In Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison takes the view - a common one - that we have to know our history to know ourselves. I don't really agree but in this case it makes a great story. The characters in her novel don't make calculations or follow strategies: they do what they have to do. The history that motivates their actions is an emotional, personal one. Morrison's preoccupation with this personal history is reflected in her use of unusual names: names that are given "from yearnings, gestures, flaws, events, mistakes, weaknesses . . . Macon Dead, Sing Byrd, Crowell Byrd, Pilate, Reba, Hagar, Magdalene, First Corinthians, Milkman, Guitar . . . ." Her characters are powerful, larger-than-life people, and clashes between them quickly escalate to life-and-death struggles. At the same time, they have a great capacity for empathy and self-sacrifice. Highly recommended.