Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
I’m a huge fan of Toni Morrison, which is no secret around these parts. I’ve read all but Song of Solomon, but I had found it a paperback copy at Goodwill. I never know how a Morrison novel will turn out, but this one is absolutely in the top half of her oeuvre. Hooray! I’m glad I invested in the purchased copy, for sure. I am looking forward to unpacking the novel and revisiting it (maybe teaching it) in the years to come.
It’s always hard to summarize a Morrison novel, because there is always so much going on. In short: Milkman Dead was born when a local man committed suicide by flying off the roof of a building. He spends his life under the shadow of a family history: his father, Macon Dead, lost his father young and became estranged from his younger sister, so his father’s tight control over his business and family causes repression and rebellion. Milkman discovers his aunt Pilate and quickly falls in with his cousins Reba and Hagar, the latter of whom forms a sexual attachment to him. Milkman is thus haunted by a past and heritage of which he knows little, a present which inhibits him, and a future that is void of anything familiar.
As with every Morrison novel, there is a lot of setup that takes a while to settle in. Song of Solomon requires patience to see it through. But the last fifty pages are incredibly lovely, with many threads coming together at once to develop a rich family heritage replete with symbolism from the early parts of the novel. The ending is shocking, abrupt, and open-ended. I told The Chancellor that it reminded me of the end of Darren Aronofsky’s film The Wrestler, in that you *think* you can predict what happens, but there are many possibilities. I won’t say any more about this, but it’s brilliantly executed. I will say that this is not the best introduction to Morrison (I would say Beloved or The Bluest Eye, as two more mainstream texts, would probably be a bit more accessible), but it’s a must-read if you are a fan of any of her other work. 4.5 stars.