It’s 11:11 in the morning and I have finished with one of the best books I have ever read in the course of my short life. I need a moment to organize my thoughts, sort out my feelings. Come back to real life. But I can’t.
A part of me is still with Sethe and her daughters, Denver and Beloved at 124. A part of me is being tied to a pole and whipped mercilessly for eating a shoat I skinned, butchered and cooked myself. A part of me is giving birth to children of fathers who forced themselves on me. A part of me is still wondering whether my husband Halle is out there alive and free or long dead. A part of me is burying the daughter I killed with a handsaw because I couldn’t live to see her being pushed into the endless abyss of torture and humiliation that I had to endure myself. A part of me is engraving the word ‘Beloved’ on the headstone of my dead girl, because she has no name. But it is not I. It is Sethe and Sethe is not I.
I’m not even Baby Suggs (Sethe’s mother-in-law) who never had a chance to recognize that she was a human being with a beating heart. Baby Suggs, who only looked at her own hands at the sunset of life and came to the realization that they were her own. Her very own for her own use and not the use of another. Baby Suggs, who was forced to accept the “kindness” of being bought out of slave labour by her own son, at the cost of never seeing him again, never knowing what happened to him.
I’m not Paul D, being made to wear neck braces as punishment for an act of belligerence, unable to move his head. Deeply afraid of starting a new life and adding a purpose to it-not knowing what to do with the new-found freedom after the Civil War. Afraid of loving too much and losing too much because of it.
I’m just a lucky Bhutanese who was born in an era free from the worst form of human rights violation that ever existed on the planet. I was not alive during the period of systematic brutalization of one particular race by another just because one proclaimed racial superiority over the other. I was not in the plantations of Kentucky or Georgia or the Carolinas before or after the Civil War. I wasn’t in the hell called ‘Sweet Home’. But Sethe was. So were Halle, Paul D, Sixo, Paul A and Baby Suggs and the unnamed ones. And a part of me is with them and I still cannot wrest it away.
I can perhaps ramble on and on and still be completely unable to write a proper review of ‘Beloved’. And I won’t even try to summarize the book in a few sentences, since that would be deeply irreverent of me.
Beloved is not just a masterpiece, not even just a remarkable literary achievement. Beloved is the beauty of the resilience of the human spirit. Beloved is about hope and endurance. Beloved tells us about unspeakable cruelty and abuse inflicted on humanity by humanity itself. Beloved reveals festering psychological wounds, deep emotional scars that could never ever heal. Beloved is profoundly lyrical and empathetic in its depiction of grotesque events that unfolded during the most ignominious part of America’s history. Beloved wrenches your heart out, shreds it into a million tiny pieces but then stitches all the pieces together and hands your heart back to you – all bloodied and messed up.
Maybe a few years down the line when I read Beloved again, I will write a more coherent review and sound less emotional. Maybe I will get every cryptic message Toni Morrison intended for her reader to receive and decode. Maybe I will not. But I will try. And I will read this book again when I feel like my life is difficult or I can’t go on anymore. I’m sure Sethe and Beloved will be there to hold my hands and lead me forward.