May Book Club Meeting

The May book is A Mercy by Toni Morrison. It made the New York Times Book Review list of “10 Best Books of 2008”. A Mercy explores the repercussions of an enslaved mother’s desperate act: She offers her small daughter to a stranger in payment for her master’s debt. A Mercy is Toni Morrison’s 9th novel. It was first published in 2008. A Mercy reveals what lies beneath the surface of slavery in early America. It is both the story of mothers and daughters and the story of a primitive America.


In the past, people have frequently been disappointed because they had read the book but "LIFE" interrupted their plans to attend the Thursday night discussion. For May we will offer 2 discussions on the book: 1 discussion at the normal time on Thursday, May 16 and 1 discussion on Saturday, May 18. Choose the date/time that best fits your schedule: attend one or attend both.


Since our discussion is held at the Nordstrom Market Cafe, I plan on enjoying dinner during our discussion. Eating or drinking is optional but I certainly plan on enjoying something to eat and drink during our discussion. The Nordstrom Market Cafe is located on the second floor of Norstroms in the Columbia Mall.




In the 1680s the slave trade in the Americas is still in its infancy. Jacob Vaark is an Anglo-Dutch trader and adventurer, with a small holding in the harsh North. Despite his distaste for dealing in “flesh,” he takes a small slave girl in part payment for a bad debt from a plantation owner in Catholic Maryland. This is Florens, who can read and write and might be useful on his farm. Rejected by her mother, Florens looks for love, first from Lina, an older servant woman at her new master's house, and later from the handsome blacksmith, an African, never enslaved, who comes riding into their lives. A Mercy reveals what lies beneath the surface of slavery. But at its heart, like Beloved, it is the ambivalent, disturbing story of a mother and a daughter-a mother who casts off her daughter in order to save her, and a daughter who may never exorcise that abandonment.


Book Availability at the Howard Count Public Library


A Mercy is available for checkout at the Howard County Public Library. The Howard County Public Library has:


(18) Copies of the book.

(6) Copies in large print of the book.

(7) Copies in audio book on CD of the book.

(1) Copy as a downloadable audio.



I have put in a request to have 5 copies of the book reserved for our book club. These 5 copies should be available for checkout starting April 27. The books will be held at the Central Branch and are available for checkout on a first come, first serve basis. They are at the fiction help desk on the first floor of the Library and are held under the book club name "Meetup." Tell the Librarian that you are a member of the "Meetup" book club and you can check the book out using your Library card. The address and hours for the Central Branch are:


Howard County Library Central Branch

10375 Little Patuxent Pkwy

Columbia, MD 21044



Branch Hours

Mon. - Thurs. 10 am - 9 pm

Fri. - Sat. 10 am - 6 pm

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  • Wayne M.

    Hi everyone, as we discussed at our book club meeting, I posted a poll of books for us to read in June and July. The book that gets the most votes will be our June book while the book that gets the second most votes will be our July book. The poll is open until Friday, May 24 and I will post the winner that night so we will have enough time to read the book. The poll is located on our Columbia Meetup Book Club WEB page. If you look at the More pull-down menu, you will see an option for Polls (this is where you can vote). Happy voting!

    May 18, 2013

  • Grant

    Discussing a Mercy with the group definitely gave me more insight into the book and enhanced my overall reading experience. Going in to the meeting, I thought the book had a unique voice and emotion-heavy style but lacked coherence or theme (or something to make it an actual story). From the meeting, I was able to see that others shared my hesitations, but I think collectively we were able to smooth out some of the bigger picture issues. Thanks, everyone!

    2 · May 17, 2013

  • Wayne M.

    Here is one last question for us to think about and discuss at our meeting:

    Rebekka knows that even as a white woman, her prospects are limited to "servant, prostitute, wife, and although horrible stories were told about each of those careers, the last one seemed safest" (pages 77–78). And Lina, Sorrow, and Florens know that if their mistress dies, "three unmastered women … out here, alone, belonging to no one, became wild game for anyone" (page 58). What does the novel as a whole reveal about the precarious position of women, European and African, free and enslaved, in late-17th-century America?

    See you tomorrow!

    May 15, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I'm going to the Saturday group.

    May 14, 2013

  • Pauline

    I, too, won't be able to attend as something came up. I'm terribly bummed. :(

    See you all next month!

    May 14, 2013

  • Joanne

    I have to cancel. So sorry.

    May 14, 2013

  • Wayne M.

    Here is a second question for us to think about and discuss at our meeting:

    A Mercy is told primarily through the distinctive narrative voices of Florens, Lina, Jacob, Rebekka, Sorrow, and, lastly, Florens's mother. What do these characters reveal about themselves through the way they speak? What are the advantages of such a multivocal narrative over one told through a single voice?

    May 14, 2013

  • Wayne M.

    Hi everyone, I hope that your "A Mercy" reading is going well. Here is a question for us to think about as we are reading. Let's discuss the answer to this question at our Saturday meeting:

    What does A Mercy reveal about Colonial America that is startling and new? In what ways does Morrison give this period in our history an emotional depth that cannot be found in text books?

    May 10, 2013

  • Joanne

    Since I've read the book before, I'm listening to the audiobook this time around. It is read by Toni Morrison herself, and it's excellent.

    1 · May 8, 2013

  • Grant

    looking forward to it! and I'll actually read the book this time. :)

    1 · May 5, 2013

  • ainah h.

    Looking forward to meeting new faces

    April 30, 2013

  • Wayne M.

    By Wednesday night, 4/24, the Howard County Central Branch Library had 3 of the 5 "A Mercy" books waiting to be checked out. The remaining 2 books that I reserved for our group should be available today, 4/26. Happy reading!

    April 26, 2013

  • Joanne

    I read this book a few years ago, but it is worth re-reading just to have a group to discuss it with.

    1 · April 24, 2013

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