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Tar Baby [Paperback]

Toni Morrison
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 1993
Into a white millionaire's Caribbean mansion comes: Jadine, a graduate of the Sorbonne, art historian - an American black now living in Paris and Rome and Son, a criminal on the run, uneducated, violent, contemptuous - an American black from small-town Florida. He is a threat to her freedom she is a threat to his identity...
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Product Details

Product Description


"Deeply perceptive...Return[s] risk and mischief to the contemporary American novel" -- John Irving New York Times Book Review "Toni Morrison has made herself into the D. H. Lawrence of the black psyche, transforming individuals into forces, idiosyncrasy into inevitability" New York Times "Toni Morrison's writing is a train that knows where it's going, fierce and fast-moving in narrative, lyrically showy in description" -- Victoria Glendinning Sunday Times "Mercurial imagination and brilliantly elegant prose-She has the ability to shock and entrance, episode by episode, which is the hallmark of a genuine writer" Guardian "Arresting images, fierce intelligence, poetic language...One becomes entranced by Toni Morrison' s story" Washington Post --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

“Deeply perceptive. . . . Return[s] risk and mischief to the contemporary American novel.” —John Irving, The New York Times Book Review

“Toni Morrison has made herself into the D. H. Lawrence of the black psyche, transforming individuals into forces, idiosyncrasy into inevitability.” —New York

“Arresting images, fierce intelligence, poetic language . . . One becomes entranced by Toni Morrison’s story.” —The Washington Post

“Wrenchingly good. A terrific book.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Hypnotic, stunningly alive.” —The San Diego Union-Tribune

“That rare commodity, a truly public novel. . . . Morrison’s genius lies in her uncanny ability to immerse you totally in the world she creates.” —Newsweek

“Powerful. . . . A stunning performance. . . . Morrison is one of the most exciting living American writers.” —Kansas City Star

“It takes one to the sheer edge of human relationships.” —Vogue

“Wise, beautiful, astonishing, absolutely breathtaking.” —St. Louis Globe-Democrat

“Reminds us again that Toni Morrison is one of the finest writers in America today.” —Louisville Courier-Journal

Tar Baby is stupendous. Morrison is a writer of amazing skill.” —Roanoke Times & World

