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Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Michiko Kakutani
This haunting, slender novel is a kind of tiny Rosetta Stone to Toni Morrison's entire oeuvre…encapsulat[ing] all the themes that have fueled her fiction…In these pages Ms. Morrison eschews the fierce Faulknerian prose and García Márquez-like flights of surrealism that animated some of her earlier novels, adopting a new, pared-down style that enables her to map the day-to-day lives of her characters with lyrical precision…Ms. Morrison has found a new, angular voice and straight-ahead storytelling style that showcase her knowledge of her characters, and the ways in which violence and passion and regret are braided through their lives, the ways in which love and duty can redeem a blighted past.
—The New York Times
Ron Charles
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…At just 145 pages, this little book about a Korean War vet doesn't boast the Gothic swell of her masterpiece, Beloved (1987), or the luxurious surrealism of her most recent novel, A Mercy (2008). But the diminutive size and straightforward style of Home are deceptive. 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.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
In Pulitzer and Nobel Prize–winner Morrison’s immaculate new novel (after A Mercy), Frank Money returns from the horrors of the Korean War to an America that’s just as poor and just as racist as the country he fled. Frank’s only remaining connection to home is his troubled younger sister, Cee, “the first person ever took responsibility for,” but he doesn’t know where she is. In the opening pages of the book, he receives a letter from a friend of Cee’s stating, “Come fast. She be dead if you tarry.” Thus begins his quest to save his sister—and to find peace in a town he loathed as a child: Lotus, Ga., the “worst place in the world, worse than any battlefield.” Told in alternating third- and first-person narration, with Frank advising and, from time to time, correcting the person writing down his life story, the novel’s opening scene describes horses mating, “heir raised hooves crashing and striking, their manes tossing back from wild white eyes,” as one field over, the bodies of African-American men who were forced to fight to the death are buried: “...whatever you think and whatever you write down, know this: I really forgot about the burial. I only remembered the horses. They were so beautiful. So brutal.” Beautiful, brutal, as is Morrison’s perfect prose. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (May)
Publishers Weekly - Audio
Set in the 1950s American South, Morrison's latest follows Frank Money, a troubled, African-American veteran as he tries to rebuild his life after the Korean War, overcome rampant racism, and care for his ailing sister in the hometown he tried to leave behind. Morrison's sparkling narration has a musical quality—her sonorous voice capturing the essence of her characters—and conveys a wide range of emotions, often within a single sentence. Although Morrison doesn't create accents or particularly distinct voices for all the characters, her reading is compelling and will make listeners care deeply about her characters and their fragile futures. A Knopf hardcover. (May)
From the Publisher
"Haunting . . . [Morrison] maps the day-to-day lives of her characters with lyrical precision. . . . Home encapsulates all the themes that have fueled her fiction, from the early novels Sula and The Bluest Eye, through her dazzling masterwork, Beloved." —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"Gorgeous and intense, brutal yet heartwarming. . . . Accessible, tightly composed and visceral as anything Morrison has yet written. . . . [A] devastating, deeply humane—and ever-relevant—book." —Heller McAlpin, NPR

"Luminescent. . . . There is no novelist alive who has captured the beauty and democracy of the American vernacular so well." —The Boston Globe

"Powerful. . . . Jaw-dropping in its beauty and audacity. . . . Brims with affection and optimism." —San Francisco Chronicle

“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. . . . A daringly hopeful story about the possibility of healing — or at least surviving in a shadow of peace.” —Ron Charles, The Washington Post
 
“A fertile narrative imbued with and embellished by Morrison’s visionary scope and poetic majesty.” —Elle
 
“A bona fide literary event . . . an emotional powerhouse. . . . Told in the stark, economical tone of a short story, with all the philosophical heft of a novel.” —Entertainment Weekly
 
“A short, swift, and luminescent book. . . . A remarkable thing: proof that Toni 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 treat of a looming curtain call. . . . There is no novelist alive who has captured the beauty and democracy of the American vernacular so well.” —The Boston Globe
 
“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." —O, The Oprah Magazine
 
“Perhaps Morrison’s most lyrical performance to date. . . . Home has a sparer, faster pace than earlier Morrison novels like Beloved or Jazz, as though a drumbeat is steadily intensifying in the background and the storyteller has to keep up.” —The New York Review of Books
 
“In a mere 145 pages, Morrison has created a richly textured, deeply felt novel. “Home” has a sense of the real with a touch of magic. After 10 novels and a Nobel prize, Toni Morrison certainly isn’t resting on her laurels.” —Louisville Courier-Journal
 
“Her themes—identity, community, the resoluteness of both good and evil—are epic, and her language uniquely her own. . . . Taut and muscular, Home wastes not a word. . . . In sentences balanced like proverbs, the Nobel Prize winner conjures up the community of country women Frank asks to help save Cee.” —The Plain Dealer
 
“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
 
“A short, urgent novel, polished to the essential themes that the Nobel Prize-winning author has explored for decades.” —The Columbus Dispatch
 
