Monday, May 7, 2012

#BookReview: Home - Toni Morrison

For the last few years I've told myself and anyone that would listen that I'm just not smart enough to read Toni Morrison.  I watch ToMo stans like Tayari Jones expound on her greatness and all I can think is, it must be over my head.  The last time I read a ToMo book and was able to comprehend it the first time around was pre-Beloved.  I read Song of Solomon, Sula and The Bluest Eye in high school and college and loved them.  Then Beloved came along and I had to read the book, see the movie and read the book again before it finally made sense to me.

After that came Jazz, Paradise, Love and A Mercy. I struggled with the first three and didn't even try with A Mercy.  I gave it to my mother as an audio book for Christmas and I swear she wrote me out of her will.  So when I saw that Morrison was publishing a new book, I was hesitant to request a copy from the publisher.  But they sent it and so I read it.  And I loved it!  I feel like the ToMo that wrote Song of Solomon is back.  Or maybe she never left. Maybe I've just come full circle.

Before I get into the review, let me just say that Tayari Jones has written a brilliant review of this also.  Mine isn't nearly as eloquent as hers.  When I talked to her about Home a few weeks ago, she tied characters & stories from previous ToMo works together in ways I would have never imagined.  So I'll give you my regular reader thoughts on why I loved the book, but if you're looking for something deep and meaningful, read her review when you finish reading my ramblings.

Simply put, Home is the story of Frank Money, a Korean War veteran returned home a fraction of the man that he was before he left.  While he returns whole physically, mentally, he is shattered. Back in the states a little over a year, he receives the news that his beloved sister, Cee, is ill.  As he journeys from Seattle, Washington to Atlanta and then Lotus, Georgia, the reader begins to understand that something is not quite right about Frank.  His anxiety levels are high and he can be impulsive.  As to whether or not his anxiety is a result of the war or his life prior to the war, it’s hard to tell.  He works hard, though, to keep the anxiety at bay.

From the moment her step-grandmother Noella saw Cee, she hated her.   Cee represents everything she resents about her husband Salem and his family.  Forced to flee Texas, in a scene repeated too often in towns like Rosewood, Florida and Tulsa, Oklahoma, Frank and Cee end up in Lotus, Georgia with their parents.  While their parents work the fields, Frank is responsible for Cee.  He sees the way Noella treats her and vows to always be responsible for her.

 “Misery don’t call ahead.  That’s why you have to stay awake - otherwise it just walks on in your door.”

With Frank off at war and no one else to guide her, Cee falls for the first pretty boy that looks her way. Ditched by him shortly after arriving in Atlanta, Cee is determined to stay there and make a decent life for herself instead of returning to Lotus and Noella.  She lands a dream job working in a doctor’s office, but we already know that all that glitters isn’t gold.

The biggest takeaway for me, and I feel like this was Cee’s “a-ha” moment, came in the form of a conversation with Miss Ethel, a local woman who nursed Cee back to wholeness after a run-in with the good doctor nearly killed her:

“See what I mean? Look to yourself.  You free.  Nothing and nobody is obliged to save you but you.  Seed your own land.  You young and a woman and there’s serious limitation in both, but you a person too.  Don’t let Noella or some trifling boyfriend and certainly no devil doctor decide who you are.  That’s slavery.  Somewhere inside you is that free person I’m talking about.  Locate her and let her do some good in the world.”

Though those words were said to Cee, I felt like that were meant for Frank as well.  While Cee was held back by physical pain, Frank’s pain was mental.  Those words and that way of living allowed both to move forward and become the complete people they were meant to be.

Published: May 2012
Disclosure: Copy received from publisher, opinions are my own.

Theme: Zoom by The Commodores 

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