God Help the Child, Toni Morrison

I finished this book on Thursday night, but needed some time to let my thoughts settle, based on the heaviness and clunkiness of the subject matter. First off, let’s air out some of the smell swirling around the story. If child abuse, molestation, and sexual assault are trigger issues for you, I would recommend choosing something else to read.

Reading the synopsis, I was definitely not prepared for the magnitude in which some of these themes were presented. Basically every major character has had pretty significant childhood trauma or abuse, and now these pasts affect how they behave and see the world as adults. Having this background information should aid in sympathizing with each character, however I still found the majority of them self-centered, unreliable and generally unlikable.

For example, Bride, the main character, is quite one dimensional. I believe Morrison does this on purpose. Bride’s self esteem never fully develops as a child and she only gains a sense of self when she is rewarded for her looks as a young adult. As such, her character is quite egotistical, shallow, and she happily rides the beauty & riches train until it crashes spectacularly upon the rejection of a man, Booker. Booker is a man she thinks she loves, but actually knows very little about. His rejection of her sets in motion Bride’s self regression. She physically begins to believe her body is morphing back into a child. It happens a little more with each person she meets and each pain she absorbs off or around them. It isn’t until she finds and confronts Booker that she regains her shaky idea of womanhood e.g. physical beauty, “flawless breasts”.

Will Bride and Booker make it? I don’t actually think so. Spoiler Alert: Bride says she’s pregnant at the end! But remember, this is a person who believes her body is changing into a child’s and you also learn about Bride’s past which includes some pretty epic lying to secure acceptance. So fake or not fake pregnancy, I am not betting my money on their happy ending.

Do I think Morrison means to say that if you had something shitty happen in your childhood that you are doomed to have a shitty adult life or just be a shitty human in general? No, actually, I don’t. I think this is tale to make us mindful of the cracked lens we may be viewing our lives through, lives which may just be our bruised pasts repeating themselves over and over and over…

Music Corner:

  1. “God Bless the Child”- Billie Holiday and Blood, Sweat and Tears. I grew up listening to the B, S and T version, but Billie Holiday’s is the classic.
  2. “Almost Blue”- Chet Baker. Booker plays trumpet, so all these really beautifully sad trumpet solos kept playing in my head as I read the book. I now want to listen to more trumpet influenced blues/jazz.

Books read: 3



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