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In Search of the Novel: Ten Novels

Song of Solomon

by Toni Morrison


Toni Morrison

The materially successful African American businessman, Macon Dead, attempts to hide the working-class, Southern roots of the Dead family and to protect it from the life of the African Americans in his neighborhood. Macon Jr., nicknamed Milkman, rebels. Discovering heresay about the family's lost wealth, Milkman begins his journey to Pennsylvania and thence to rural Virginia to find it. There is neither gold nor land. However, after he drops some outward forms of civilization and undergoes an initiation into sensitivity and knowledge, he discovers and accepts his family's past and himself. At the end of the story, Milkman feels fully alive and human but strangely ready to die.


In this celebrated novel, Nobel Prize–winning author Toni Morrison created a new way of rendering the contradictory nuances of black life in America. Its earthy poetic language and striking use of folklore and myth established Morrison as a major voice in contemporary fiction.

Song of Solomon begins with one of the most arresting scenes in our century's literature: a dreamlike tableau depicting a man poised on a roof, about to fly into the air, while cloth rose petals swirl above the snow-covered ground and, in the astonished crowd below, one woman sings as another enters premature labor. The child born of that labor, Macon (Milkman) Dead, will eventually come to discover, through his complicated progress to maturity, the meaning of the drama that marked his birth. Toni Morrison's novel is at once a romance of self-discovery, a retelling of the black experience in America that uncovers the inalienable poetry of that experience, and a family saga luminous in its depth, imaginative generosity, and universality. It is also a tribute to the ways in which, in the hands of a master, the ancient art of storytelling can be used to make the mysterious and invisible aspects of human life apparent, real, and firm to the touch (Oprah Book Club selection).

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