In Honor of Toni Morrison

To celebrate the life of the esteemed author Toni Morrison, I’m reposting my review of Beloved. This book ranks as one of my all time favorite reads.

BelovedBeloved by Toni Morrison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I enrolled into my contemporary literature class, I couldn’t fathom what kinds of novels my instructor planed to toss at us. I remember staring at the reading list with more than a little trepidation, and when my eyes glanced over Toni Morrison’s Beloved, I groaned. The red background with the flowing gold script screamed romance to me. When it came time to read the book, I settled in with an open mind, but still trembled from the thought of sappy narration. Within the first few lines I discovered my fears were unfounded. Never judge a book by its cover!

Beloved tells us a hauntingly beautiful ghost story, brought forth by the desperate actions of an escaped slave woman, Sethe. Some may wonder whether Sethe’s actions are perhaps the wisest; regardless, her actions come back to haunt her, literally. Readers may find Toni’s writing style difficult. She packs the pages full of dreams, flashbacks, and memories that take the reader back and forth through time (think Faulkner or Virginia Woolf), and I found myself confused, having to reread the text sometimes to decipher the meaning behind the words. Regardless the excellent story makes up for this confusion. I highly suggest reading it.

On a side note: The movie failed to encompass the grittiness and emotion of which the book so brilliantly displayed.

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When I start pecking at my keyboard, I generally have a good idea of what I’m writing about. Not that I claim to be a scholar like Tolkien, but I have the internet at my fingertips and a library down the road. Meaning, I do my research.

The reason I bring this up stems from a comment I received regarding Samara’s age in The Unfettered Child. The commentator suggested that I make her 14 or 15 to better fit with the story.

I can appreciate someone not wanting to read about an 8-year-old child, but Samara’s age is perfect for my story. Here’s why:

Age and Culture

Children fishing

Historically (especially in primitive societies like Samara’s), adulthood was attained at the onset of puberty and was expected by then. In many cases, this meant around the age of 10 or 11 years old. To put it quite plainly, a 14-year-old Samara would have been several years into adulthood, probably married, and may have had a child or two of her own. Much too old for the story I intend to tell. Click here for more information; or here for additional information.

This doesn’t answer the full spectrum of the comment either.

Maturity

Image from Imgflip

I know that here in America and in most first-world countries, we spoil children (and ourselves) with the modern conveniences provided to us, and thank God for that. I’m really glad that my children have the opportunity to grow up free from the hardships that the nomads might consider normal.

However, even in our country, some children suffer. Hardship slinks its way even into the best the world has to offer. What happens when children experience hardship? They mature . . . quickly.

Before I even get into the maturity of children that experience hardships or live it on a regular basis, I want to point out that even my spoiled rotten children regularly display maturity and critical thinking. My 10 year old has had a vocabulary that could put many adults to shame, and has for two years now. He also mingles with our adult friends, preferring their company to that of children his own age, and they in turn treat him as a peer.

But back to hardships. Samara’s story, short of the fantastical side of it, echoes parts of my own. I was a year younger than Samara when my mother passed away. My father was 57 at the time and had little in the way of help. As the oldest of my siblings, I had to grow up quickly and learn the importance of responsibility.

Me working when I was younger. No, I joke. A child labor picture from Pixabay.

Plenty of documentation exists concerning the way of life for children in tribal societies. These children are well on their way to adulthood long before some of us begin high school.

So no. An older Samara would be out of place in my story, and historians and sticklers for accuracy would poke holes in the story had I made her older just for the comfort of those who cringe at the idea of children experiencing such hardship.

Do you have trouble with reading stories involving young children in terrible situations? Let me know your thoughts.

That’s all I have for now.

~Michael C. Sahd

Lord of the Flies by William Golding Book Cover

 

 
 

Lord of the Flies by William Golding
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**Spoiler alert**

A group of young children survive a plane crash on an uninhabited island. Quickly, the survivors attempt to recreate civilization by creating a tribe and voting for a leader. The tribe quickly dissolves into anarchy. Only a handful of the children grasp onto civilization and rationale through the entire book. By the end of the book, most of the children have lost their innocence and degraded into barbarians.

The book illustrates a great adventure story with plenty of action. I can’t say I cared for William Golding’s writing style, but the story and the meaning behind it makes this book well worth the read. Lord of the Flies symbolically shows the bestial nature of the human race.

The symbols that I found the most interesting were:

  • First, the title, Lord of the Flies, is the translation for Beelzebub (a demon, and in some cases, Satan). I understand that Beelzebub is the demon of decay and famine, symbolizing what happens to the children’s innocence and sense of civility while on the island.
  • Piggy, the one child in the book who insists on civilization, is a pudgy, asthmatic, almost-blind boy. Ironically (or perhaps predictably), he is also the most intelligent and rational. I understand a person like Piggy needs civilization to survive, but I think the portrait of this character says something about a different kind of decay when humans depend too much on civilization.
  • Finally, the children are rescued by the British Navy, which is off to go fight in one of the bloodiest wars in history. I believe this rescue is to tie together how the story told on the island reflects the degradation of humanity as a whole.

Overall, I give this book four stars because it is amazing, despite the distracting writing style. Leave me a comment to let me know what you thought of this book, or of my review.

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~ Michael C. Sahd

Author Michael C. Sahd

 

Railroad Tracks And Silos
Standing by the Railroad Tracks . . .

 

Looking Into the Sun
And Looking Into the Sun!

Here are some new photos of me, contributed from a friend.

Also, it is Tuesday, which I hereby dub a “Teaser Tuesday”:

Pulling his heavy denim jacket closer around his lithe body, Damian let out a puff of cold mist, and shivered from more than just the cold.

Being stuck in North America for two years had been the most unpleasant time of his life. He had spent these years living off mice half the time, sometimes fighting wolves for his claim to the tiny rodents. The other half of that time, he had spent starving.

Briefly, toward the end of this stint, some crazy cult of religious people who avoided technology like the devil had taken him in, until he left to find a more civilized settlement. The settlement he found was deserted. He fell asleep in a shack and woke up unable to open the snow-packed door or windows. This memory, more even than the cold, elicited his shiver.

Feel free to let me know what you think of this teaser and/or these pictures in the comments below.

~ Michael C. Sahd

Beloved
Beloved by Toni Morrison

Beloved by Toni Morrison
My rating (on Goodreads): 4 out of 5 stars

They say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” and that definitely applies to Beloved! When I first saw the book, I thought, “Oh crap! A romance novel.” I was way off. In spite of its ambiguous cover, Beloved is actually a ghost story, resulting from the desperate actions of Sethe, an escaped female slave.

Readers may debate whether Sethe makes good decisions; however, regardless of right or wrong, her actions come back to haunt her, literally. I don’t want to give away the story to prospective readers, but I will say that this book isn’t for everyone. Filled with dream sequences, flashbacks, and memories Beloved flip flops through time in a manner reminiscent of William Faulkner or Virginia Woolf. Love it or hate it, don’t skip reading it.

On a side note: the movie is horrible. No Hollywood flick could ever encompass the grittiness and raw emotion captured by the book. But don’t take my word for it: Read it, watch it, rate it! Let me know what you think.

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~ Michael C. Sahd