Nobody understands the power of the written word better than Toni Morrison. And few have mastered the style and craft of writing like she. I have been trying to work my way through her canon, and Love is one of my favorites.
Love focuses on African-American East Coast entrepreneur Bill Cosey, though the narrative is told from the perspectives of several women in his life: his wife Heed, granddaughter Christine, former employee and friend L, and Junior, the young woman who comes to live in his home and work for Heed. Heed and Christine were best friends until Bill swept Heed away from her impoverished life and married her as a child–and thus begin some forty-odd years of enmity between the women. Junior is a juvenile delinquent whose explorations around the house lead her to become fascinated, even obsessed with Bill. L’s voice is the most mysterious, alluding to another woman, Celestial, whose presence is crucial yet occluded by all the women.
The narrative seems confusing at first, especially because Morrison splits it between the women and journeys forward and backward in time. Yet, the mystery unveiled is richer for the initial frustrations that come from not knowing what is happening in the beginning. Here, Morrison grapples with basic human emotions–love and hate–showing how we are all ultimately connected to one another.
I especially appreciate Morrison’s keen insights through a multitude of voices. Her female-centered narratives are especially adept at demonstrating the kinds of historical difficulties women, especially African-American women, faced in constructing an identity on the American cultural landscape. For this–and many other reasons–I believe that Toni Morrison is one of the greatest American authors of all time.