by Toni Morrison
Rating: ****1/2 loved this book. If it was a person I’d still be hugging it.
I’m just gonna say it.
I love this novel.
Maybe it’s not quite love. Infatuation?
An unexplainable fascination.
From front flap:
“Song of Solomon beings with one of the most arresting scenes in our century’s literature: a dream-like tableau depicting a man (Mr. Smith) poised on a roof, about to fly into the air, while cloth rose petals swirl above the snow-covered ground and, in the astonished crowd below, one woman sings as another enters premature labour. The child born of the labour, Macon (Milkman) Dead, will eventually come to discover, through his complicated progress to maturity, the meaning of the drama that marked his birth.”
“Mr. Smith’s blue silk wings must have left their mark, because when the
little boy discovered, at four, the same thing Mr. Smith had learned earlier – that only birds and airplanes could fly – he lost all interest in himself.”
I have no idea why, but this story really gripped me. And I expected to be more gripped by Beloved than Solomon (this is only my second novel of Morrison’s) and frankly, Beloved wins hands down on the ‘eerie and creepy’ frontier.
But this novel, it was just so…real. Maybe it was the characters. The way they interacted with each other. The way they interacted with themselves. They were just so real to me. They still are. I can’t get Milkman, or Pilate, or poor Hagar, and maybe even poorer Guitar out of my mind. And that’s another thing, I couldn’t fully resent a single character either. They all had a back story, and they were real, vulnerable people who had a reason for behaving the way they did.
Ok, excusing the rant. Stripped to its bare bones, this book is about Milkman Dead (yup, you’re reading right) on a journey of self-discovery. Except for the first half of the book he doesn’t know that. And neither do you. So you’re just comfortably plodding along, absorbing the stories of his childhood, his parents, his sisters, and the other characters – I don’t want to say secondary, because they seem so significant to this novel, and everyone’s actions affected the others – only to realise later, that there is a mystery that must be solved! Ok, maybe not exactly a mystery, but there’s a puzzle there. A knot of string that Milkman intends to unravel, and you, oh lucky reader, get the delicious thrill of knowing you are going to be accompanying him on that journey. And finding out that delicious secret for yourself. I was totally hanging onto every word in the last couple of chapters. It was that exciting. Or maybe it was just me. Maybe I was just that excited. I don’t know, I’ve always loved a good mystery, an unsolveable puzzle that spans generations, and it’s up to the most recent generation to piece the different clues from all those years together and work it out! Ah, I’m frothing at the mouth!
*Mops up sprayed mess*
It did seem to be a bit rushed at the end. As did Milkman’s change. Maybe she intended it that way. Maybe her editor was banging the door down, saying they needed the manuscript NOW. But maybe, thinking about it now, it’s not too unbelievable. I can’t reveal spoilers or anything but ever since he was young Milkman thought that there was more to life than the daily mundane that occurred in front of his eyes. He’s had to live with that disappointment for most of his life. And finding out this secret was probably freeing, uplifting – something that confirmed that he hadn’t been wrong, that he was right to think there is more to life. And I think that joy alone could have had the power to change him.