POVone: The First Person Perspective

Rants and Reviews on Novels Written in the First Person Point of View

Tag Archives: Child Abuse

Book Review: God Help the Child by Toni Morrison

Author: Toni Morrison
Title: God Help the Child
Genre: Literary
Publication Date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: Random House
Number of Pages: 192
Narrator: Sweetness, Bride, Etc.
Quality Rating: 80.52

God Help the Child by Toni Morrison

What’s It About?

Sweetness is a light-skinned black woman married to a light-skinned black man. They’re so light-skinned that they can pass as whites, and they live in such a time that it is beneficial to do so. Everything is going perfectly in their relationship until Sweetness gives birth to a baby girl who has extremely dark skin. Embarrassed, her husband leaves her to raise the girl on her own.

As the little girl grows, she feels the constant contempt of her mother. When she is six years old, she falsely accuses a woman of child molestation and sends her to prison for fifteen years–simply because she wants to gain her mother’s approval. The moment she reaches adulthood, Bride–as she comes to call herself–abruptly leaves the mother by whom she’s always felt scorned.

As an adult, Bride has become incredibly successful as an entrepreneur in the beauty industry. She is in a serious relationship with a man whose past demons make it difficult for him to commit. When the man suddenly leaves her, Bride begins to investigate how her mother’s abuse has shaped her own disposition in life. As the story unfolds, child abuse is explored in a myriad of ways through the lens of several characters.

Should You Read It?

If you enjoy the prior work of Toni Morrison, this book–though set in the modern day–carries her signature style. The story is about racism–but not really about racism. It’s really about child abuse, and Sweetness’s contempt for the color of her daughter’s skin is just one of many examples in the novel of how children are exploited, abused, and ruined by the adults they trust. If this topic is important to you, you would probably find this book very helpful in understanding the impact abuse has on children as they claw their way into adulthood.

Links and References

Author Information: Wikipedia, The Toni Morrison Society

Book Reviews: New York Times, The Atlantic, The Guardian, LA Times

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Toni Morrison: Paradise (1997), Beloved (1987), The Bluest Eye (1970)

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Book Review: Aquarium by David Vann

Author: David Vann
Title: Aquarium
Genre: Literary
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press (Grove/Atlantic)
Number of Pages: 272
Narrator: Caitlin Thompson
Amazon.com Reviewer Grade: C, Average; of the first 62 reviews, the average reader rating was 74.52%.

Aquarium by David Vann

What’s It About?

Caitlin is a twelve year old girl growing up in Seattle during the mid-1990s. Her mother–the only parent she has–frequently works late in order for them to eke out an existence together in a low rent apartment complex. Having nowhere else to go, Caitlin leaves school everyday and spends her afternoons at the local Aquarium watching the fish. One day, she meets an old man who also frequents the aquarium to watch the fish. Little by little, they begin to develop a friendship.

Caitlin’s mom has cut herself off from her family, and she never talks about her past. When she finds out that Caitlin has been talking to an old man, she jumps to the conclusion that the old man is a pervert and seeks to confront him. What she discovers, however, is that her past has come back to haunt her and the old man is no stranger–at least not in the way she thinks.

As Caitlin’s mother attempts to avoid dealing with her past, she reveals a hidden rage and becomes increasingly abusive with those around her–including her new boyfriend, her daughter’s friend from school, and even her own daughter. Caitlin must struggle with loving her mother in spite of the rage she exhibits, all the while seeking love herself from the others who are coming into her life as she grows older.

Should You Read It?

If you like stories about self-discovery, inner struggles, and broken family relationships, you’ll probably enjoy this book. The writing is rhythmic and poetic, while capturing the perspective of a child trying to understand the world of adults. Themes involve sexual exploration, coming of age, child abuse, forgiveness, and regret. If you’re into literary fiction that grapples with these issues, I’d look into this book. If you’re sensitive to the ideas of child abuse, child sexuality, or homosexuality, I would exercise caution–while not necessarily graphic, the scenes involving these issues can become fairly intense.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Wikipedia, Goodreads

Book Reviews: New York Times, The Guardian, Washington Post, Kirkus Reviews, Chicago Tribune

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By David Mann: Goat Mountain (2013), Dirt (2012), Caribou Island (2011)