I have frequently heard Toni Morrison's new novel, Home, described as her most "accessible" work yet, and as someone who has read bits and pieces of several of Ms. Morrison's novels without up to now completing one of them, I have to agree with that assessment. Granted, Home, is hardly more than novella length and it can be finished in one sitting or two, but its theme and underlying message are still pure Toni Morrison. This one just might serve as the gateway novel that creates a number of new, previously reluctant, Toni Morrison fans.
Home is largely Frank Money's story. Frank, a veteran of the recently ended Korean War, cannot face going home to his family. His two best friends from back home are dead, and Frank feels too much guilt about being the only one of the three to have survived ever to look their grieving mothers in the eyes. That guilt, topped off by misgivings about something he did in Korea, have turned Frank into a drunkard largely dependent upon the kindness of strangers for his survival. Frank Money is a bitter man, one growing ever more bitter because he knows that the country he risked his life for, and for which so many black men died, is every bit as racist as it was the day he left for Korea.
As children, Frank and his sister, Cee, could not wait to leave their sleepy little Georgia town for what they were certain would be better lives than the ones they would leave behind. Both did leave that little town - and both barely survived the results. Frank was scarred by war; the inexperienced Cee, by the disastrous marriage she jumped into in order to fashion her own escape. When, desperate to save her life, Frank decides to bring his sister back to the old hometown, the healing will begin for both of them.
|Toni Morrison © Timothy Greenfield-Sanders|
For the most part, Morrison uses first person narration to tell Frank’s story, and although the book's chapters alternate between narrators, Frank's is the point-of-view most often heard from. Particularly interesting, is the way that Morrison occasionally allows Frank to step out of character long enough to address the book's author and readers directly, reminding us that this is a mature man telling a story that happened long ago. He even corrects some of what the author wrote in earlier chapters - admitting that he purposely mislead her about certain events from his past. In this manner, the truth of Frank's story is revealed layer-by-layer, until the reader has a clear sense of who he is and how he got to be the way he is.
Home is a story of one man's hard-earned redemption and how he finally found the home he had been searching for all his life. There is a lot going on between the covers of this slim book, and it should not be prejudged by its length - because it would be a shame to miss it.