I recently read Beloved by Toni Morrison. I decided to read it after I had heard it mentioned multiple times in another book. I did most of my reading while I was babysitting people’s children. This was probably not the best time to read a book about the supernatural.
This book chronicles the story of a family escaped from slavery during the time of the civil war. The main character, Sethe, endures hardships to escape with all her children, including the one that is in the womb at the time of her escape. The story is harrowing, painful, violent, and surprising. It’s told intermittently through flashbacks and explanations.
I’m trying not to spoil too much. Sethe is tracked down by her former owners and when they approach her at her house above the Mason Dixon line, they appear as the four horsemen. That’s an actual phrase she uses. In an effort to save her family, she does something drastic (SPOILER).
She takes a handsaw to the throat of her youngest child and intends to kill the rest. However, as soon as the four white men see what she has done, they leave, and her family takes the rest of her children away. It seems unimaginable to us today, like that women who said God told her to drown her children. But Sethe was planning on killing every child and even herself so they could finally all be together without the threat of slavery. It was her attempt at a final escape.
Since that day, the ghost of the dead child haunts their house causing them to be ostracized by their once friendly community. One day, Beloved returns in the flesh and eventually wreaks havoc on the household until the community comes together to save Sethe and her daughter Denver from the erosive effects of Beloved.
I was a little freaked out reading this in dark houses by myself, but I enjoyed the read nonetheless. I can see why this is a classic piece of literature. The use of dialect is effective. The way the story is told keeps it interesting. The characters are understandable.
What really turned me off of this piece is the ending. For some reason, endings always ruin it for me. Morrison spent a whole book telling the story of how this woman got to where she is and resolved the whole thing in a mere chapter. The ending, when the community forces Beloved to leave the house that Sethe and Denver live in, occurs in just a few pages. I suppose I wanted more description. It was as if Morrison got tired at the end and wanted to hurry up and end it. The ending was much less detailed than the rest of the entire book.
Maybe one day I’ll find a satisfactory ending.