Summary and book reviews of God Help the Child by Toni Morrison

God Help the Child

A novel

by Toni Morrison

God Help the Child by Toni Morrison
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2015, 192 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2016, 192 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kate Braithwaite

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About this Book

Book Summary

Spare and unsparing, God Help the Child—the first novel by Toni Morrison to be set in our current moment—weaves a tale about the way the sufferings of childhood can shape, and misshape, the life of the adult.

The new novel from Nobel laureate Toni Morrison.

Spare and unsparing, God Help the Child is a searing tale about the way childhood trauma shapes and misshapes the life of the adult. At the center: a woman who calls herself Bride, whose stunning blue-black skin is only one element of her beauty, her boldness and confidence, her success in life; but which caused her light-skinned mother to deny her even the simplest forms of love until she told a lie that ruined the life of an innocent woman, a lie whose reverberations refuse to diminish ... Booker, the man Bride loves and loses, whose core of anger was born in the wake of the childhood murder of his beloved brother ... Rain, the mysterious white child, who finds in Bride the only person she can talk to about the abuse she's suffered at the hands of her prostitute mother ... and Sweetness, Bride's mother, who takes a lifetime to understand that "what you do to children matters. And they might never forget."

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Introduction

"Nobel laureate Morrison explores characteristic themes of people held captive by inner struggles; the delusion of racism; violence and redemption. Her literary craftsmanship endures with sparse language, precise imagery, and even humor. This haunting novel displays a profound understanding of American culture and an unwavering sense of justice and forgiveness." - Publishers Weekly

Questions and Topics for Discussion

  1. Morrison opens God Help the Child with a character insisting, "It's not my fault. So you can't blame me." How does this set up what follows?

  2. Multiple themes weave through the novel: childhood trauma, racism, skin color, social class, freedom. What would you say...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Life, as shown to us in God Help the Child, is hard and often painful, even if there is hope that circumstances can and do get better. Inhabiting her characters' lives and voices, in a story told from multiple perspectives, Morrison examines the beauty and ugliness in all our lives, in a memorable story, skillfully told.   (Reviewed by Kate Braithwaite).

Full Review (508 words).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Emotionally-wrenching . . . [Morrison’s] literary craftsmanship endures with sparse language, precise imagery, and even humor. This haunting novel displays a profound understanding of American culture and an unwavering sense of justice and forgiveness.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Powerful portraits in lean prose . . . . The pieces all fit together seamlessly in a story about beating back the past, confronting the present, and understanding one’s worth.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. A chilling oracle and a lively storyteller, Nobel winner Morrison continues the work she began 45 years ago with The Bluest Eye.

Elle

Sly, savage, honest, and elegant . . . Once again, Morrison thrillingly brings the storytelling moxie and mojo that make her, arguably, our greatest living novelist.

Reader Reviews

Diane S.

God help the child
Absolutely amazing, Morrison can put a story together as very few can. Although only a short novel, so much is said, so much emotional territory is covered. When Sweetness, a light skinned black gives birth to a blue black baby, she is appalled as is...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Colorism

In the opening paragraph of God Help the Child, Toni Morrison gives voice to Sweetness, a woman describing herself as "light-skinned with good hair, what we call high yellow," who gives birth to a child with very dark skin. She says, "It didn't take no more than an hour after they pulled her out from between my legs to realize something was wrong. Really wrong. She was so black she scared me. Midnight black, Sudanese black."

Sweetness is about to make her own daughter a victim of colorism.

The many shades of colorism The term "colorism," first coined in a 1982 essay by Alice Walker, describes prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically amongst people of the same ethnic or racial group. The issue is not confined to ...

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