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Toni Morrison has long been heralded for her difficult yet beautiful books. Ever since she won the Nobel Prize, Morrison has become a household name most commonly associated with her early books, such as The Bluest Eye and Beloved, and is both loved and hated by high school students everywhere. Her latest book, Home, however, is a far cry from the lyrical works that earned her fame.
Set during the 50s, Home follows the story of Korean War veteran Frank Money as he embarks on a journey to reach his home in Georgia where his sister is supposedly at death’s door. Along the way, Morrison explores the lives of those who have left their mark on Frank and his sister, often going back and forth through time to do so.
An examination of racial relations, a theme that carries on throughout all of Morrison’s work, is still present. Absent, though, are the breathtaking narratives that strung together those themes so well.
Frank Money has seen friends die on the battlefield and innocent orphans shot, and when he returns to the United States, he finds himself in a world where just looking suspicious can result in jail time. These horrors are so commonplace and so undeveloped that they lose meaning within the book. A plot summary might read something like a list of terrors with little else included.
Part of the reason for this is that Home is very sparsely written. The novel begins, “They rose up like men. We saw them. Like men they stood,” and continues in such a fashion for the rest of the novel. Although this will certainly attract some readers, it is hardly like Morrison’s usual beautiful language. Although many characters have whole chapters dedicated to them, other than Frank Money, none are as fleshed out as they could be and many come off as cliché and boring figures, resulting in the reader feeling apathetic towards them.
Still, the book does have its good points. Some passages—mostly those concerning Frank Money and his past—are quite captivating. Morrison depicts the veteran without any sugarcoating, showing exactly how the war has changed him. As he watches a drummer get carried away by his fellow band mates, still drumming the air as they take him away, Frank wonders, “Maybe, as with the drummer, rhythm would take charge. Maybe he too would be escorted away, flailing helplessly, imprisoned in his own strivings.”
Upon reflection, many will probably wonder just what the point of this flawed work is. At 150 pages, it is quick and to the point, and yet so many parts seem unnecessary. It is worth a read more because if you do not like it, you will be on the last page before you even realize it.
Image Courtesy of Angela Radulescu