant spirit in her life.It's worth reading the book just for the names, which provide the kind of humor that one character describes as being vital to living life as a black woman. An ancestor of the main character, being illiterate, unintentionally accepts a post-slavery surname of "Dead" and names his children by pointing at the Bible, resulting in some of the best names in English-language literature.
jwhenderson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Song of Solomon is a brilliant synthesis of a mythic journey, family drama and story of origin. This is the story of Macon "Milkman" Dead, heir to the richest black family in a Midwestern town, as he makes a voyage of rediscovery, travelling southwards geographically and inwards spiritually. In some respects, Milkman's story is a classic Bildungsroman, a coming-of-age story about the moral and psychological development of the main character. However, Milkman is thirty-two when he finally comes of age, unlike traditional heroes and heroines of the Bildungsroman. In part, Milkman postpones his adulthood because he is comfortable as the pampered only son of an upper-middle-class family. But Milkman also resists the sense of connection and commitment to others that are required of adults. We see him thinking for himself -- questioning his place in the world:"As the stars made themselves visible, Milkman tried to figure what was true and what part of what was true had anything to do with him." (p 75)Through the enlightenment of this one man, his quest for identity, the novel recapitulates the history of slavery and liberation. The novel's epigraph reads, "The fathers may soar/ And the children may know their names." The importance of names and naming for Morrison's cast of characters, primarily Milkman's family, seems to exist in a name's ability to intimate or uncover hidden truths about personal identity. Morrison's use of the flight metaphor to bookend the story is brilliant as well. I found the story both entertaining and educational in the sense that I learned about a culture that was very different than my own. The differences were submerged beneath the similarities in relationships of family and friends that were like those of everyone everywhere.
jojolson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Song of Solomon is a well written book that helps you learn from the main character Milkman of who he really is. You feel sorry for him even though he is a jerk towards others, but learn to love him as he becomes more aware of his own life. There are many twist, and turns in the book that build up to the plot, and the ending will be unsuspecting. This is a must read book if you love to learn about African-American liturature.
sandglass on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It turns out, reading is bad for sleep cycles. The ending of Song of Solomon felt really rushed and very deux ex machina. All of a sudden Milkman realizes that the song the children are singing, a version that his aunt has been singing, is about his family. And then there¿s a cousin who can explain everything for him, but she didn¿t want to before because the town gossip was there! Uhm. . .okay. I figured a while ago that the bones that Pilate was carrying were her father¿s, and the whole grown woman regressing to small child was touching, I guess. The Days was the most interesting part. Unlike Beloved, the politics felt a lot less pastede on yey. Political diatribes felt appropriate in Song of Solomon. The idea that they would rape and murder innocent white women made me ill, but Guitar had a compelling explanation¿that any white person is a potential lyncher. Wrong, of course, but I can see how he would be so filled with fear and rage that he¿d start thinking that way. It felt a little misogynistic, something I realize more comparing it with Beloved. Beloved was a story about a woman and her two female daughters, and yet there was a long subplot about her lover shoehorned in with a lot about how awful it was to be a black man that eclipsed her story. The rape of black women wasn¿t so bad¿but the effect it had on black men was just horrible! Sigh. Ditto here, although in this story it¿s more appropriate, since the main focus is on Milkman, his father Macon Dead (and his father Macon Dead), and Guitar. The young women are blamed for how they were raised, and mostly exist in relation to men (as mothers, as lovers, as sisters). Milkman¿s sister points out his misogyny and how he has been using women, but that was pretty quickly dropped. There¿s no real analysis of the sociopolitical forces that lead to it, like there is for the stuff involving men.Some of the prose was just absolutely beautiful. The book was a serious slog, it was so thick and dense. It took me a while to start really caring about the characters, and I have to admit I never really came to care about Milkman.
lit13 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this book for a Lit class, and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I had heard horror stories about Beloved, and assumed that Song of Solomon would be the same way. Either Song of Solomon was better, or I just have a taste for the darkness of Toni Morrison that my friends don't, because I really liked it. The writing was wonderful and the characters were interesting. It's a strange book, and some weird things happen, but they seem to make sense in the context of the book. I'd recommended to anyone who wants to read something very different.
zip_000 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was really an amazing book. It is the only Morrison book other than Beloved that I have read, and, while this one does not quite compare to Beloved, it was still excellent.The only negative that I can come up with is that there is a bit too much plot. I feel like Morrison's writing is at a high enough level that she can forgo some of the plot and just write. She gives the reader a feeling of deep, deep roots and a beautiful melancholy that is enough without the overwrought plot. Her writing is reminiscent of Faulkner, which is for me, a very high compliment.
jmg364 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I took a Toni Morrison seminar, and had to read nearly all of her books. Many of them were entirely too depressing, had predominantly female characters, and involved themes of child molestation as well as race hostilities. Song of Solomon has some characteristics of other Toni Morrison books, but the primary characters are male, and it is at least not the same kind of depressing. I found this to be a beautiful story, and would recommend it to anybody.
Marliesd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I first read this as a college freshman, and I remember being totally blown away. Great book.
BAP1012 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of my favorites - and my favorite of Morrison's books. I was introduced to this book in 1978 in a college lit class. I've read it many times since and own too many copies to count because I get a craving to read it and need it now!I love the beauty of Toni Morrison's words and the terribly complicated but simply human characters of this novel. The plot takes me to places and worlds I would never know without this book. I want to know Pilate and Circe as strongly as my own grandmothers.
Othemts on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This may be Morrison's best novel. It's a great story about a quest to find one's people and learn to fly. This is also a good book for someone reading Toni Morrison for the first time since the style is a lot more accessible than her other books.