God Help the Child (2015) is the last novel written by the Nobel Prize for Literature (1993) Toni Morrison, but I didn’t like it. It didn’t meet my expectations. I thought it was mainly a book about a very specific kind of racism, that of light-skinned Afro-Americans against dark-skinned members of their community, but that is the main topic only in the first amazing chapter where Sweetness is shocked to see her daughter’s ebony skin.
Bride is the main character and once she grows up she becomes a successful businesswoman for a make-up company. She wears only white clothes and drives a Jaguar. She is a wonderful example of exotic beauty, but when she decides to pay a visit to a woman who has just been released after spending many years in prison, her golden-skinned boyfriend Booker leaves her.
It’s now that the novel turns into an endless series of child abuse cases. When she was eight, Bride accused a teacher of being a child molester so that her unloving mother could be proud of her, the little black girl doing the right thing. The problem is that the poor 20-year-old white woman was innocent, but because of Bride she spent 15 years in prison, so it’s perfectly understandable that she beats her up even if Bride tries to offer her several thousands of dollars when she’s released.
The list of child abuses includes also Bride witnessing her white landlord raping a white boy when she was six years old, a white girl who was sold by her mother to men who wanted to have sex with her, Booker’s older brother being killed by a white serial child molester, Bride’s white friend Brooklyn repeatedly molested by her uncle and Booker’s cousin Hannah who was sexually touched by her father.
Child abuse is surely a terrible thing, but it can’t be possible that almost every character of this novel is affected by this evil. The novel doesn’t sound realistic! There are more sexual abuses here than in an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
Another element I disliked is the surreal changes in Bride’s body. During the most critical period of her life, she loses her pubic and armpit hair, her chest becomes flat and her ears aren’t pierced anymore. While she’s facing her past, Bride turns again into a scared little girl. It’s only when she finds the fugitive Booker that her womanly attributes reappears. I want pure realism, I don’t like symbolism and I wasn’t expecting it in a novel like this.
Booker is a loser. He has a degree in economics, but he never worked in this field. He leaves his parents’ home after a quarrel and starts playing his trumpet on the streets. During the six months he lives with Bride he idly spends his time reading books and playing with his friends now and then.
At the end of the book both Booker and Bride know each other’s childhood traumas (Adam’s death and the falsely accused teacher) and Bride realizes she’s pregnant, so they decide to give themselves a chance as a couple, even if they are not the best match for each other. Where will they live? What job will they find to earn a living? Booker was a loser from the start, but now also Bride has lost her efficiency after disappearing from her job for two-three months.
The novel closes with the 63-year-old Sweetness living in a nursing home and wishing that God may help Bride’s child, the unplanned boy or girl of her 23-year-old daughter who was born in the 1990s.