top ten list of Authors I Can't Believe I've Never Read. One of those was Toni Morrison. I rectified that last week when I read her acclaimed novel, Beloved. It is a powerfully emotional novel, as good as I'd always heard.
Set after the Civil War, the novel focuses on Sethe, a mother who escaped slavery in Kentucky with her four children to live with her mother-in-law, whose freedom Sethe's husband bought years earlier. As the story opens, it is just Sethe and her youngest daughter, Denver, in the house. Her mother-in-law died, her two sons left a few years earlier and her other daughter died a long time ago, though we don't know why or how at the start of the novel. There is also a disturbing spiritual presence in the house which effectively keeps other people away and leaves Sethe and Denver isolated.
Things change for the two women when Paul D. shows up at the house. He knows Sethe from their days as slaves on the same farm, so they share a lot of memories that both of them would rather forget. The novel explores their shared past in disturbing, compelling flashbacks that begin to explain aspects of their present.
These flashbacks were incredibly powerful, telling the personal stories of a horrific time in our shared history. I had a little trouble at the beginning of the novel with the mysterious presence in the house - I'm not generally a big fan of so-called mystic realism - but after a while, I was completely wrapped up in the emotional complexities of the story and its characters. It explores the ways in which our past affects our present lives and the lengths people will go to to protect the ones they love. It is an intense, thought-provoking novel, and I'm glad I finally read it.
Now, I still need to work on the other nine authors on my list!