Synopses & Reviews
America’s most celebrated novelist, Nobel Prize-winner Toni Morrison extends her profound take on our history with this twentieth-century tale of redemption: a taut and tortured story about one man’s desperate search for himself in a world disfigured by war.
Frank Money is an angry, self-loathing veteran of the Korean War who, after traumatic experiences on the front lines, finds himself back in racist America with more than just physical scars. His home may seem alien to him, but he is shocked out of his crippling apathy by the need to rescue his medically abused younger sister and take her back to the small Georgia town they come from and that he’s hated all his life. As Frank revisits his memories from childhood and the war that have left him questioning his sense of self, he discovers a profound courage he had thought he could never possess again.
A deeply moving novel about an apparently defeated man finding his manhood — and his home.
"Nobel laureate Toni Morrison is known for novels in which female protagonists struggle to wrest control of their lives from an establishment bent on their destruction. Home, by contrast, tells the story of Korean War vet Frank Money, who returns from the battlefield plagued by visions of his friends' deaths and a disturbing episode that cuts at the roots of his sexual and moral identity....Salvation awaits, however, in his tiny Georgia hometown." Tim McDonnell, Mother Jones
"Home's slim spine belies a fertile narrative imbued with and embellished by Morrison's visionary scope and poetic majesty. These traits expand on her long exploration of the suffering and striving born of slavery and segregation that are unique to the history of blacks in America. Conjoined in all her stories and richly illumined are the culture, traditions, talents, and triumphs of African-Americans as well." Lisa Shea, Elle
"Profound...Morrison's portrayal of Frank is vivid and intimate, her portraits of the women in his life equally masterful. Its brevity, stark prose, and small cast of characters notwithstanding, this story of a man struggling to reclaim his roots and his manhood is enormously powerful." Stephan Lee, O, The Oprah Magazine
"A deceptively rich and cumulatively powerful novel." Kirkus (starred review)
"The Korean conflict is over, and soldier Frank Money has returned to the States with a disturbed psyche that sends him beyond anger into actually acting out his rage. From the mental ward in which he has been incarcerated for an incident he can't even remember, he determines he must escape. He needs to get to Atlanta to attend to his gravely ill sister and take her back to their Georgia hometown of Lotus, which, although Frank realizes a return there is necessary for his sister's sake, remains a detestable place in his mind. Morrison's taut, lacerating novel observes, through the struggles of Frank to move heaven and earth to reach and save his little sister, how a damaged man can gather the fortitude to clear his mind of war's horror and face his own part in that horror, leave the long-term anger he feels toward his hometown aside, and take responsibility for his own life as well as hers. With the economical presentation of a short story, the rhythms and cadences of a poem, and the total embrace and resonance of a novel, Morrison, one of our national literary treasures, continues to marshal her considerable talents to draw a deeply moving narrative and draw in a wide range of appreciative readers...bound to be a big hit." Brad Hooper, Booklist (starred review)
"Toni Morrison doesn't have to prove anything anymore, and there's artistic freedom in that calm. Her new novel, Home, is a surprisingly unpretentious story from America's only living Nobel laureate in literature....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....Despite all the old horrors that Morrison faces in these pages with weary recognition, Home is a daringly hopeful story about the possibility of healing — or at least surviving in a shadow of peace." Ron Charles, The Washington Post
"The title of [Morrison's] new novel, Home, refers to Frank Money's Georgia hometown, which lies at the end of a long, tortuous journey. Traumatized by atrocities in Korea and the Deep South of his childhood, Frank races back to save his sister from a sadistic white doctor. It's an archetypal postwar homecoming story, reminiscent of The Odyssey. But it's really about the upheavals that took Frank away from home in the first place, along with a generation of Korean War veterans and southern black migrants, during a supposedly tranquil and homey decade that was, for them, anything but." Boris Kachka, New York Magazine
"Gorgeous and intense, brutal yet heartwarming...like a slingshot that wields the impact of a missile....Home is as accessible, tightly composed and visceral as anything Morrison has written....[Her] shorter, more direct sentences have the capacity to leave a reader awestruck....Devastating, deeply humane, ever-relevant." Heller McAlpin, NPR
