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Loved this book. Heard of it a long time ago and assumed it would be good because it’s Toni Morrison but damn Tar Baby is really great.
The book follows the lives of six people (plus a few side people) in Haiti. Two are white, rich, and married. Two are black, married, and working for the white couple. And the other two are single and trying to figure out what to do next. One is the black couple’s niece, and the other is a black guy (Son) who jumps ship in the first chapter and winds up at the house too because he’s looking for food.
It maybe seems like a lot of people to remember but this book is very Shakespearean in that you get person-to-person insight into each person’s life and their perspective on things. It’s not about following one main character. You don’t feel like damn whatever happened with so and so? There are three clear relationships going on and they’re all fleshed out and interconnected and everything.
That’s the thing about her writing I think is that there is a roundness to it. The stories are full. The setting is alive and restorative. And Haiti is complicated. There’s an great section where Son is thinking about the utter injustice in front of him at the dinner table–an American guy profiting off the sugar industry then retiring in luxury where sugar was cut, only to have more black people working for you. Morrison writes that the wages “would outrage Satan himself” (174). Damn.
Best line: More awful than the fear of danger was the fear of looking foolish–of being excited when others were laid back–of being somehow manipulated, surprised or shook. -Toni Morrison p 108-9