Of Morrison’s previous novels I have read Beloved, Sula, The Bluest Eye, and Paradise. Of those four Paradise was by far my favourite. I was pretty excited about starting Home. Particularly as the man character, Frank, is a war veteran. Normally that kind of storyline piques my interest. Added to the fact that it was a Morrison book, I felt I was onto a sure thing. Sadly though, Home just didn’t do it for me.
Morrison tells the story of Frank Money, who recently returned from combat in Korea and struggling to adapt to life as a civilian. A failed relationship with patient Lily, ghosts of friends lost at war, a deep-rooted sense of inadequacy, and a dependency on alcohol to soothe his nerves mean Frank is a fragile man.
When he receives a letter warning him that his dear sister, Ycidra, or simply “Cee”, is in trouble, Frank feels the return of a focus he didn’t realise he was missing. As he sets out to rescue his only remaining live relative from an unknown danger, his mind drifts back and we learn about his past.
Poverty and tough love were the two staples of Frank and Cee’s youth spent in dreary Lotus, Georgia. It was a place of limited opportunity, even more so if you were born black. Both siblings left as soon as they could, Frank enlisted and Cee on the arm of a charlatan.
The narrative switches between childhood memories, Frank’s experience in Korea, and Cee’s current predicament as a living medical experiment. Familiar Morrison themes surface throughout; racism, displacement, family bonds, homecoming, and – perhaps the one that catches the reader the most – the use and abuse of a black woman’s body.
By the time I reached the final third of the book I already knew what was coming. Cee’s physical and spiritual healing at the hands of the more mature women of Lotus was touching despite being predictable. As he watches his sister transform back to a healthy young woman, Frank also undergoes a change. Being back in Lotus with a new perspective brings the troubled veteran a peace he hadn’t expected.
At just under 150 pages, this slim hardback volume is a quick read. Quick, not easy mind you. There are scenes of violence, allusions to brutality and abuse that lurk just off the pages and out of view. This is what Morrison does best, she has never shied away from the gory, the physical struggle of her characters. It is often what makes their healing and recovery so peaceful and effective. Home is no exception.
Morrison fans will enjoy it, but for novices, it may be an acquired taste.