Home by Toni Morrison

I just finished reading Toni Morrison’s new novel, Home. It is not her best book, but is still a beautiful achievement. It exemplifies the smooth, vivid prose which evokes scenes clearly in readers’ minds that makes her one of my favorite authors. Home is not as good as her two finest works, Beloved and Song of Solomon, but it is in that impressive second echelon of her works (Sula, Love, The Bluest Eye, Paradise, in no particular order), which by any other standard than Morrison’s would be masterpieces.

Home is interesting because of the relationship between the seemingly omniscient narrator and its protagonist, Frank Money, who is given short chapters to speak back to how the narrator is telling his story. He reveals that the narrator is sometimes wrong about her(?) judgments of him, and that she sometimes gets the facts wrong. I don’t ever care deeply about Frank as a person like I do about some of Morrison’s other characters (e.g., Guitar in Song of Solomon; perhaps Home‘s shortness contributes to this lack), but I care about his narrative enough that it is hard to put the book down.

I also appreciate how Morrison tells the story from numerous characters’ perspectives, though Frank’s narrative is the primary one. It is helpful to hear the other characters explain their actions in the same way that Frank explains his rather than just hearing his side of their shared experiences. The most important case of this is when we get a chapter from his grandmother’s perspective because she is the most oppressive individual person in his life (i.e., whites as a whole are more oppressive than she is), but we find out why she acts the way she does, which makes her more sympathetic.

It is a great relief that Morrison is still near the top of her game at the end of her career. There are places where the novel could use more detail, but it is a strong effort nonetheless. Overall, I rate the book 4/5, definitely worth reading.

Published by danielshankcruz

I grew up in New York City and lived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Goshen, Indiana; DeKalb, Illinois; and Salt Lake City, Utah before coming to Utica, New York. My mother’s family is Swiss-German Mennonite (i.e., it’s an ethnicity, not necessarily a theological persuasion) and my father’s family is Puerto Rican. I have a Ph.D. in English and currently teach at Utica College. I have also taught at Northern Illinois University and Westminster College in Salt Lake City. My teaching and scholarship are motivated by a passion for social justice, which is why my research focuses on the literature of oppressed groups, especially LGBT persons and people of color. While I primarily read and write about fiction, I am also a devoted reader of poetry because, as William Carlos Williams writes, “It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet [people] die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.” Thinkers who influence me include Marina Abramovic, Kathy Acker, Di Brandt, Ana Castillo, Samuel R. Delany, Percival Everett, Essex Hemphill, Jane Jacobs, Walt Whitman, and the New York School of poets. I am also fond of queer Mennonite writers such as Stephen Beachy, Jan Guenther Braun, Lynnette Dueck/D’anna, and Casey Plett. In my free time I’m either reading, writing the occasional poem, playing board games (especially Scrabble, backgammon, and chess), watching sports (Let’s Go, Mets!), or cooking (curries, stews, roasts…).

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