‘Home’ by Toni Morrison was published in 2012 and is one of the author’s much later works. I’ve read only one work by the author titled “Sula” which came out in the 70s and wasn’t very impressed with it. But home has a stronger plot and a more interesting protagonists.
Set post the Korean war, ‘Home’ is about a young veteran called Frank who is still suffering from crippling PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and is trying to get back to his ailing younger sister. The very first few pages evoke a powerful imagery of the brutal racism people of color face in America. Over the next few chapters, we meet Frank’s family, that includes a cruel step-grandmother and a frail younger sister.
There is an interesting contrast of characters between Frank and his sister Cee. While Frank is an imposing tall man, who is ready to kill if the need arises, Cee is gullible and easily exploited. Most part of the novel is about Frank’s struggle with mental health and dealing with terrible war memories. Morrison’s writing is lucid, poetic and reads beautifully.
While on the surface, the most powerful theme might be the systemic racism and the barbaric nature of war, I felt like the theme of family, especially the bond between the two siblings stands out the most. For Frank, the only thing that keeps him motivated in dealing with his rougher days is the fact that he still has a younger sister to take care of. Cee on the other hand was so overtly dependent on the protective brother, that the minute he is off to Korea, she makes a series of bad decisions that lead to tragic consequences. Despite their pitiable circumstances, all the siblings want is to come back to a safe space they can call ‘Home’ at the end of the day.
There aren’t many characters in the novel, something I really appreciate as a reader, because it makes the story easier to follow. The sense of community and kinship among the poorest neighborhoods in the times of need, even if they appear hostile on the surface, was very moving. While “Home” isn’t exactly the kind of novel you’d remember for a long time to come, it makes for a gripping read.
It’s a 3.5/5 from me.
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