Author: Toni Morrison
Genre: Literary Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 147
I’d heard for years about how brilliant Toni Morrison’s novels were before I finally decided to pick one up and see what all the fuss was about. I know this sounds like a total cliché but as soon as I started reading Home I could not put it down. I read nonstop sitting in a waiting room while my sister was in an appointment and putting it down for a while to go eat dinner was almost painful. I read a lot of books that I find engaging but it’s relatively rare that something sucks me in so thoroughly that I don’t want to do anything until I read it from beginning to end.
Home is about a black Korean war vet named Frank Money who comes back to his country with no support system, like so many veterans. He obviously has crippling PTSD and he’s an alcoholic who’s full of guilt about the atrocities he witnessed and sometimes participated in. He’s directionless until he finds out that his beloved younger sister is in a really bad home situation so he in order to rescue her he makes his way to the community he grew up in, a place he swore he’d never have anything to do with again.
I knew going in that Toni Morrison’s fiction tended to be on the downbeat side (to say the least)- my mom read Beloved years ago and she said there were a few scenes in there that basically scarred her for life. Unsurprisingly, Home had a similarly emotionally wrenching and visceral quality. The writing was beautiful while still being unsentimental and completely without pretension, it was plain-spoken but the way she used words flowed in a way that created haunting images and scenes.
I find it hard to explain how Frank could have been revealed to have committed one of the most disgusting crimes imaginable yet I couldn’t help feeling compassion for him and even rooting for him in a way. Maybe he was a bad person but somehow I also saw a lot of good in him, especially in how much he loved his sister and would do anything for her. It’s sad to think that Frank’s displacement and lack of a support system for his mental illness was and continues to be so ubiquitous, and that him being black made things even worse but treatment of veterans in general is such a huge social issue. After such a painful story I was relieved by the hard-earned glimmer of hope that the ending offered.
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