This is a post in my 50 Nifty series, in which I’m reading through 50 books that embody each of the 50 United States. Find out why I’m doing this and which books I’m reading when (so you can read along) by checking out my first 50Nifty post, or else browse all 50Nifty posts by clicking here!
Beloved, Toni Morrison
Because I’d recently read this book (in the last five years or so), I was only planning to peruse it this time, but I was drawn in by Morrison’s engaging story and beautiful prose and ended up reading the whole thing again. Beloved deeply addresses the mystery of motherly love in an unexpected way, and the reader alternately finds him- or herself shuddering at or rooting for the main character, Sethe, as she navigates the terrain of recent freedom after growing up a slave in Kentucky.
Sethe now lives in Ohio with her daughter, Denver, and Sethe’s relationships with her current neighbors are strained due to an event that happened years earlier. When visitors from Sethe’s past show up to her house unexplained, it sets in motion a story of love, community, ghosts, sacrifice, and injustice that is masterfully woven together by Morrison into a compelling, fantastic book. It’s the kind of book that makes me uncomfortable–that takes me out of my own experiences and allows me to be enveloped by another world, for better or for worse–and amidst the backdrop of the ironically-named Sweet Home, which is where Sethe lived as a slave, the landscape of Kentucky and the heart of the Ohio River Valley emerge. Because of Morrison’s skill in describing the defining features of the region as well as those of the time period, I think this was a great pick for the 50Nifty list. And if you’ve never read Morrison’s work, this would be a wonderful place to start.