Thursday, July 12, 2012
REVIEW: Home by Toni Morrison
Genre: Literary Fiction/Historical
Summary: Following his return to the States after serving in the Korean War, Frank Money finds coping with "normal life" a challenge. He is haunted by what he has witnessed and by what he has done. Furthermore, he experiences panic attacks and occasional violent spells he has no memory of later. Recently escaped from a mental institution after an "episode," Frank finds his purpose in a mission to rescue his younger sister from a dangerous situation. But to help Cee, he has no choice but to return to the Georgia hometown he detests.
First Line: "They rose up like men."
Why haven't I read more Toni Morrison? I loved Beloved, but haven't brought myself to pick up any of her other works until now. Perhaps I am wary of the gut-wrenching, emotional devastation that I associate with her stories? There is certainly plenty of sadness and disillusion to be found in this slim novel, yet there is also redemption. In less than 150 pages, Morrison takes on PSTD, family dysfunction, and the rampant racism of 1950s America. But the heart of this novel is the relationship between brother and sister and their separate journeys to make peace with themselves, the past, and their lives now.
The novel skillfully interweaves the past and present and also offers up the barest hint of magical realism. Morrison's prose is lyrical, restrained yet startling in its power, the rhythms of her words and sentences resonating like poetry. Her language is clear and accessible, yet still manages to feel lush. This novel is told mostly in third person omniscient tense, occasionally focusing on characters other than Frank, most notably his sister Cee. However, some of the most powerful moments are when Frank "interrupts" the storyteller to provide his own first-person account, which further illuminates and sometimes even corrects the story we have been told thus far. This novel is deceptively simple and could perhaps benefit from a bit more fleshing out, but the spareness has an undeniable power if its own.