In Review: “God Help the Child” by Toni Morrison

I believe everyone has an idea which cements the statement, ” The world would be a better place if…,” and a new novel on childhood trauma from nobel-laureate, Toni Morrison, finds itself unearthing that world. Toni Morrison is famous for her unapologetic writing on black life in America, but the celebration of her writing derives from the meanings she attempts from blackness and the lifestyles to follow. Her first novel, “The Bluest Eye” permitted the idea that African-American stories not only matter, but who is telling them may matter more. “God Help the Child” follows protocol with modern narratives from transformative characters who believe in the provocative statement, “What you do to children matters. And they might never forget.”

“God Help the Child” follows the lives of Bride, Sweetness, Brooklyn, Booker, and Rain, who are all modernized by their location, language, and love. Each of their names, similar to the title itself, carry a curiosity familiar to Toni Morrison’s creativity. The characters serve Morrison’s imagination by their selective dialogue. In return, Morrison gathers the inspiration for a multi-narrative novel, which projects the story forward. Providing multiple narratives directs the story from being one-dimensional and biased. As the story is gained from multiplicity, space is opened for Morrison to ease her messages through her characters. Only 178 pages, “God Help the Child” forces  the negotiation between Morrison’s unprecedented wordsmith and her characters’ monologues.

What is interesting about the characters is that their personalities are subjected to their lifestyles. In many of Morrison’s other work, her characters either overcome or succumb to their circumstances, rarely submerging themselves in present moments. Remaining current allows for the digestion of all characters, so that characterization may serve a plot its due process. Bride, for example, cannot transition from being a daughter, friend, and wife, because those titles beg for the introduction of her mother, bestfriend, and husband. Not only do those titles initiate an interest in Sweetness, but Bride’s complication with maintaining the duties reflect a necessity for their relationship. Morrison leaves much to the imagination about Sweetness and Bride in identified roles, as they often greet others in untimely, forgetful manners, however, their relationship is defined at birth by Bride’s “blue-black skin.” Race is likely to overtake the lifetime of a child whose mother insists, “Her color is a cross she will always carry,” but Bride’s appearance to the other characters offer experiences that distract Bride from assuming burdens. Including, but not limited to, her boyfriend, Booker, her bestfriend Brooklyn, and a stranger girl, Rain, who is a child that creates the paradigm between childhood and adultlife that the issues of “God Help the Child” need for its full installment.

Themes are often the subject of reviews and not so much the pinnacle of a book’s success, but Toni Morrison’s unpredictable love of characters produces themes which interrupts a usual recipe for novels. Because she does not distance herself from labels, and instead responds, her writing is not only a floral of discussion on race, gender, and family, but the love in which understands these terms. Her authenticity is personified through the simplicity of “God Help the Child.” Set in an unspecified time and space, “God Help the Child” volunteers the portrayal of everyday themes to merely suggest meaning.

Titled, “God Help the Child,” meaning is suggested at its core. How Morrison garners the confidence to trust a post-modern society with “God” printed in bold, pink letters on the cover of her new book since 2012, is both an infringement on her religious views and dismissal of religion’s stake in the upper echelons of the literary world, but one cannot distrust the intention and authority of Morrison herself to suggest such a title. The cover extends an opportunity to demand answers to questions that we usually cannot ask until the book is sprung open and closed again. With a bible scripture on the page before her dialogue with the universe, Morrison lends “God Help the Child” as a suspender to an old adage, “Do not ask questions you do not want answers to,” furthering enabling the boldness of her characters. Opening the book is Sweetness, “It’s not my fault,” and closing the book is Sweetness, ” Good luck and God help the Child,” surrendering her own ability to God. Such declarations is what ignites similar statements, “The world would be a better place if…,” and that blank space is often filled by confidence in what should, forgetting what would, if we only fill ourselves with the belief that the world could. Perhaps, our world would be a better place if we neglected the world of what would, could, or should happen, and entered a world of novelty where we simply happen. Sweetness also held the defining lines, ” What you do to children matters. And they might never forget.” As a child, reading “The Bluest Eye” gave us difficult answers to questions that an adult may have reading, “God Help the Child,” and I trust this reality-to-fiction paradigm has much more to do with Morrison’s nursery of fiction than our reality in the world. What “God Help the Child” can do for children matters, and may adulthood never forget the gift of Toni Morrison.


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