All human relationships come down to it. Would you save my life? Or Would you take it?Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon is set in a time in America, when even though slavery was abolished, the coloured people led a life far from being free or fair. They didn’t get justice like the whites did, nor were they treated equally, still barred from entering certain places or buying property. What was theirs was being taken from them by the whites just because the latter didn’t believe that the former deserved it, especially and only because of their colour.
At such times was born Macon Dead, the protagonist of this story who lives a rather privileged life being the grandson of the only Doctor in their clan and son of a wealthy real estate businessman. The book is about Macon’s life, of his lack of empathy towards ‘coloured people problems’ because he hasn’t had to face any, his disinterest towards his own history or the relevance of it in his life, his inability to understand why the people around him – his father, his mother, his sisters, his aunt, his lover or his best friend – are the way they are, always angry within, always seeking some form of justice. He isn’t stupid. He is just your regular unsympathetic observer.
And then the change happens.
Slowly a series of events take place in his life, making him question everything that he knew about himself or the way he thinks. And before even we, the reader, realise it, Macon transforms. He begins to introspect, begins to test his own limits, begins to question all that he till then thought he ‘deserved’, and slowly transforms into a person who feels with his blood and not just lives because he isn’t dead yet. He begins to finally understand why everyone feels the way they do, why they long for something, why they made the choices they did, why they hated each other, why they supported each other and most importantly, why they were relevant in his life rather than he in theirs.
Toni Morrison is a delight as a writer. The manner in which she weaves the story, jumping through timelines, unexpected turns of events, detailed visualisation that takes you there, outbursts that explain who people truly are or why they are the way they are, revelations and discoveries of the past that change the course of the story and sometimes the meaning behind someone’s words and the piecing together of different versions that finally begin to make sense.
And the ending.
An ending that leaves you gasping for more.
This book is simply marvellous. With its pace picking up as the chapters go by and the final chapters that reveal the whole mystery and refuse to let you put the book down till you finish it. And absolute pleasure of a read.
From white hearted coloured folks to sibling hatred and incestuous relationships and murders and ghosts and unborn children and flying men and ballads of one’s ancestry being sung in far away hometowns, Song of Solomon is a story that enthralls you, to the very end. Another masterpiece by Toni Morrison and a must read.