Top critical review
Not everyone in the world gets raped
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on October 30, 2021
While boarding a cross-country flight, the woman next to me had a worn copy of God Help the Child on her tray table. In order to make conversation, I asked her if she liked the novel, since I’d only read one Toni Morrison book, Beloved. The woman raved and handed me the book, insisting I read it right then and there. At only 180 pages, I didn’t know how to refuse. Those 180 pages taught me a valuable lesson: next time, just say no.
I have no idea why incest and child molestation are “in” topics in literature. It’s upsetting, regardless of whether or not the reader can identify. It doesn’t help those who are trying to work through their own trauma, and in fact, graphic depictions can actually harm victims by triggering memories they’ve spent years trying to surpass. It desensitizes readers after a while and becomes merely a tool for lazy authors to provide a dramatic backstory for a character (not the case in this novel, however). And worst of all, by describing the sexual act in detail, it titillates and glorifies something horrifying. Just as showing rape scenes in movies stimulates viewers (at the same time they know it’s a violent crime), readers have a similar emotional reaction even though they know it’s wrong.
In God Help the Child, every single character was molested as a child. There are random children without any character development who get attacked and raped. Clearly, Toni Morrison had a point by choosing such a melodramatic slant to her story, but I missed it. The main character doesn’t feel like a woman anymore because her boyfriend cheats on her, and her emotional feeling manifests into the physical: her body reverts to that of a prepubescent girl. Again, Morrison had a point with her storyline, but I just didn’t appreciate it.
I’ve given this famous author two chances, and both books were sexually disturbing. I don’t consider the subject matters she chooses to write about entertaining, so I don’t think I’ll read any other of her novels. Read at your own risk, and don’t be afraid to say no.