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.”
A fierce and provocative novel that adds a new dimension to the matchless oeuvre of Toni Morrison.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
We are awestruck by Toni Morrison’s ability to write about unspeakable horrors in ways that are startling, incandescent, and unshakable. The Nobel Prize–winning author of Beloved and The Bluest Eye—blazing depictions of racism’s legacy—transfixed us with God Help the Child, a slender novel that packs a knockout punch. A chorus of voices narrates the story of Bride, a glamorous cosmetics executive reeling from a lover’s rejection. Taking us on shocking and revelatory tangents, Morrison explores the ripple effects of childhood trauma.
In Morrison's short, emotionally-wrenching novel, her first since 2012's Home, a mother learns about the damage adults do to children and the choices children make as they grow to suppress, express, or overcome their shame. The story begins with the birth of Lula Ann Bridewell, a midnight black baby whose mother cannot stand to touch her. Grown-up Lula Ann transforms herself into Bride, a stiletto-wearing, Jaguar-driving California executive with dark skin proudly accentuated by stylish white clothing. Amid preparations for the launch of her signature cosmetics line, Bride offers a gift-bag of cash and cosmetics to parolee Sofia Huxley, the kindergarten teacher Bride accused of sexual abuse 15 years before, earning Bride maternal approval and Sofia her prison sentence. Sofia's angry rejection of Bride's present, coinciding with the departure of Bride's lover, inspires such self-doubt that Bride fears regressing back into Lula Ann. A car accident lands her in a culvert, where a little girl keeping dark secrets of her own comes to the rescue. Nobel laureate Morrison explores characteristic themes of people held captive by inner struggles; the delusion of racism; violence and redemption. Her literary craftsmanship endures with sparse language, precise imagery, and even humor. This haunting novel displays a profound understanding of American culture and an unwavering sense of justice and forgiveness.
Customer ReviewsSee All
God Help the Children is Toni Morrison's latest novel and her first set in contemporary time. The story moves between 1st And 3rd person narratives even for the same characters and on a re-read I'll analyze that further. It stands to Morrison's talent that it wasn't something that stood out - it was only on looking back for the review that I realized that sometime Bride - the protagonist- was told in 1st, then in other parts 3rd.
The language is typical Morrison - sparse but powerfully descriptive - a dichotomy that has always been part of what I love about her writing. The characters, despite the limited space for development, are fully realized. Their stories are hard, and there is a common thread from the past that connects them, and there is a painful emotional distance that drives choices throughout.
Overall, an excellent read with my only real complaint is that I wanted more time with the characters. This latest Morrison novel is not as dark as some of her other ones, but it tackles typical themes of loss and the impact of adults in someone's youth on the adults one becomes.
I'm sure, like all of my experiences with Morrison's novels, I'll discover more in subsequent readings, which is yet another reason to enjoy her brilliance.
Always wondering where Morrison is going to take you as you journey through her novels. The landscape was unpredictable and unbelievable at times, yet it reminds you of the tragedies and triumphs in life.
I enjoyed this book very much. Good read and real to the bone of reality.