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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, ...

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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

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)
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.
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
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
From the Publisher
“Perhaps Morrison’s most lyrical performance so far.” —Christopher Benfey, The New York Review of Books 
 
“Morrison writes about psychological violence with an engineer’s precision and a poet’s expansiveness.” —Tyrone Beason, The Seattle Times

“Morrison packs a powerful narrative punch. . . . [Her] depiction of the delightful ways black men engage in verbal banter to exchange personal and collective memories, and the poignant ways black women stand on their faith to deploy survival strategies only they could design, makes this a novel that begs rereading. She movingly describes people who survive and thrive, even when life deals them painful, mean blows. . . . [T]he beauty of Morrison’s language and her profound truths about life and living compel one to run the page and keep reading. This 10th novel shows that the author is still questioning what we think we know when we think we know someone.”   —Marilyn Sanders Mobley, Ms. Magazine 
 
Home showcases a writer at the height of her powers in evoking a moment and its historical counter-currents. And it ranks among [Morrison’s] most readable stories. It is also, like so many of her novels, a book certain to reward rereading: you can go Home again. And you should.”  —Jim Cullen, History News Network

“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.” —Meredith Maran, 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.” —Steve Yarbrough, 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.”  —John Freeman, 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.” —Leah Hager Cohen, 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. . . . . The writing reads like a love letter to a generation that took the English language, lubricated its syntax and bent meanings as the situation required. . . . The result is not poetry, exactly, yet the characters communicate in such a way that there are subtle metaphors in every exchange. The events of this narrative are striking and arresting in the manner that one expects from Morrison, the only living American Nobel laureate in literature. Family secrets are revealed, brutal truths about the history of race in America are displayed without sentimentality or animus. As always, Morrison’s prose is immaculate, jaw-dropping in its beauty and audacity. . . . 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. The gains here are hard won, but honestly earned, and sweet as love.” —Tayari Jones, 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.” —Amy Driscoll, 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.” —Karen M. Thomas, The Dallas Morning News 
 
“If you are familiar with Toni Morrison’s work (who isn’t?), you will want to read her new novella, Home, in one sitting. It will take only two or three hours, and that one sitting will help you keep in mind the story’s beautiful symmetry. Home is a reverse journey, a return to an earlier place, a going back instead of forward—at least physically—though it can just as easily be argued that the protagonist (Frank Money) advances as much as he retreats. And that metaphor of advancing is especially suitable, given the fact that Frank has recently returned from the war in Korea. He’s been traumatized by horrific events but is equally unsettled when he realizes that he’s returned to the same racist country he left before he departed to fight for America. . . . Above all, Home demonstrates a sense of community, not just within the physical environment of one’s origins but also with the assistance that total strangers offer Frank Money. The poorest people in the country extend a hand, share, and rehabilitate others when necessary. These values are shown to be so redemptive that they cancel out what many people believe to be natural instincts of revenge, of payback, of an eye-for-an-eye and a tooth-for-a-tooth. . . . Home is an engaging narrative, full of surprises and profundities.”  —Charles R. Larson, Counterpunch 
 
“This haunting, slender novel is a kind of tiny Rosetta Stone to Toni Morrison’s entire oeuvre. Home encapsulates all the themes that have fueled her fiction: . . . the hold that time past exerts over time present, the hazards of love (and its link to leaving and loss), the possibility of redemption and transcendence. Once again we are introduced to characters who must choose between the suffocating but sustaining ethos of small-town life and the temptations and pitfalls of the wider world. Once again we are made to see the costs and consolations of caring too much—for a family member, a lover or a friend. . . . Whereas Beloved mythologized its characters’ stories, lending their experiences the resonance of a symphony or an opera, Home is a lower-key chamber piece, pitched somewhere between straight-up naturalism and the world of fable. In these pages 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. . . . 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.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times 
 
“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.” —Patrik Henry Bass, Essence 
 
“Cinematic, poetic and profound. . . . Home, is, at its heart, the tale of a man enslaved (in mind, body, and spirit), on an uncertain journey to freedom. . . . The concept of home in Home becomes a metaphor for the cultivation of an inner strength and dignity independent of external factors, shielded from the vicissitudes of an unjust society. In Morrison’s assessment, it seems that country can be difficult to navigate alone, and relies not only on our self acceptance, but also on the relationships and communities we build. . . . [She] continues to beg the reader to reflect critically on notions of identity, race, gender and class, and, perhaps most importantly, to examine what me mean when we talk about freedom, and the role we play as a community and as individuals, hand and hand, and in a solitary way, in emancipating ourselves.” —Chase Quinn, The Grio 
 
