Morrison, in her sixth novel, enters 1926 Harlem, a new black world then ("safe from fays [whites] and the things they think up"), and moves into a love story—with a love that could clear a space from the past, give a life or take one. At 50, Joe Trace—good-looking, faithful to wife Violet, also from Virginia poortimes—suddenly tripped into a passionate affair with Dorcas, 18: "one of those deep-down spooky loves that made him so sad and happy he shot her just to keep the feeling going." Then Violet went to Dorcas's funeral and cut her dead face. But before Joe met Dorcas, and before her death and before Violet, in her torn coat, scoured the neighborhood looking for reasons, looking for her own truer identity, images of the past burned within all three: Violet's mother, tipped out of her chair by the men who took everything away, and her death in a well; for Joe, the hand of the "wild" woman, his mother, that never really found his. And all of the child Dorcas's dolls burned up with her mother and her childhood. Truly, the new music of Harlem—from clicks and taps of pleasure to the thud of betrayed marching black veterans with their frozen faces—"had a complicated anger in it." Were Joe and Violet substitutes for each other, for a need known and unmet? At the close, a new link is forged between them with another Dorcas. One of Morrison's richest novels yet, with its weave of city voices, tough and tender, public and private, and a flight of images that sweep up the world in a heartbeat: the narrator (never identified) contemplates airships in a city sky as they "swim below cloud foam...like watching a private dream....That was what [Dorcas's] hunger was like: mesmerizing, directed, floating like a public secret." In all, a lovely novel—lyrical, searching, and touching. Read full book review >
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