God Help the Child, the latest novel by Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison, is very much in the same vein as the other Morrison books I've read (Beloved, The Bluest Eye). It centers around the life of a woman who has suffered tragedy and abuse and demonstrates how those painful experiences send out continuous ripples of influence throughout her lifetime.
In this book, the main character is called Bride, a name she adopted for herself as a means of reinvention. Bride was born with very dark skin. Her mother found her darkness so abhorrent that she was never able to be the warm, loving parent Bride needed. As an adult, Bride chooses to accentuate her dark beauty by dressing only in white. Others now see her as striking, a knockout, but the insecurity her mother sowed in her early life has never gone away. Bride also carries a crippling burden of guilt over a choice she made as a child in an effort to earn her mother's love.
Morrison's books aren't very fun to read. They deal in such heavy, heavy issues. I certainly don't sit down with a Morrison novel expecting to have a rollicking good time. However, her writing is just beautiful. It sings. And it keeps me coming back, even though these days I go out of my way to avoid books about child abuse. There are some lovely passages in God Help the Child, specifically a handful of prose poems written by Bride's love interest, Booker, as he tries to make sense of this seemingly unknowable woman he's been spending time with. The language in those sections...well, I had to close my eyes and just sit for a minute.
I agree with the critics who say this novel doesn't carry the same weight as Beloved, but that's like complaining that an Olympic sprinter didn't run as fast for her victory lap as she did when winning the gold medal in the 100 meters. To my mind, Beloved is a once-in-a-lifetime achievement. These newer, shorter books written in Morrison's later years are just a chance for her to lope around the block and do a pageant wave for her adoring fans—and I, for one, will keep showing up to throw carnations and cheer.