What’s The Book About?
God Help the Child is a story about the impact of childhood trauma told through the relationship between Bride, a dark skinned girl and her mother Sweetness. Believing she has to toughen up Bride for the world, Sweetness denies her daughter affection and love. This sets off a chain of decisions and actions that entangle them both.
“Midnight black, Sudanese black. I’m light-skinned with good hair, what we call high yellow, and so is Lula Ann’s father. Ain’t nobody in my family anywhere near that color. Tar is the closest I can think of yet her hair don’t go with the skin. It’s different – straight but curly like those naked tribes in Australia.”
The opening to this novel (quote above) was so disorientating that my immediate thought was “What in the world is going on?” The story immediately grabs your attention and I particularly enjoyed the narrative being told from different perspectives. The novel deals with heavy themes: colourism, grief, sexual abuse, neglect, a whole array of tragic topics. Yet Morrison manages to weave it together in a way that is not inundating.
So what did I love?
“The boy’s little hands were fists, opening and closing. His crying was soft, squeaky and loaded with pain. The man’s trousers were down around his ankles.”
Be warned that this is quite a heartbreaking book! The description above is so simple yet it carries so much weight. I remember feeling shattered when I read it the first time and even now as I typed it, my heart broke again. Toni Morrison is a skilled writer, she grabs you by the throat and drags you into the story. Despite the heavy themes, it’s also a book about healing, confronting the past and finding a way forward.
Toni Morrison is acclaimed for her use of symbolism and there is a sense of irony running throughout the novel. We are told Bride grows up to love her dark skin but I found it fascinating that she is always dressed in white throughout the book because the colour highlights her beauty. Despite the self acceptance, the juxtaposition with whiteness is something she never quite escapes. The association between her name and her choice of clothing was also interesting.
Top Three Quotes
“No matter how hard we try to ignore it, the mind always knows truth and wants clarity.”
“Each will cling to a sad little story of hurt and sorrow – some long ago trouble and pain life dumped on their pure and innocent selves. And each one will rewrite that story forever, knowing the plot, guessing the theme, inventing its meaning and dismissing its origin. What a waste.”
“What you do to children matters, and they might never forget.”
Guide to Book Review Rating
✯ – Meh
✯✯ – Read at your own risk
✯✯✯ – Hit and Miss
✯✯✯✯✯- Life Companion. Thank me later!
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