“Its scope is grand and the interplay complex. But Morrison has the control of a skilled choreographer, with a careful eye pinned on pacing, suspense, grace, and frenzy. . . . She has an awesome lyric flair.” —The Charlotte Observer
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Shocking Socioeconomic Prescription! Dec 30 2002
In reading Toni Morrison's striking novel Tar Baby, I came to characterize Jadine as a cultural orphan. The two often times conflicting worlds of white and black juxtapose along the lines of social, cultural and political demarcation. In the midst of such duality exists the character of Jadine, who symbolizes a contemporaneous example of the black female in a post-Civil Rights moment. Jadine is a woman who is educated, elevated and moneyed and in sharp contrast to the perceived notions of what it means to be black and female in a time of vast social and political change.
Jadine is a woman trying to escape the stigma associated with her class position. Her family has money, but finds it hard to truly identify with them. She has no allegiance to African-American cities; she had received an education at the Sorbonne and was afforded the kind of lifestyle that is alien to many African-American women of her time. Jadine finds herself torn between the black world and the white world, fitting into neither. She equates her position as a black female in the culture through two dogs copulating in a street in Baltimore, Maryland. She is in a working-class situation and does not enjoy it - especially since she witnessed the "other side of the tracks," figuratively speaking, and saw life through the rose-colored lenses of the white world.
Jadine is part of a new generation - one that did not grow up in a segregated society. The culture she is in and the lifestyle she inherited is predominately white - her upbringing, her education and her outlook.
African-American culture is a hybrid culture, leading one to wonder why Jadine would be viewed as a cultural orphan, but there are political reasons, which determine why we rally under the flag of race or gender or sexual preference, etc.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Passion Nov. 1 2002
By Omni
Name the big Black romance novels. I dare you. Name them all. Ok, five, name five romance novels centralized around Black characters, in love, loving, making love, living well, being well that doesn't have four women as successful best friends?
Go ahead, I'll wait.
Toni Morrison is not easy. Do not mistake her ever for easy, do not mistake her subject matters for simple to pierce or to understand. I agree with the previous reviewer, people expect books to be like TV. And they aren't. Good books anyway. Books that are literature. This book is literature.
Hopefully more will come along, more romance that mean something, that say something about culture, about color, about power and the abuses.
Son is all of the projected racial fears and Jadine is the homogenized Black America wants Black people to be/to become. Grateful and still on some level serving in the kitchen (Sydney and his wife). Black people are required to be so much within this world, this America. Savage, erudite, butler, maid/cook and yet all of the characters here in the book, that are White, are one form (rich) here. White is a decision to be, to be a thing, rich, poor, bohemian, angry, depressed, rebllious, vane, but all that is shiftable, malleable. Black however is static from White perception and being Black from the inside out? That's birth from a dead womb.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Black And White And A Whole Lot More Oct. 14 2002
_Tar Baby_ tells of the relationships of a wealthy white couple, Valerian and his wife, Margaret, and a black couple, Sydney and Onadine, who have been their servants for many years. The setting is a manor on an island in the Caribbean. One of the subplots concerns Margaret's tortured relationship with her estranged son, Michael. Onadine shares a terrible secret with Margaret concerning the son.
Adding to the novel's complexity is the black couple's beautiful niece, Jadine, who lives with them and who has received an education at the Sorbonne, paid for in entirety by Valerian. Jadine finds herself torn between the black world and the white world, fitting into neither. To further complicate matters, Jadine later falls in love with a handsome black man who is called "Son," among other names, who has hidden himself in one of Margaret's closets after jumping ship. He is also on the lam due to his previous commission of a foolish crime of passion. Realizing her potential, Jadine is frightened of being trapped, like the limited, poorly educated, dirt poor women whom she meets while on an extended visit to Son's friends and family in Florida. Jadine is suffocating in this atmosphere, and is particularly haunted at night by obesssive thoughts of the women. To Jadine, Son will always remain their "son," an ignorant and irresponsible child, without any direction in life.
This deliciously complex novel of race, family, and above all, human relations, could only have been done justice by writer of the caliber and sensitivity of a Toni Morrison. Ms. Morrison, an African-American and a woman, is able to find the nuances and subtleties inherent in the black experience that someone else would have difficulty understanding. _Tar Baby_ is a triumph in every way.
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4.0 out of 5 stars AmErICaNiSm - bOOk cHaT rEvIeW Oct. 10 2002
By Jessica
"Tar Baby" by Toni Morrison sets off on the Isle des Chevalier where Valerian and Margaret Street lived in the fancy rooms upstairs and the colored servants; Ondine and Sydney lived in the second-hand use furniture downstairs. Along with the other members of the household lived the servants' niece, Jadine, who stayed occasionally when she was away from modeling in Paris of New York. During the vacation stay, Margaret awaits for the arrival of her son, Michael who is supposed to show up for Christmas. But the cynical Valerian doubts his visit because of a mysterious reason. Amidst the waiting, one night, Margaret discovers a big black man hiding in her closet. Everyone is alarmed of his trespass, except for Valerian. Not only is Valerian calm of his trespass, but also invites this man to the dinner table. While Margaret, Sydney, and Ondine disapprove of this "nigger," Valerian gets to know him better and a special, but strange relationship develops between Jadine and the mystery man. Finally, Christmas time comes and the family still awaits Michael. Not only does his visit become questionable, but also trouble arises the dinner table when both the colored and non-colored are seated together. I highly recommend this book to someone who is willing to appreciate Morrison's vivid descriptions. Some drawbacks are the overuse of information, but is still worth reading. This book is rather complicated and keeps you hanging on what will be on the next page, but is worth the time to read.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Long
Very Long and didn't like the ending but other than that it was okay- don't regret reading it
Published on July 14 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Didn't understand it all. but liked it.
OK, I didn't understand all of this novel, but I liked it. Being a 46 year old while male I probably never will undestand it all. Read more
Published on April 9 2003 by Eric Stott
1.0 out of 5 stars Lickety-split boring
Good English skills, worth one star, rambling on in endless and trifle details lead to no conclusions in a mesh of decadent white masters full of caprice and... Read more
Published on July 16 2002 by Gerburg Frick
2.0 out of 5 stars EHHH
I found this book slow untill the middle and end. it wasnt as good as SULA, but it was laright. It is a story about love, abuse, and rascism. Read more
Published on April 29 2002 by hoothoot
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetry in Novel form
Tar Baby is the story of a young, successful, black model, who lives between the world of successful white people and her own black heritage. Read more
Published on April 23 2002 by Breezy
5.0 out of 5 stars My First
This was the first book I read by Toni Morrison . I beleive I was 10 years old and it was exactly what I neede to hear. Read more
Published on Feb. 12 2002 by "tricka--hoe"
4.0 out of 5 stars Hauntingly, Disturbingly Beautiful.
"No, a star star. In the sky. Keep your eyes closed, think about what it feels like to be one." He moved over to her and kissed her shoulder. Read more
Published on Aug. 27 2001 by Chicago Dreamer
4.0 out of 5 stars jadine in me
i finally read this book because i was told by a close friend that i reminded her of jadine. once i began to read i instantly saw her point. Read more
Published on July 17 2001
3.0 out of 5 stars Of course, for HER, 3 stars is like 10 for somebody else....
Yes, she's a great writer, but I did not enjoy this book as much as I adored Beloved and The Bluest Eye. Actually, this should be a play. Read more
Published on June 22 2001
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