Home, by Toni Morrison.
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
Hurt right down the middle
But alive and well.
Cee touched my shoulder
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.