Title: God Help the Child
Author: Toni Morrison
Publication Date: April 2015
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Spare and unsparing, God Help the Child—the first novel by Toni Morrison to be set in our current moment—weaves a tale about the way the sufferings of childhood can shape, and misshape, the life of the adult.
At the center: a young woman who calls herself Bride, whose stunning blue-black skin is only one element of her beauty, her boldness and confidence, her success in life, but which caused her light-skinned mother to deny her even the simplest forms of love. There is Booker, the man Bride loves, and loses to anger. Rain, the mysterious white child with whom she crosses paths. And finally, Bride’s mother herself, Sweetness, who takes a lifetime to come to understand that “what you do to children matters. And they might never forget.”
Toni Morrison’s first novel to be set in our current time, showcases her talent once again. I’ve never been disappointed with her stories and you wont want to miss out reading this one. Bride is a child born with blue black skin who longs to gain the affection of her pale-skinned mother. Although race is a factor in this story, it’s not the central plot. At the heart of this story is child abuse and sexual crimes against children. It’s the sad story of recovery and coming to fully understand and accept oneself.
In an attempt to gain her mother’s fleeting love, Bride lies on the stand, condemning an innocent woman of sexually abusing the children she teaches. In tandem to this, the man that Bride loves struggles to overcome the rape and murder of his brother when they were young. This story looks at how we survive and how we deal with the sins we commit. Can we learn to forgive ourselves and to forgive those who have done wrong…and what are those crimes that are completely unforgivable?
Bride struggles throughout the novel, returning to the mental state that she occupied as a child as she struggles to come to terms with the terrible act she committed against her teacher. She acknowledges that she only wanted her mothers love, but that’s something that she was never able to fully and truly attain, and she is ashamed that committing such a cruel act was the only was she could connect with the woman she knows as Sweetness.
My main criticism of this story is that Morrison introduces chapters from the perspective of secondary characters–Sweetness, Brooklyn, and Sofia– whose perspectives add little to the overall plot. I commend her for wanting to give each character a voice, especially because the secondary characters are extraordinarily complex. This novel needs an additional hundred pages or more in length to further explore these other characters because instead of finding their contributions essential to the overall plot, I found they detracted from it.
Overall, however, I was not disappointed by Morrison’s new text. I hope you enjoy it as well!