28 February 2012

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

The first book I completed for the 100+ Books Reading Challenge 2012 is Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. Originally I was going to start my reading challenge with Sula, but a freelance opportunity presented itself that allows me to read fiction, so I jumped on it, and Song of Solomon was my first title.

Toni Morrison's work is not unfamiliar to me. In a college literature course I read/studied The Bluest Eye, so I was excited to have the chance to read Song of Solomon.

The story centers around the Dead family in an unnamed Michigan town. Specifically, the protagonist of the story is Macon Dead III (called Milkman from childhood). It is a coming-of-age story in which Milkman goes in search of a stash of gold that may or may not exist from his father and aunt's youth, and ends up finding out about his family history and his own identity instead.

I had high expectations of the story when I started reading it, and I wasn't disappointed. I did have trouble connecting with the character of Milkman--I found myself connecting more with his mother, Ruth, and his aunt, Pilate. I know part of that is because they are female characters, but I found their life experiences more closely resembling my own, and I found myself rooting for them more than other characters in the book.

Pilate does play a large role in the story, and is also considered a protagonist in some ways. More than that, she is a connective thread among the characters, and provides a link for Milkman to what he is seeking, even when what he is seeking changes. In fact, it is Pilate that helps connect Milkman to his own father.

The story is told chronologically and includes flashbacks to fill in exposition when needed. The use of flashbacks helps reveal the story to the reader in the same way it is being revealed to Milkman. Not only does this help build suspense, but it puts the reader in Milkman's shoes as he is on his journey, tracking down clues and figuring out who he is.

I was not disappointed when I finished Song of Solomon. I enjoyed the story, I enjoyed the characters and their relationships, and when I put the book down, I found myself thinking about it for a few days afterward, still putting pieces together and processing the story. That's usually a good sign, isn't it? Of course, I didn't expect less from a Nobel Prize winner.

Whether you've read Morrison or not, Song of Solomon is worth taking time for. Morrison is an outstanding author, and this story will help you see why. Song of Solomon is my favorite of her works so far.

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