Book Review: “A Mercy” by Toni Morrison

So I decided since I’m taking some literature classes that I’d review some of the books on my blog.  I’m going to review them as a reader and not an English major, so that it doesn’t sound all analyzed, and it’s given a fair review.


“A Mercy” by Toni Morrison (2008)

Genre: Historical Fiction/ African American Literature

Book Length: 224 pages long (paperback edition)


In the 1680s the slave trade in the Americas is still in its infancy. Jacob Vaark is an Anglo-Dutch trader and adventurer, with a small holding in the harsh North. Despite his distaste for dealing in “flesh,” he takes a small slave girl in part payment for a bad debt from a plantation owner in Catholic Maryland. This is Florens, who can read and write and might be useful on his farm. Rejected by her mother, Florens looks for love, first from Lina, an older servant woman at her new master’s house, and later from the handsome blacksmith, an African, never enslaved, who comes riding into their lives. (description from Amazon)


I’ve never read any of Toni Morrison’s works until this book. I’ve always heard lots of good things about her novels, so I expected an interesting story. ” A Mercy” is an African-American historical novel that is set on a farm somewhere in northern America. (It’s set in the 1680s, colonial times) The locations shift from time to time in the novel but it some are not specified or made clear at many times. The story is about Jacob and Rebekka Vaark, owners of the farm, and the slaves that work on their land. They work on the land through the season of good and bad weather and also try to fight off the spread of disease (smallpox).

The story mainly focuses on three of the slaves that work on the farm; Florens, Lina, and Sorrow. All three women come from very different backgrounds that bring them together and separates them too. The perspective of each character changes from chapter to chapter and also shifts within the chapters as well. The grammar and sentence structure is a bit jumbled, so it makes reading challenging at times. But I think Morrison does this on purpose to her readers to make them pay more attention to details.

All in all, I really liked this book a lot. The historical setting, detailed writing, and plot kept me intrigued while reading the novel. I found the perspectives/thoughts all of the characters had on slavery, from both sides of the spectrum. At times I did get frustrated with the jumbled sentences, but it did challenge me to look deeper into the plot.

Final Verdict:

“A Mercy” was a great novel and I would like to read more of Morrison’s novels. The sentence structure can make it frustrating to read and understand at times. 4 1/2 out of 5.


4 thoughts on “Book Review: “A Mercy” by Toni Morrison

  1. I loved Mercy, but I think that Beloved is even better. Morrison is so good at getting historical details perfectly right without ever breaking the atmosphere of her story. I get what you mean about the sentence structure being confusing sometimes – she uses language to portray characters’ skewed perspectives in quite a lot of her writing – but I think the images she uses are strong enough to carry the plot through those funky bits of text. Have you ever watched or heard any interviews with her? She has the most beautiful way of speaking, I could listen to her all day.

  2. Great review! I just finished A Mercy and am a life-long Morrison fan. Although this one wasn’t my favorite :-/. If you want to read more Toni I suggest The Bluest Eye (as social commentary), Beloved (history, mythology and simply her best novel in my opinion….but don’t judge it based on the movie!), and Jazz (simply beautiful text).

    Love your blog!

    – The Afro-Librarians

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