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Home, by Toni Morrison.

June 25, 2012

Home, by Toni Morrison.  Knopf (2012), Hardcover, 160 pages

Another amazing novel by an amazing author.

Toni Morrison’s latest book is a small gem.  Its plot is simple and unremarkable,  and the book is one of her most accessible novels.  A Korean War vet, broken by his experiences at war, heads home to Georgia where his sister, wounded closer to home, is near death.  What makes the novel remarkable is the magic Morrison performs with words.  I don’t have the words to explain how she does it.  All I can do is share my awe at her achievement.

Frank and Cee grew up in a tiny Georgia town where their parents worked so hard to insure the family’s survival that they had no time and energy for the children.  They are raised primarily by their aunt who resents them, especially Cee.  Frank is her constant protector.  Both children dream of leaving the town. When he and his best buddies join the military, Cee is lost and marries the first boy who asks her.  When he abandons her, she is left trying to support herself in Atlanta.  Then her job turns into a disaster.  When Frank hears, he comes back.   A variety of carefully drawn characters provide much needed assistance to both of them.

Both Frank and Cee are African American and some of their problems are directly or indirectly created by whites and the social barriers whites have created.  But this is not a book about race.  It is a book about pain, healing, and ultimately hope.  Morrison ends the book with the image of a tree.

I stood there for a while, staring at the tree
It looked so strong
So beautiful.
Hurt right down the middle
But alive and well.
Cee touched my shoulder
Lightly.
Frank?
Yes?
Come on, brother. Let’s go home.

I recommend this book as strongly as possible to everyone, especially everyone who has been deeply hurt and struggled to regain life.  This is clearly one of my favorite books of the year.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 25, 2012 3:14 pm

    I have heard so much that is good about this novel but just at the moment I’m not in the right frame of mind for something so intense. Nevertheless, with such a ringing endorsement, I’m certainly going to get hold of a copy so that as soon as I do feel I can tackle it it will be ready and waiting. Thank you.

    • June 26, 2012 5:35 pm

      You are wise to choose what to match what you read with your frame of mind. Home does contain real pain, but it is a surprisingly optimistic book none the less. Pain can heal. A variety of others can help with the healing. Part of my admiration for Morrison is the way she forces readers to move beyond our usual categories of thought, to bridge assumed contradictions of good and evil . Home offers a refuge despite the pain. The tree grows even with the dead place in the middle. But wait to read it.

  2. June 25, 2012 6:27 pm

    There is so much rave on the blogosphere for this novel and I am sure to get a copy soon. Incidentally, I have just completed The Bluest Eye, Morrison’s first novel and my first of her novels. I found it very poignant and profound in its treatment of racial self loathing. I will post a review of it soon Thank you for sharing this.

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