Love is a novel by Toni Morrison published in 2003 that follows the life and death of a hotel owner named Bill Cosey.
Summarizing the plot, however, is a somewhat arduous task because of Morrison’s non-chronological, fragmented narrative style. Here is my best attempt.
Bill Cosey was the successful millionaire owner of Cosey’s Hotel and Resort, a high-end vacation spot for wealthy African Americans, mostly from the East Coast. Cosey was married twice, and his second wife, Heed, was only eleven at the time, in addition to being the best friend of Cosey’s granddaughter (via his deceased son Billy Boy and Billy Boy's widow May, called Christine).
The novel explains how different events in the Civil Rights Movement impacted Cosey’s businesses in the 1960s, before its eventual closing in the 1980s.
The central conflict, however, is between Heed and Christine, both of whom occupy the former resort building. Each woman believes she is entitled to Cosey’s hotly contested, barely-there will because of her connection to him. The two women despise each other, and each works to gain the sole ownership of Cosey’s inheritance.
Heed even hires a phony named Junior, a young delinquent who begins having an affair with fourteen-year-old Romen, the grandson of one of Bill Cosey’s former fishing buddies, who works for both Heed and Christine.
The novel, at various points, introduces other women who were present in Cosey’s life. L, as the former cook at the resort, seems to have the most reasonable impression of Cosey as both a good and a bad man. The reader is also introduced to Celestial, a sex worker with whom Cosey fell in love.
By the novel’s end, Heed and Christine are finally able to reconcile to an extent, largely based on a common understanding that their hatred and fighting were the result of Cosey’s moral failings. Christine remarks that both women “sold [themselves] to the highest bidder,” perhaps meaning that Cosey was an ideal they tried to please and that in so doing, each gave up her independent identity.
Overall, the novel tries to examine the various meanings of love, family, and the African American experience through the lives of these female characters who all knew the same troubled yet charismatic myth of a man.
Love is a carefully structured novel with a prologue and nine chapters devoted to the characters’ stories and their different, often contradictory, perceptions of Bill Cosey. Together, these chapters span a sixty-year period and represent the way racial segregation and the process of desegregation shape the lives of the Cosey family. To the local African American community, Cosey’s Hotel and Resort, catering exclusively to African Americans with its procession of famous jazz musicians and wealthy guests, offered a fairytale image of success during the Jim Crow period. While Bill himself was a role model of African American achievement to his guests and the locals, the different chapters in the novel suggest the tensions, bitter resentments, and misunderstandings brewing in Bill’s immediate family, and they question Bill’s roles as a husband, father, grandfather, friend, and benefactor.
Alhough he died over twenty years earlier, Bill’s influence upon Christine and Heed is still palpable in the 1990’s. They may have loved each other as children, but now they are enemies. Bill’s will, a note scribbled on a menu from 1958, is not specific enough; it leaves everything to that “sweet Cosey child,” and both Cosey women have a claim to that title: Christine is Bill’s granddaughter, while Heed was his child bride and called him “Papa.” Heed employs Junior to find a later will, and Christine visits a lawyer after pilfering the housekeeping money. The two women live at war in their Monarch Street house, while Junior establishes a sexual relationship with Romen, who is fourteen.
Behind the novel’s tight focus on the personal history of the Cosey family lies the public history of U.S. segregation...
(The entire section is 1,177 words.)