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Not all ghost are found in horror stories. And sometimes, that horror runs so deep that it’s not even scary anymore…just a sickening numbness that leaves you unable to cry. This month’s classic is a hard-hitting, emotionally powerful tale of the love of a mother, the horrors of slavery, and the memories that refuse to die. If you’re looking for a beautiful piece of literature, then look no further than Beloved.

Book of the Month

Beloved (1987) by Toni Morrison

Opening Words

124 was spiteful. Full of a baby’s venom. The women in the house knew it and so did the children. For years each put up with the spite in his own way, but by 1873 Sethe and her daughter Denver were its only victims. The grandmother, Baby Suggs, was dead, and the sons, Howard and Buglar, had run away by the time they were thirteen years old–as soon as merely looking in a mirror shattered it (that was the signal for Buglar); as soon as two tiny hand prints appeared in the cake (that was it for Howard). Neither boy waited to see any more.

Beloved, Toni Morrison

What’s it all About?

Beloved is the heartbreaking tale of Sethe and her family. Sethe lived much of her life as a slave on a plantation known as Sweet Home. Even years later, after she escaped to Ohio and to freedom, Sethe is still not free, tormented by the memories of what was done to her at Sweet Home, and the horrible decisions she was forced to make. And even now, her home is tormented by the ghost of her nameless child, who died as Sethe tried to escape, and who was buried in a grave marked with a single word: Beloved. When a young woman shows up at Sethe’s house, calling herself Beloved, Sethe finds that she can no longer hide from her past, as everything comes bursting to the surface.

Read this if you Enjoy…

  • Historical Fiction
  • Own Voices/African American Literature
  • Magical Realism
  • Haunting, complex literary fiction

Final Thoughts

Beloved is a tough read. Morrison’s depictions of slavery and the lasting wounds that it leaves upon generations of family are hard to handle, and it never tries to shy away from being anything other than what it is. However, this book is also incredibly beautiful. Morrison somehow manages to take a horrendous topic and write so deftly, so poignantly about it that the reader is left speechless. This haunting, moody, and very raw book is a challenge, but one that is completely worth it. As a fun aside, Toni Morrison is an Ohio native, hailing from Lorain. If you enjoyed this book and would like to experience more, there is a 1998 movie starring Oprah Winfrey as Sethe that you can check out from your library.

Erin

I'm the Reader's Advisory Librarian at WPPL. My interests include old horror films, classic novels, manga and anime, paper-crafting, and plants. If you like my suggestions, you can request personalized recommendations from me on My Librarian page.