It's 1926 in New York City and Joe and Violet Trace have each done something heinous: a murder and a mutilation of a corpse, respectively. That's just the first paragraph. The rest of the novel provides context to their desperation and made even their worst deeds somehow holy. I'm convinced that, given the same circumstances, I would murder or mutilate too. It's Morrison's only NYC novel and one of her best. Each paragraph is so dense with beauty you may want to pin it to your breast.
From the acclaimed Nobel Prize winner, a passionate, profound story of love and obsession that brings us back and forth in time, as a narrative is assembled from the emotions, hopes, fears, and deep realities of Black urban life.
In the winter of 1926, when everybody everywhere sees nothing but good things ahead, Joe Trace, middle-aged door-to-door salesman of Cleopatra beauty products, shoots his teenage lover to death. At the funeral, Joe’s wife, Violet, attacks the girl’s corpse. This novel “transforms a familiar refrain of jilted love into a bold, sustaining time of self-knowledge and discovery. Its rhythms are infectious” (People).
"The author conjures up worlds with complete authority and makes no secret of her angst at the injustices dealt to Black women.” —The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Toni Morrison is the author of eleven novels, from The Bluest Eye (1970) to God Help the Child (2015). She received the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and in 1993 she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. She died in 2019.
“Wonderful. . . . A brilliant, daring novel. . . . Every voice amazes.” —Chicago Tribune
“She may be the last classic American writer, squarely in the tradition of Poe, Melville, Twain and Faulkner.” —Newsweek
“[A] masterpiece. . . . She has moved from strength to strength until she has reached the distinction of being beyond comparison.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Thrillingly written . . . seductive. . . . Some of the finest lyric passages ever written in a modern novel.” —Chicago Sun-Times
“A compelling blend of heart and language. . . . Resounds with passion.” —The Boston Globe
“Marvelous. . . . Morrison is perhaps the finest novelist of our time.” —Vogue
“The author conjures up worlds with complete authority and makes no secret of her angst at the injustices dealt to black women.” —Edna O’Brien, The New York Times Book Review
“She captures that almost indistinguishable mixture of the anxiety and rapture of expectation—that state of desire where sin is just another word for appetite.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“As rich in themes and poetic images as her Pulitzer Prize–winning Beloved. . . . Morrison conjures up the hand of slavery on Harlem’s jazz generation. The more you listen, the more you crave to hear.” —Glamour
“She is the best writer in America. Jazz, for sure; but also Mozart.” —John Leonard, National Public Radio
“A masterpiece. . . . A sensuous, haunting story of various kinds of passion. . . . Mesmerizing.” —Cosmopolitan
“Lyrically brooding. . . . One accepts the characters of Jazz as generalized figures moving rhythmically in the narrator’s mind.” —The New York Times
“Transforms a familiar refrain of jilted love into a bold, sustaining time of self-knowledge and discovery. Its rhythms are infectious.” —People