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Love: A Novel
by Toni Morrison
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Reviewed by: Norman Goldman

Reading Pulitzer and Nobel prize- winner, Toni Morrison's most recent novel, Love, was like trying to put together a giant jigsaw puzzle. You never know where you are going to find the next piece, and when you do find it, how will it fit in. Sometimes, however, the pieces are not exactly what you had expected. Somewhat like having your eyes out of focus and not quite sure as to what you are seeing.

In fact, as we discover, some of the raw material of the story turns out to be quite disturbing as they allude to such acts as child molestation, pedophilia, statutory rape, kinky sex, and whatever else Morrison can throw in.

At the novel's heart is a story revolving around an African-American man, William Cosey, "onetime owner of many houses, a hotel resort, two boats, and a bankful of gossiped-about, legendary cash, who always fascinated people, but he had driven the county to fever when then learned he had left no will…. Feeling good, no doubt, from Wild Turkey straight, he had sat down one night with some boozy friends and scrawled among side orders and the day's specials, appetizers, main courses, and desserts the distribution of his wealth to those who pleased him. Three years later a few boozy friends were located and verified the event, the handwriting, and the clarity of the mind that seemed to have had no further thoughts on the matter." What is most interesting about Cosey was his profound influence he had on the lives of two women: his second wife, Heed and his granddaughter, Christine. As we learn, both are about the same age and were at one time child friends. Shocking, however, was that Cosey married Heed when she was eleven years of age.

Morrison is constantly keeping her readers guessing as to what kind of a person was William Cosey as she explores his character from different perspectives, breaking it down into distinct chapters entitled, Portrait, Friend, Stranger, Benefactor, Lover, Husband, Guardian, Father, and Phantom.

At times the narrative is very elusive, and we are not quite sure where we are going with the story. However, Morrison's vivid and compelling characters coupled with her poetic dialogue entice us to stick with it until the very end.

The first chapter, entitled "Portrait," recounts how a young woman with the unusual name of Junior, who is just out of a correctional institution, is applying for a job as a secretary to Cosey's widow, Heed. Junior's duties will consist of helping Heed write a book about the Coseys. Readers learn that Heed lives in the same house together with Christine, and that she had inherited the house from Cosey's estate. However, we discover that the two women are embroiled in a legal proceeding, whereby Christine is suing Heed to reclaim her share in her grandfather's estate. From this point onwards Morrison cleverly draws her readers into the story by peeking into all of the corners of Cosey's life, as well as the lives of the women who were connected to him in one way or another.

If readers expect a "feel good" ending, I am afraid they will be disappointed. However, on the other hand, when you do put the book down, you are tempted to re-read paragraphs or even entire chapters in the belief that perhaps you have missed out on something. No doubt, this is the brilliance of Morrison's writing and the challenge for the reader.

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