Genre: historical fiction
Length: 324 pages
Setting: the outskirts of Cincinnati, after the Civil War
Interest: It’s a Pulitzer Prize winner. I’m pretty sure I read it in college, but I figured it was worth reading again since it’s been so long and I don’t remember the book.
Summary: Sethe is an escaped slave living at 124 Bluestone Road with her dying mother-in-law Baby Suggs, daughter Denver, and the ghost of the baby she killed. They are getting by, but not rally living life until Paul D. shows up. He’s the last of the Sweet Water men who was a slave alongside Sethe. His coming stirs up many memories in his and Sethe’s life. It culminates in the sudden, mysterious arrival of Beloved. Denver quickly realizes Beloved is a physical manifestation of the ghost. Shen Sethe realizes this fact, she tries to make amends, but just gets her life sucked into Beloved. Beloved is eventually banished when Denver reaches out for help, but Sethe is quite damaged by then.
Final thoughts: This is a difficult book to read, partly because of the topic and partly because of the way Morrison jumps around between narrators and time periods. You, as the reader, have to work hard to put together the histories of Paul D. and Sethe, and you don’t necessarily get all your questions answers (like whatever happened to Halle and where exactly did Beloved come from). We only know as much as the narrators, and they have imperfect knowledge of the world.
I think my favorite character was Denver. At the beginning of the book, she’s whiny and never leaves the house. By the end, she realizes if she doesn’t do something, Beloved will Kill Sethe. She becomes an adult and takes charge and is able to save her mother. I did remember the book from college, but only in a vague sense of deja vu as I was reading. I was never able to anticipate the story, just say to myself “Oh, that’s right. That’s what happened next.”
Awards won: The Pulitzer Prize in 1988
Title comes from: Sethe had Beloved put on her baby;s tombstone from the preacher’s words at the gravesite (Dearly Beloved…). She wanted more but could only afford Beloved.
Reading challenges fulfilled: 19/100 in my Finally to 100 Challenge, 7/12 in my Award Winning Challenge, and a B in my Title Alphabet Challenge
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