A Mercy by Toni Morrison
A Mercy is Toni Morrison’s first novel in five years, after the two critical disappointments (1998’s Paradise and 2003’s Love) that appeared in the wake of the Nobel Prize for Literature she received in 1993. Like Beloved (1987), her most admired work, A Mercy is set in the distant American past and tells the story of a slave mother’s apparent betrayal of her daughter.
“I’m just trying to look at something without blinking,” Morrison has said, “to see what it was like, or it could have been like, and how that had something to do with the way we live now.” If Beloved can be described as an attempt to see what slavery was like—to depict its historical and psychological repercussions for America—A Mercy is an attempt to see what could have been had slavery not taken full root in the New World, a tale of America “before it was America,” in Morrison’s words.
About the Author
Cheryl Miller, a new contributor, is a 2007 Phillips Foundation fellow in journalism and the editor of Doublethink magazine.