three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
33-Mar-Apr-2008
user_rating: 
0

A-HomecomingDuring his childhood, Peter Debauer summers happily with his grandparents in Switzerland. One summer, he returns home to West Germany and his cold, single mother with an incomplete galley from one of the pulp novels his grandparents have edited. The novel’s plot—about a German soldier who, after many trials, returns from a World War II Siberian POW camp to discover that his wife has remarried, a story inspired by the Odyssey—haunts Peter again in adulthood. He recognizes the building where the novel-fragment takes place—and suspects he may even know the soldier. As Peter embarks on a search for the author, he also seeks the truth about his mother and his missing father.
Pantheon. 260 pages. $24. ISBN: 0375420916

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Homecoming, fueled by a mystery, is also a powerful meditation on justice, history and the nature of evil. … Schlink has written another lean, meticulously structured, disquieting thought-provoker." Heller McAlpin

Seattle Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Plot twists and surprises and sometimes outright lies then complicate the book’s multilayered homecoming theme. … [Schlink has] woven a homecoming tale as fascinating as Homer’s Odyssey, its inspiration." Irene Wanner

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"It asks, in effect, the painful question that has haunted two generations in Germany: What did you do in the war, Daddy? And how did you justify it? While Homecoming addresses complex and painful matters, its telling is nonetheless a model of grace and clarity." Michael Dirda

Minneapolis Star Tribune 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The book is a thriller, involving false identities and lots of enticing plot turns, but it has a grave and painful heart. The sober, laconic prose tells you it means business, even as it entertains." Brigitte Frase

Chicago Tribune 3 of 5 Stars
"Homecoming is something of a kitchen-sink novel, its varied parts fitted to the broader concept of journey and return, at times manifested as the past injecting itself into the present. … Schlink is playing with historical material that will be more readily apparent, and resonant, to German than to American readers, but these instances are relatively few." Art Winslow

Oregonian 3 of 5 Stars
"As he progresses in what becomes his own odyssey, Schlink explores the concepts of growing and learning; in essence: becoming. … It is only Debauer’s grandparents who stand out as deep and lively people." Sharon Martell

Critical Summary

Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader (1995), an Oprah Book Club pick, explored a love affair and wartime guilt. Homecoming ruminates on guilt, justice, history, identity, and evil, and it uses the idea of homecoming to chart Peter’s journey toward truth and love. Lies surface and questions about identity emerge as Peter follows clues to the mysterious author’s—and his father’s—whereabouts. A few critics felt that the translation did not do the novel justice, and others felt that a strange conclusion and "quirky" but "somewhat lifeless" characters marred the novel (The Oregonian). Still, reviewers generally liked Peter, and praised the novel’s sophisticated inquiry into the long-lasting effects of war.