God Help the Child by Toni Morrison
|God Help the Child by Toni Morrison|
|Category: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Stacey Barkley|
|Summary: A haunting look at how the past shapes the present, at how society's views shape our very being. Raw and affecting, the impact resonates long after the story's end.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 192||Date: April 2016|
|External links: Author's website|
A truly complex and emotionally raw portrayal, that seeks to cover issues of race, gender, and paedophilia. A slim volume, yes, but one that is powerful in its punch.
Meet Bride, confident, successful and admired by many; her blackness is the essence of her beauty. It is difficult to match this woman with the small child, shunned by her mother and shamed by society, but so it was. For Bride was once Lula Ann, born to parents shocked and ashamed of her skin, so much so that her father left, leaving her Sweetness, her mother, to raise the child alone.
And raise her she did, according to a set of principles that aimed to prepare her for a world that was hostile, a life of submission in which she would obey and exist, but never succeed or stand out; the aim was to go unnoticed and to remain unseen. Starved of affection, the child longed for even the sting of physical punishment as the smallest promise of human touch.
Morrison plays with the light and dark of life and humanity; that hope, so pure and innocent, for love and for care, is the same hope that fuels the young Lula Ann to tell a lie that sentences an innocent woman to life. An innocent child, marred by circumstance, and forced to carry this burden with her into adulthood.
Enter Booker, the young man battling a sense of permanent discontent at the world and of himself. His childhood memories centre on a warm and loving family. A wholesome experience interrupted by the death of his older brother at the hands of a neighbourhood predator. While the family mourns in different ways, Booker is afraid to let go, and consumed by anger is critical and endlessly searching for some positive feeling in life. Another child marked by circumstance. One look at Bride, however, and for the first time he is roused from his critical slumber as he becomes aware of the possible wonders in life.
What follows is the raw and messy reality of two adults who are battling their own childhood demons becoming entangled in each other's. Each has sought the other for the relief they provide, but without communicating misunderstanding festers through their relationship. It becomes a fight to love. When Booker walks out, Bride learns that making amends for her past is not as easy as it might seem, further evident when she finds herself bruised and beaten, lying on a pavement as a result of these very efforts.
Morrison punctuates the main narrative with thoughts from those characters central to Bride's childhood. We see that her mother was not without love, but living in a society that she in turn had learnt was harsh, and seeking only in her actions to protect her daughter and to train her to survive; withholding love out of, well, love.
A stark reminder that childhood experience shapes our very sense of self, it makes us who we are. God Help the Child, so that experience might fall kindly on them, for the hold of the past colours the present evermore.
If this is your first foray into the poetic wonder of Toni Morrison's writing, I highly recommend trying another such as Home.
You can read more book reviews or buy God Help the Child by Toni Morrison at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy God Help the Child by Toni Morrison at Amazon.com.
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