"The story of the warrior's struggle to return home is classic, but Nobel laureate Morrison imbues her tale with twists that make the journey more challenging and Frank Money's success less certain....As usual, Morrison's writing is both lyrical and earthy and, although spare, dense with hints and meaning. This is a book that can be read in one long sitting, and probably will be....[A] satisfying, emotional...textured, painful and ultimately uplifting story." Anne Neville, Buffalo News
"In this slim, scathing novel, Morrison brings us another quintessentially American character struggling through another shameful moment in our nation's history....Home is as much prose poem as long-form fiction — a triumph for a beloved literary icon who proves that her talents remain in full flower. Four stars." People
"Beautifully wrought...[Home] packs considerable power, because the Nobel Prize-winning author is still writing unflinchingly about the most painful human experiences. There's nothing small about the story she's told with such grace in these pages." The Oregonian
"Short, swift, and luminescent....The music of Morrison's language, with its poetic oral qualities, its ability to be both past and present in one long line, requires a robust structure, a big space; a small auditorium simply does not suit it. Home, then, is...a remarkable thing: proof that Morrison is at once America's most deliberate and flexible writer. She has almost entirely retooled her style to tell a story that demands speed, brevity, the threat of a looming curtain call." The Boston Globe
"Part of Morrison's longstanding greatness resides in her ability to animate specific stories about the black experience and simultaneously speak to all experience. It's precisely by committing unreservedly to the first that she's able to transcend the circumscribed audience it might imply. This work's accomplishment lies in its considerable capacity to make us feel that we are each not only resident but co-owner of, and collectively accountable for, this land we call home." The New York Times Book Review
"Powerful...Home, the latest novel by Toni Morrison, is almost eerie in its timeliness. Set in the 1950s, it does not evoke the martini and pinched waist nostalgia of Mad Men. Rather, it calls to mind the plight of today's veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars....A hallmark of Morrison's magic is the way that her imagination engages critically with several subjects simultaneously, but Home is particularly intriguing because it also seems to be a reflection on the author's previous works....In addition to her reputation for gorgeous sentences, Morrison is known for a certain brutality in her plotting, and this wrenching novel is no exception. But Home also brims with affection and optimism." San Francisco Chronicle
"Morrison writes without airs. In Home, even the most painful and devastating moments are told head-on, not prettified to make them more palatable [or] 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. Here, as in her previous books, Morrison's characters carry their histories heavy on their backs, a burden that defines them and influences everything they do today. The past, she says repeatedly, is always with us. It can't be ignored or shunted aside because to be truly home in the present, we must confront the past." The Miami Herald
"[Home] is compact, a novella really, and filled with Morrison's signature style — clear, razor-sharp, poetic writing and layered storytelling....This story isn't about taking responsibility for others. It is a tale about taking responsibility for yourself....The journey home, then, is not to a physical place. It is an internal destination that each of us must find." The Dallas Morning News
"Another dazzling journey with Toni Morrison as tour guide into America's slippery psychological, cultural and political terrain. In Home, Morrison has given us another triumph of beauty and brutality both in tone, language, and characters. Like her slim volumes The Bluest Eye, Sula, and Jazz, the Nobel Laureate's tenth offering reminds you of riveting tales told by a wise stranger — not kinfolk, not on any official business — that remain with you for days — sometimes longer....Morrison proves there is no writer who can craft, shape, twist, and bend the English language quite like she can....Home calmly lays out the horrors of war, abroad and domestic, with the understanding that peace is sometimes negotiable." Essence magazine
A New York Times
A Washington Post Notable Work of Fiction
A Best Book of the Year: NPR, AV Club, St. Louis Dispatch
When Frank Money joined the army to escape his too-small world, he left behind his cherished and fragile little sister, Cee. After the war, his shattered life has no purpose until he hears that Cee is in danger.
