Beloved by Toni Morrison

Beloved begins as a slow-burning and haunting story about living on after the worst days, slowing winding around how to tell those days without shattering again.

The story rotates narrators and jumps back and forth in time in a way that was a little confusing at first, but the narrators have distinct voices and there’s mostly just Now and one big past event for each narrator as far as jumping around in time is concerned, so it became pretty easy to keep track of where the story was. The lack of demarcation with each switch helped to build the feeling that the past isn’t really gone for any of them. The story is about reckoning with the past in different ways, and how they deal with it. It’s also a ghost story, a haunting of the past refusing to leave. As the story develops it begins depicting the past events which were just hinted at earlier, circling back to them from different perspectives and catching slightly different bits of time surrounding a few very pivotal moments. It had the effect of helping me to ease into a very traumatic story.

The middle third of the book (leading up to the end of part 1) is absolutely devastating, enough story threads are in place for it to slowly wind to a set of riveting and horrifying explanations. This book is also filled with care, for the characters and the readers. The most brutal events are told from the perspective of someone who has already survived them (or who we know is around later on, at least), and that makes the current events feel manageable even when they’re differently awful. There are multiple narrators but it usually wasn’t hard to figure out whose perspective was in each section because their narrative styles were different enough to be distinct while having enough in common for the changes in POV to not be jarring.

I like the ending, it feels like it meets the characters at a place that makes sense for everything they've been through, both before the book began and during the main timeline. They're not all the way better, not by a long shot, but they're working on it, each in their own way.

CW for ableism, animal abuse (not depicted), sexual assault (not depicted), slavery (backstory), child death, pregnancy, childbirth, racial slurs, racism, assault, death.

Clear Your Shit Readathon 2020 prompt: Intimidating book

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"Beloved" in cursive writing on a plain red background.


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