Wednesday, May 2, 2012

book review: Home by Toni Morrison

The basics: This novella, at its simplest, is the story of Frank Money, a black Korean War veteran and his reacclimation into a racist, divided society. More specifically, it's about Frank's journey back to the rural, poor Georgia town he hoped he'd never return to.

My thoughts: What I loved about this book from its first pages was realizing with this book, the simple is also the complex. I'll confess: Toni Morrison used to intimidate me. Looking back, I think I tried to read her on my own far too young. I picked Song of Solomon off a summer reading list when I was fifteen, and I'd never read anything like it. I knew I wasn't really understanding it. It was the kind of novel I needed someone to teach me or talk about with me. Instead, I let all of her other works intimidate me too. I'm so glad I picked up Home because it reminds me of how different a reader I am at 31 than I was at 15. It also truly introduced me to how much I enjoy, emotionally and intellectually, Toni Morrison's work.

But back to the surface simplicity of this novella. I could recount the plot of this book, but it wouldn't do it justice. I will say this: Frank Money's journey through this book is both one he shares with the reader and one he takes alone. This duality is fascinating, and its layers enhance the power and tragedy in this slim volume. As I read, I found myself captivated by both story and construction. The novella works on its own plot, but more astute readers will appreciate the construction and layers of theme and meaning. It's most impressive she can portray heartbreaking brutality gently and without sensationalizing it. The power of this novel is its simplicity: the tragedies lay at and below the surface.

Favorite passages: "They practiced what they had been taught by their mothers during the period that rich people called the Depression and the called life."

"It's just as sad as it ought to be and I'm not going to hide from what's true just because it hurts."

The verdict: Home is as loud as it is quiet. It's as tender as it is heart-wrenching. It's as haunting as it is beautiful. It's beautifully written and crafted so perfectly, I had to read the first chapter again as soon as I finished the last one.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 160 pages
Publication date: May 8, 2012
Source: publisher via Edelweiss

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Home from the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle version.)

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

17 comments:

  1. I have actually not read any of her books! This one sounds fantastic!! I have two of her older ones and I've been meaning to read them, but maybe I'll start with this one!

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    1. Jenny, I think this one is great to start with. I'm looking forward to exploring her backlist too!

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  2. I can't wait to get my hands on this! I've read several of Morrison's books and enjoyed them all so much. Great review.

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    1. Thanks, Vasilly. I think you'll really like this one. I'm eager to read more of her work now!

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  3. I have also been intimidated by Morrison, so much so that I have never picked up one of her books, though I do think I have Beloved on my shelves. It sounds like this book packed a tremendous punch, both in style and content, and I am looking forward to grabbing it when I can. Wonderful review today. My wish list is growing by leaps and bounds!

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    1. Zibilee, I think Morrison intimidation is the norm, even among book lovers like us! I think you'll appreciate this one.

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  4. Toni Morrison still intimidates me, even though you make this one sound manageable. I will try something by her one day....

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    1. Sam, I think this one would be a great place to start. I've also heard wonderful things about A Mercy, her last book.

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  5. We share the same confusing Morrison experience at a young age. Soooo much better to read her now. :D

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    1. Yes! To think I wasted so many years not reading Toni Morrison and thinking I didn't like classics. It really makes me think about what books we read in school growing up.

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  6. I just read a review of this in Entertainment Weekly and they said it was amazing how much she packed into such a small book. I'm intimidated by this author too but maybe this would be the place to start.

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    1. I agree with EW! I think it is a good one to start with, or at least it was for me. Plus, it made some of the things Zinn has been saying even more illuminating.

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  7. You've read another one that I hope to read sooner than later. I do love Morrison's writing. glad this was a winner.

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    1. Diane, this is one to make time for, and even better, you only need to make a few hours for it. Enjoy!

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  8. I've learned from past experience that I do better with Morrison's books if I listen to them on audio, as opposed to reading them in book form. She has a very poetic way of writing and I never, NEVER read the sentences as she obviously has meant them to be read, because when I listen to one of her books, the tone is so different than the one I set in my own head.

    I, too, read her very young. Maybe that's my problem.

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    1. Ti--that's a really interesting observation. I don't listen to much audio, but this one might work that way too. I'm so glad to discover I do like (and get) Toni Morrison. It's a relief and a joy.

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  9. Toni Morrison still intimidates me! I'm slowly working up the courage to read her work, but at the rate I'm going, that won't be until I'm 90. It's good to hear that someone else managed to overcome their intimidation! Gives me hope that I might one day, too :)

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Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!