A Mercy

A Mercy

Large Print - 2008
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A powerful tragedy distilled into a jewel of a masterpiece by the Nobel Prize--winning author of Beloved and, almost like a prelude to that story, set two centuries earlier.

In the 1680s the slave trade was still in its infancy. In the Americas, virulent religious and class divisions, prejudice and oppression were rife, providing the fertile soil in which slavery and race hatred were planted and took root.

Jacob is an Anglo-Dutch trader and adventurer, with a small holding in the harsh north. Despite his distaste for dealing in "flesh," he takes a small slave girl in part payment for a bad debt from a plantation owner in Catholic Maryland. This is Florens, "with the hands of a slave and the feet of a Portuguese lady." Florens looks for love, first from Lina, an older servant woman at her new master's house, but later from a handsome blacksmith, an African, never enslaved.

There are other voices: Lina, whose tribe was decimated by smallpox; their mistress, Rebekka, herself a victim of religious intolerance back in Engl∧ Sorrow, a strange girl who's spent her early years at sea; and finally the devastating voice of Florens' mother. These are all men and women inventing themselves in the wilderness.

A Mercy reveals what lies beneath the surface of slavery. But at its heart it is the ambivalent, disturbing story of a mother who casts off her daughter in order to save her, and of a daughter who may never exorcise that abandonment.

Acts of mercy may have unforeseen consequences.

From the Hardcover edition.
Publisher: New York : Random House Large Print, c2008.
Edition: First large print edition
ISBN: 9780739326305
Characteristics: 273 pages (large print) ; 24 cm.
large print


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RogerDeBlanck May 01, 2018

Morrison's ninth novel A Mercy is as poetic as it can be elusive. The narrative structure relies partly on an assemblage of voices. We hear the heartbreaking remembrances and yearnings of each of the story's victimized women: Lina, Sorrow, Florens, and Florens's mother called "a minha mae." At the outset of the story, it is the late 17th century and Jacob Vaark, an orphan of English and Dutch descent, inherits land in the new American colonies and sets out to collect a debt on a parcel of his land on a Maryland estate. As compensation, the Maryland slaveowner offers Florens's mother and baby brother. In an act of "a mercy" to save Florens from the horrors of a cruel master, Florens's mother begs for Vaark, who she can see is a good man, to take Florens instead. Against his will to take on another slave, he does anyways and so Florens joins Lina and Sorrow on Vaark's plantation. This begins the multi-faceted narrative of voices. We learn the harrowing pasts of each woman and what they've suffered and endured. Among this sadness is the Mistress of the plantation, Vaark's wife Rebekka. She too suffers from many grave losses. At the center of all the pain is Florens's obsession with a young Black man who is also free. As a skilled blacksmith, he is hired by Vaark to do intricate ironwork for Vaark's new mansion. What will happen to Florens? What will happen to them all? A Mercy maneuvers back and forth in time, revealing its secrets slowly and in meticulous details. This is a work of prose that is essentially poetry, where its gorgeous language and heartrending voices become a symphony cascading with a lyricism that is hypnotic and mesmerizing.

Jan 26, 2016

A Mercy is a short, but very complex novel. It deals with colonial America circa 1680-90 and includes a diverse variety of people. Included are Jacob Vaark (Sir), a farmer and perhaps a rum runner, his wife Rebekka (Mistress), a female Native American servant (Lina), a young female slave (Florens), a possibly indentured young female servant ( Sorrow), a freedman blacksmith, and two white indentured workers Scully and Willard. We begin to get the picture that colonial America is basically a land of a few rich white men who basically profit off the labor of indentured Whites and Black slaves – not quite the advanced Democracy as told in most U.S. History books. The structure of the novel, like other Morrison novels, is quite complex and as with most of her works, I had to restart after 50 pages once the construction of the chapters became more clear.

Dec 08, 2014

Not up to her best work, but still a powerful story told in an array of voices, each of which sounds authentic.

mrsgail5756 Sep 22, 2012

A very good read. I enjoyed this book I would recommend this book for all to read.

Aug 02, 2012

This book is set in 1680s New England at the beginnings of the slave trade and race hatred. It tells the stories of five diverse women. Excellent.


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