Knopf Canada, 208 pages, $35
By Charmagne de Veer
LIKE love, as defined by the Apostle Paul, Toni Morrison's new novel bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things.
Love is the eighth novel by the Nobel Prize-winning author of Beloved. An intricate study of love in all its manifestations, it follows several women whose lives revolve around one man, Bill Cosey.
In segregation-era U.S., Cosey is a successful African-American who runs a southern seaside resort where black people can dance, sing and celebrate. Feeling guilty that his father earned his fortune off the backs of his own people, Cosey is determined to be a paragon to his community.
But despite his many good deeds, Cosey is also a grandfather who marries an 11-year-old girl, Heed, from the wrong side of town. That would be bad enough, but Heed is his 12-year-old granddaughter Christine's best friend.
Enter May, Cosey's daughter-in-law and Christine's mother, who is supported by Cosey after her own husband -- his son -- dies. She tries to protect Christine from the realities of adult sexuality by separating her from Heed but, in so doing, creates between the girls a rivalry so pure and strong the two are driven apart for life.
After Cosey's death, a controversial will forces the women to split the estate. Both are too stubborn to sell, so the two women are forced to share the property and live together through their waning years.
Through the eyes of Heed, Christine, May, the faithful servant L, the young girl Junior who hopes to find a home with the long-dead Cosey, Morrison creates a fully realized picture of segregated black culture in America and the upheaval of the 1960s.
Purity of love
Yet Love is not political. For all the history that pervades the novel, what stands out its depiction of the purity of love and its profound impact on the most personal details of a life.
The story is told in Morrison's rich, poetic prose, writing so dense and so subtle that the novel is like a paté or fine wine. It's not a page turner but a slow wade through a warm sea, a multi-coloured quilt wrapped around a cold lap in the winter.
This may be Morrison's finest novel yet.
Charmagne de Veer is a Winnipeg magazine and book editor.