God Help the Child by Toni Morrison is a welcome new entry by this fabulous writer. It is about love and not race, “Booker cut her off. ‘Scientifically there’s no such thing as race, Bride, so racism without race is a choice. Taught, of course, by those who need it, but still a choice. Folks who practice it would be nothing without it.’” In spite of this intellectual dialogue between two of our main characters, race is an important theme in this new novel. When Bride is born, she is black as coal and this shocks her mother who could pass as white. Both Booker and Bride grow up with their own personal burdens all based on love, seeking it and not having it until they meet each other.
This is a story we all can tell and know. “A city girl is quickly weary of the cardboard boredom of tiny rural towns.” What a perfect metaphor Morrison has created here about love and how it is depicted in so many of these rich characters. The fun of this book, unlike previous Morrison tomes that take us savagely through the brambles, this one is more gentle, even soothing as familiar themes are worked but with a gentle hand, sometimes with a salve. It is more comfortable as we in our latter years reflect on our own rough road.
How do we move beyond the rough patches and shed them? Do we? Should we? Morrison has an answer and tells it beautifully. “They will blow it, she thought. Each will cling to a sad little story of hurt and sorrow – some long-ago trouble and pain life dumped on their pure and innocent selves. And each one will rewrite that story forever, knowing the plot, guessing the theme, invent its meaning and dismissing its origin. What waste.’’ Will the cycle ever be broken as we go from generation to generation? Will a new child break that cycle or merely continue it? Bride’s mother’s response is “Good luck and God help the child.”
What a treat to be bathed in such genius. Thank you, Ms Morrison.