Considered a classic by many, Toni Morrison’s harrowing 1987 historical novel Beloved is simply perfect. Set after the Civil War in the Eastern United States, we meet a woman who escaped from slavery, Sethe, who lives at 124 Bluestone in Cincinnati. Throughout the novel’s three “acts,” we learn of Sethe’s past at the Sweet Home plantation in Kentucky, explore the character’s thoughts, examine the family tree of Sethe’s mother-in-law, learn about Sethe’s escape and how the haunting at 124 came to be. At the commencement of the novel, when an unexpected visitor shows his face at 124 and disrupts the home, chaos ensues.
While in the company of this book, I felt an array of emotions. To describe it in just a few words: beautiful, tragic and astonished. Readers might be on the fence about immersing themselves in the unusually deep and, to this day, taboo topics discussed such as rape, murder, the effects of slavery and depression. But the way Morrison approaches these difficult themes, then overlays the novel with them, is simply admirable. The changes in the format and the blend of voices present in Act 2 force the reader to think in the most mesmerizing way.
I read this novel over a three-week period, which for a 300-plus-page book means any reader is likely to be engulfed and not be able to put it down. This breathtaking novel won a Pulitzer Prize for a reason. There is no scale imaginable to rate or score this masterpiece; every single person interested should simply read its beauty. While some folks, like me, may have read this novel because it was assigned to them, fellow teens will find the stunning revelations that come through the tragic, intriguing plot are a testament to change and strength.