LOVE BY TONI MORRISON
The first page of Toni Morrison’s novel Love is a soft introduction to a narrator who pulls you in with her version of a tale of the ocean-side community of Up Beach, a once popular ocean resort. Morrison introduces an enclave of people who react to one man–Bill Cosey–and to each other as they tell of his affect on generations of characters living in the seaside community. One clear truth here, told time and again, is how folks love and hate each other and the myriad ways it’s manifested; these versions of humanity are seen in almost every line. Monsters and ghosts creep into young girls’ dreams and around corners and then return to staid ladies’ lives as they age and remember friendships and cold battles. Men and women–Heed, Romen, Junior, Christine, Celestial, and the rest of Morrison’s cast–cry and sing out their weaknesses and strengths in rotating perspectives. Sandler, a Cosey employee, is a brilliant agent of Morrison’s descriptions of human behavior, “Then, in a sudden shift of subject that children and heavy drinkers enjoy, ‘My son, Billy was about your age. When he died, I mean.'” And Romen is allowed to play hero by saving a young girl from a brutal gang rape, while at the same time, he battles disgust like no superhuman would be caught dead feeling.
Though slim in pages, Morrison constructs Love with a precision and elegance that shows her characters’ flaws and fears with brutal accuracy. Love may be less complex than others in the grand Morrison oeuvre, but not because Morrison performs literary hand-holding. Readers will experience in this smooth, sharp-eyed gem another instance of the Toni Morrison craftsmanship: she enters your mind, hangs a tale or two there, and leaves just as quietly as she came. –E. Brooke Gilbert