“Nobel Prize-winning writer Toni Morrison begins her newest novel, Home, with a question: How does a man rebuild himself while the world chips away at his soul? That is the problem posed to Frank Money, a Korean War veteran returned to the United States after witnessing the horrors of combat on the front lines. Now a shell of a man, Frank finds himself on a journey to rescue his medically abused younger sister and return to his home in small-town Georgia. . . . The problem goes deeper than race or politics. It is not limited to questions of black or white (or gender or economic status, for that matter), though those things inform the issue. But the problem, ultimately, is personal in nature. It's downright spiritual. . . . Immediately, a reader senses in Morrison a seeker. Her prose reaches out for answers to very difficult questions, feeling its way through the possibilities of the story it presents. She has the psychological acuteness to move beyond the realm of parable and into the realm of tragedy. The writing is easy and flowing but still elegantly constructed. And it doesn't settle for easy answers. We do not know if and how Frank and his sister will ever find redemption. In the end, we only know that home is a good place to start. . . . A  wonderfully pleasurable and rewarding literary experience.” —Gerard Martinez, San Antonio Express-News 
 
“Within its pared-down limits, [Home] tells a compelling story, and the man at the center, Frank Money, is such a strong and convincing character that we are not taken aback when Frank himself, speaking in italics, interrupts the narrative a couple of times to set the author straight on some details she got wrong. The novel is leanly poetic, at times is very funny and is skillful in using symbols without turning them into clichés. One of the best things about the book is that it functions as a cultural and historical travelogue, a fascinating commentary on crossing the country while black in the middle of the 20th century. . . . A tale fit for an epic.” —Harper Barnes, St. Louis Post-Dispatch 
 
“In her characteristically breathtaking prose, rich in all the contradictions that make us human, Morrison transforms unthinkable suffering into incomplete but believable redemption.” —Pam Houston, More Magazine 
 
“Stunning . . . A masterfully written novella that uses alternating points of view, swift characterization-by-action and metaphorical symmetry with a compression which is simultaneously a tour de force and a tantalization. . . . . Regardless of narrator, the vividness of the chapters and their concise accumulation of experiences give Home a broader scope than would seem possible in so few pages. Morrison unleashes her most lyrical language upon the foreshadowing and depiction of Home’s most brutal events. Her technique is indelible.”  —Holloway McCandless, Shelf Awareness

“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. . . . Home is unusual, not only in that it features a male protagonist but that it’s so fiercely focused on the problem of manhood. . . . Are acts of violence essentially masculine, or are they an abdication of manliness? Is it possible, the novel finally asks, to consider the manhood implicit in sacrifice, in laying down one’s life? What [Frank] Money eventually does to help his sister and to quiet his demons is just as surprising and quietly profound as everything else in this novel. 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 
 
“A bona fide literary event . . . an emotional powerhouse that more than lives up to his pedigree. Told in the stark, economical tone of a short story, with all the philosophical heft of a novel, . . . Home is a moving testament to taking responsibility for your own life—especially the parts you’d like to look away from. Grade: A-” —Melissa Maerz, Entertainment Weekly 
 
“Triumphant.” —Marie Claire

“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

“Morrison’s perfect prose [is] immaculate . . . Beautiful, brutal.” —Publishers Weekly (boxed and starred review) 
 
“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)

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

  • ISBN-13: 9780307594167
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/8/2012
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 696,410
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Toni Morrison

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.

Biography

Toni Morrison has been called "black America's best novelist," and her incredible string of imaginative contemporary classics would suggest that she is actually one of America's best novelists regardless of race. Be that as it may, it is indeed difficult to disconnect Morrison's work from racial issues, as they lie at the heart of her most enduring novels.

Growing up in Lorain, Ohio, a milieu Jet magazine described as "mixed and sometimes hostile," Morrison experienced racism firsthand. (When she was still a toddler, her home was set on fire with her family inside.) Yet, her father instilled in her a great sense of dignity, a cultural pride that would permeate her writing. She distinguished herself in school, graduating from Howard and Cornell Universities with bachelor's and master's degrees in English; in addition to her career as a writer, she has taught at several colleges and universities, lectured widely, and worked in publishing.

Morrison made her literary debut in 1970 with The Bluest Eye, the story of a lonely 11-year-old black girl who prays that God will turn her eyes blue, in the naïve belief that this transformation will change her miserable life. As the tale unfolds, her life does change, but in ways almost too tragic and devastating to contemplate. On its publication, the book received mixed reviews; but John Leonard of The New York Times recognized the brilliance of Morrison's writing, describing her prose as "...so precise, so faithful to speech and so charged with pain and wonder that the novel becomes poetry."