“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

Library Journal
Frank Money was damaged emotionally as well as physically while fighting in Korea, then returns home to an America as racist as ever. What saves him from utter despair is the need to rescue his equally damaged sister and bring her back to their small Georgia town, a place he has always despised. But thinking over the past both near (the war) and far (his childhood) allows him to rediscover his sense of purpose. At 160 pages, this is not a big brass band of a novel but a chamber work, effectively telescoping Morrison's passion and lush language.
Kirkus Reviews
A deceptively rich and cumulatively powerful novel. At the outset, this might seem like minor Morrison (A Mercy, 2008, etc.), not only because its length is borderline novella, but because the setup seems generic. A black soldier returns from the Korean War, where he faces a rocky re-entry, succumbing to alcoholism and suffering from what would subsequently be termed PTSD. Yet perhaps, as someone tells him, his major problem is the culture to which he returns: "An integrated army is integrated misery. You all go fight, come back, they treat you like dogs. Change that. They treat dogs better." Ultimately, the latest from the Nobel Prize–winning novelist has something more subtle and shattering to offer than such social polemics. As the novel progresses, it becomes less specifically about the troubled soldier and as much about the sister he left behind in Georgia, who was married and deserted young, and who has fallen into the employ of a doctor whose mysterious experiments threaten her life. And, even more crucially, it's about the relationship between the brother and his younger sister, which changes significantly after his return home, as both of them undergo significant transformations. "She was a shadow for most of my life, a presence marking its own absence, or maybe mine," thinks the soldier. He discovers that "while his devotion shielded her, it did not strengthen her." As his sister is becoming a woman who can stand on her own, her brother ultimately comes to terms with dark truths and deep pain that he had attempted to numb with alcohol. Before they achieve an epiphany that is mutually redemptive, even the earlier reference to "dogs" reveals itself as more than gratuitous. A novel that illuminates truths that its characters may not be capable of articulating.
The Barnes & Noble Review

Over more than 40 years, Toni Morrison has made her luminous art out of some of the darkest aspects of American history. Slavery and the human landscape that was its inheritance are the special territory of her fiction. Winner of armfuls of awards, and, in 1993, the Nobel Prize, Morrison is a writer who coaxes astonishing beauty out of pain and tragedy and an unparalleled master of memory, able to evoke the way that it deceives, doubles back, and blooms from experience. At this point, she's more than earned the right to rest on her laurels.

But if anything she has picked up the pace, with the publication of A Mercy, a tale of the 17th-century slave trade, in 2008, and now Home. This, her tenth novel, hews closer to the present than many of her previous books. Set just after the Korean War, Home is the story of a traumatized 24-year-old black veteran, Frank Money, and his younger sister, Cee. At first, it bears some striking resemblances to Sula, Morrison's 1973 novel set in a small Ohio town after World War I. Both books open with injured soldiers in a hospital, soon thrown on the mercy of others, surviving by keeping a bottle between the present and the blood- soaked past.

The parable — at a scant 150 pages, Home is austere, even for a writer who keeps it short — lays bare the hardships and vicious discrimination that are Morrison's stock in trade. As Frank travels across the country, from the Northwest to Georgia, to rescue Cee from a situation whose horrific outlines become clear only toward the end of the book, he moves through a hostile land relieved occasionally by an act of charity from another black man or woman who can scarcely afford to spare it. This is a book in which, if a train stops in a town, you know something bad is going to happen (and it does, twice).

Slavery may have been abolished nearly a century earlier, but much hasn't changed. Forced to turn to a minister for food, shoes, and a few dollars in his pocket, Frank is told that he's not the first veteran to come for help. "An integrated army is integrated misery," the man tells Frank in one of the history lessons Morrison dispenses in the first few pages. "You all go, fight, come back. They treat you like dogs. Change that. They treat dogs better." The man's wife soon chimes in, "Maybe you think up North is way different from down South. Don't believe it and don't count on it. Custom is just as real as law and can be just as dangerous."

We're being schooled, by a writer who's become a little impatient with poetic window dressings. There's history to explain. And there's horror to reveal. Morrison has never shied away from the darkness in men's souls, but in Home she's something of a depravity artist. In this brief tale, a soldier shoots the head off a little girl scavenging for food in a Korean military camp, a black woman's sexual organs are experimented upon by an "arrogant, evil" white doctor with books about eugenics on his shelves, and a father and son are forced, like dogs (that metaphor again), to fight each other to the death surrounded by white men placing eager bets on the outcome.

Morrison's fiction has spellbound us for four decades, and monstrosity has often been at the heart of her tales. Indeed, her best-known book, Beloved, the ghost story she based on a real historical figure and which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988, concerns an escaped slave who cuts the throat of her toddler daughter rather than see her recaptured and returned to bondage. But even in a book as grim as Beloved, goodness and love are there, too, in liberal measure, and so is ordinary life, the canvas upon which even horrific events must be painted.

In Home, evil is omnipresent — almost cartoonishly so — and it is the fabric of everyday experience that is squeezed into the margins. As a novelist, of course, Morrison is permitted all the liberties that a nonfiction writer is not — even if her stories are rooted in history. But there's something unsettling about seeing a writer whom we've long viewed as nothing short of a national steward produce a story that drips with weary disgust, offering on nearly every page fresh evidence of human cruelty. It is difficult to avoid the feeling that Home is meant as a rebuke — of the racists who have perverted our history, yes, but of her readers, too, and, indeed, of all humanity.

Lotus, Georgia, where Morrison's characters Frank and Cee Money grew up, is both bile and balm. In the end it claims them and redeems them in a familiar story arc that is comforting but, this time, not entirely convincing. Perhaps history has turned out to be a bitterer brew than Morrison can continue to swallow.

Sarah L. Courteau is the literary editor of the Wilson Quarterly.

Reviewer: Sarah L. Courteau

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Product Details

  • Release Date: 5/28/2012