My initial thought when I began reading the beginning of the book was: disturbing. Supernatural ghosts, sex with animals, too much, Toni Morrison! The family is so sad. The only daughter left feels lonely and isolated from her mother. However, the issues they are facing are all a result of a much larger societal problem, slavery.
Another thing that jumped out to me early on in the novel was Paul D’s reflection on love: “For a used-to-be-slave woman to love anything that much was dangerous, especially if it was her children she had settled on to love. The best thing, he knew, was to love just a little bit, so when they broke its back, or shoved it in a croaker sack, well, maybe you’d have a little love left over for the next one,” (45). Sethe recalls how she never even knew her own mother. What a sad fact of slavery (among the many other injustices it caused), that mothers had to fear loving their own children.
The book is also a little hard for me to read because of the constant flashbacks. It makes it difficult to keep up with the progression of time and the story. It reads like we are in the character’s minds, reflecting on different parts of their lives. Early in the book, Sethe describes time like this: “I was talking about time. It’s so hard for me to believe in it. Some things go. Pass on. Some things just stay.”