three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
59-July-Aug-2012
user_rating: 
0

748319.pngInternationally celebrated Nobel laureate Toni Morrison has written nine previous novels, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Beloved (1987) and Song of Solomon (1977), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award.

The Story: Twenty-four-year-old Korean War veteran Frank Money languishes in a Seattle mental hospital, unaware of how he got there, when a letter about his younger sister Cee rouses him from his haunted stupor: "Come fast. She be dead if you tarry." Although he enlisted in the army to escape dismal, impoverished Lotus, Georgia, and vowed never to return, he breaks out of the hospital and embarks on a perilous journey home across a nation plagued by paranoia and violence, wrestling with the blood-spattered memories that threaten his tenuous grip on sanity along the way. But Cee, the only person that Frank truly loves, is in trouble, and he will do anything to save her.
Knopf. 160 pages. $24. ISBN: 9780307594167

Miami Herald 4 of 5 Stars
"In Home, even the most painful and devastating moments are told head-on, not prettified to make them more palatable nor heightened to create a stronger impression. She builds trust with the reader at every step; the events may be imagined, but Morrison is speaking her truth, and we believe her." Amy Driscoll

San Antonio Exp-News 4 of 5 Stars
"This is not ‘minor Morrison's as one critic put it, and if reviewers insist on concluding as much by reading the book with such shocking superficiality, it can only mean they have deprived themselves of a wonderfully pleasurable and rewarding literary experience. The writing is easy and flowing but still elegantly constructed. And it doesn'st settle for easy answers." Gerard Martinez

St. Petersburg Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Home is more compact, a novella really‚ but one packed with more memorable characters, striking images and emotional insights than many novels three times its size." Colette Bancroft

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"The diminutive size and straightforward style of Home are deceptive. This scarily quiet tale packs all the thundering themes Morrison has explored before. She's never been more concise, though, and that restraint demonstrates the full range of her power." Ron Charles

Ft. Worth Star Telegram 3 of 5 Stars
"The novella Home is Nobel laureate Toni Morrison's most accessible work in decades. It's just that, at a mere 160 pages that can easily be read in one sitting, Home feels sketchlike and undercooked." Christopher Kelly

Los Angeles Times 2.5 of 5 Stars
"It is a thin book with some beautiful writing that ultimately comes off as insubstantial and contrived. [Home] reads like a pastiche, a writer returning to the well once too often, operating less from narrative urgency than a kind of muscle memory." David L. Ulin

Milwaukee Jrnl Sentinel 2 of 5 Stars
"The Morrison we love‚ whose long meditation on the intersection of race, class and gender is among the finest in American literature‚ would have transformed this raw stuff into a poetic parable, giving us a fresh and original look at another grim chapter of American history. But that Morrison never moves into Home, which is filled with stick figures trapped in a crudely didactic, clumsily symbolic and poorly structured narrative." Mike Fischer

Critical Summary

Morrison's 10th novel illuminates the early 1950s through one individual's experiences, simultaneously capturing the era's traditions of bigotry and racial violence while honoring those with the courage to confront them. Surprisingly, the critics diverged so much in their reviews of Home that one wonders if they read the same book. Taken as a whole, however, Morrison's oeuvre is a literary force of larger-than-life themes, vibrant prose, and rich symbolism, yet Home, in its humility and restraint, put off some of Morrison's more fervent fans. Although she revisits familiar subjects and techniques, Home is a considerable departure from her previous novels. "For Morrison newcomers," observes the Ft. Worth Star Telegram, "it's a fine introduction to her work, if not an especially significant contribution to her canon."