Frank is a modern Odysseus returning to a 1950s America mined with lethal pitfalls for an unwary black man. As he journeys to his native Georgia in search of Cee, it becomes clear that their troubles began well before their wartime separation. Together, they return to their rural hometown of Lotus, where buried secrets are unearthed and where Frank learns at last what it means to be a man, what it takes to heal, and — above all — what it means to come home.
About the Author
Toni Morrison is the author of ten novels, from The Bluest Eye (1970) to A Mercy (2008). She has received the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. In 1993 she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. She lives in New York.
Reading Group Guide
The introduction, discussion questions, and suggested further reading that follow are designed to enliven your group’s discussion of Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison’s searing new novel, Home.
1. Why has Toni Morrison chosen Home
for her title? In what ways is the novel about both leaving home and coming home? What does home mean for Frank, for Cee, for Lenore, for Lily?
2. The race of the characters is not specified in the novel. How does Morrison make clear which characters are black and which are white? Why might she have chosen not to identify characters explicitly by their race?
3. What is the effect of alternating between Frank’s first-person (italicized) narration and the third-person omniscient narration through which most of the story is told? What is the implied relationship between Frank and the narrator?
4. Talking about the horrors of war in Korea, Frank tells the reader: “You can’t imagine it because you weren’t there” (p. 93). Does the reader succeed in imagining it even though he or she was not there? How close to another’s experience, even those radically unlike our own, can imagination take us?
5. How has Frank’s war experience affected him? What symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder does he exhibit? In what ways does he suffer from survivor guilt?
6. In what sense can Home be understood as Frank’s confession?
7. In what very concrete ways does Cee’s lack of education hurt her? How might she have been saved from infertility had she understood the implication of the books about eugenics in Dr. Beau’s office?
8. Why do the women who heal Cee have such contempt for “the medical industry”? [p. 122]. In what ways are Frank and Cee both victims of a medical system that puts its own aims above the heath of its patients? Does Home offer an implicit critique of our own health-care system?
9. What methods do Miss Ethel Fordham and the other women use to nurse Cee back to health? Why do they feel Frank’s male energy might hinder the healing process? What larger point is Morrison making about the difference between feminine and masculine, or earth-based and industrial, ways of treating illness?
10. Frank doesn’t know “what took place during those weeks at Miss Ethel’s house surrounded by those women with seen-it-all eyes,” only that they “delivered unto him a Cee who would never again need his hand over her eyes or his arms to stop her murmuring bones” (p. 128). In what ways is Cee transformed by the treatment, and the wise counsel, that Miss Ethel gives her?
11. Both Frank and Cee were eager to leave Lotus, Georgia, and never return. Why do they find it so comforting when they do go back? What is it about the place and people that feels to Frank “both fresh and ancient, safe and demanding” (p. 132) and makes Cee declare that this is where she belongs?
12. How have Miss Ethel and the other women in her community learned not just to live with but to rise above the limitations imposed on them? What moral code do they live by?
13. Why does Frank decide to give a proper burial to the man killed for sport—and whose undignified burial Frank and Cee witnessed as children—at the end of the novel? Why would this act be emotionally important for him? Why has Morrison structured the novel so that the end mirrors the beginning?
14. The flowering lotus is a plant of extraordinary beauty, but it is rooted in the muck at the bottom of ponds. In what ways is the fictional town of lotus, Georgia, like a lotus plant?
15. Why is it important that Frank does not resort to violence against Dr. Beau? In what ways has Frank been changed by the experiences he undergoes in the novel?
16. Much has been written about racism in America. What does Home add to our understanding of the suffering blacks endured during the late 1940s and early ‘50s? What is most surprising, and distressing, about the story Morrison tells?