From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Nobel laureate Morrison returns more explicitly to the
net of pain cast by slavery, a theme she detailed so memorably in
Beloved. Set at the close of the 17th century, the book details
America's untoward foundation: dominion over Native Americans,
indentured workers, women and slaves. A slave at a plantation in
Maryland offers up her daughter, Florens, to a relatively humane
Northern farmer, Jacob, as debt payment from their owner. The ripples of
this choice spread to the inhabitants of Jacob's farm, populated by
women with intersecting and conflicting desires. Jacob's wife, Rebekka,
struggles with her faith as she loses one child after another to the
harsh New World. A Native servant, Lina, survivor of a smallpox
outbreak, craves Florens's love to replace the family taken from her,
and distrusts the other servant, a peculiar girl named Sorrow. When
Jacob falls ill, all these women are threatened. Morrison's lyricism
infuses the shifting voices of her characters as they describe a brutal
society being forged in the wilderness. Morrison's unflinching narrative
is all the more powerful for its relative brevity; it takes hold of the
reader and doesn't let go until the wrenching final-page crescendo.
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