Over time, Morrison's talent became self-evident, and her reputation grew with each successive book. Her second novel, Sula, was nominated for a National Book Award; her third, 1977's Song of Solomon, established her as a true literary force. Shot through with the mythology and African-American folklore that informed Morrison's childhood in Ohio, this contemporary folktale is notable for its blending of supernatural and realistic elements. It was reviewed rapturously and went on win a National Book Critics Circle Award.

The culmination of Morrison's storytelling skills, and the book most often considered her masterpiece, is Beloved. Published in 1987 and inspired by an incident from history, this post-Civil War ghost story tells the story of Sethe, a former runaway slave who murdered her baby daughter rather than condemn her to a life of slavery. Now, 18 years later, Sethe and her family are haunted by the spirit of the dead child. Heartbreaking and harrowing, Beloved grapples with mythic themes of love and loss, family and freedom, grief and guilt, while excavating the tragic, shameful legacy of slavery. The novel so moved Morrison's literary peers that 48 of them signed an open letter published in The New York Times, demanding that she be recognized for this towering achievement. The book went on to win the Pulitzer Prize; and in 2006, it was selected by The New York Times as the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years.

In addition to her extraordinary novels, Morrison has also written a play, short stories, a children's book, and copious nonfiction, including essays, reviews, and literary and social criticism. While she has made her name by addressing important African-American themes, her narrative power and epic sweep have won her a wide and diverse audience. She cannot be dismissed as a "black writer" any more than we can shoehorn Faulkner's fiction into "southern literature." Fittingly, she received the Nobel Prize in 1993; perhaps the true power of her impressive body of work is best summed up in the Swedish Academy's citation, which reads: "To Toni Morrison, who, in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality."

Good To Know

Chloe Anthony Wofford chose to publish her first novel under the name Toni Morrison because she believed that Toni was easier to pronounce than Chloe. Morrison later regretted assuming the nom de plume.

In 1986, the first production of Morrison's sole play Dreaming Emmett was staged. The play was based on the story of Emmett Till, a black teen murdered by racists in 1955.

Morrison's prestigious status is not limited to her revered novels or her multitude of awards. She also holds a chair at Princeton University.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Chloe Anthony Wofford (real name)
      Toni Morrison
    2. Hometown:
      Princeton, New Jersey, and Manhattan
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 18, 1931
    2. Place of Birth:
      Lorain, Ohio
    1. Education:
      Howard University, B.A. in English, 1953; Cornell, M.A., 1955

Read an Excerpt

ONE

They rose up like men. We saw them. Like men they stood.

We shouldn’t have been anywhere near that place. Like most farmland outside Lotus, Georgia, this here one had plenty scary warning signs. The threats hung from wire mesh fences with wooden stakes every fifty or so feet. But when we saw a crawl space that some animal had dug—a coyote maybe, or a coon dog—we couldn’t resist. Just kids we were. The grass was shoulder high for her and waist high for me so, looking out for snakes, we crawled through it on our bellies. The reward was worth the harm grass juice and clouds of gnats did to our eyes, because there right in front of us, about fifty yards off, they stood like men. Their raised hooves crashing and striking, their manes tossing back from wild white eyes. They bit each other like dogs but when they stood, reared up on their hind legs, their forelegs around the withers of the other, we held our breath in wonder. One was rust-colored, the other deep black, both sunny with sweat. The neighs were not as frightening as the silence following a kick of hind legs into the lifted lips of the opponent. Nearby, colts and mares, indifferent, nibbled grass or looked away. Then it stopped. The rust-colored one dropped his head and pawed the ground while the winner loped off in an arc, nudging the mares before him.

As we elbowed back through the grass looking for the dug-out place, avoiding the line of parked trucks beyond, we lost our way. Although it took forever to re-sight the fence, neither of us panicked until we heard voices, urgent but low. I grabbed her arm and put a finger to my lips. Never lifting our heads, just peeping through the grass, we saw them pull a body from a wheelbarrow and throw it into a hole already waiting. One foot stuck up over the edge and quivered, as though it could get out, as though with a little effort it could break through the dirt being shoveled in. We could not see the faces of the men doing the burying, only their trousers; but we saw the edge of a spade drive the jerking foot down to join the rest of itself. When she saw that black foot with its creamy pink and mud-streaked sole being whacked into the grave, her whole body began to shake. I hugged her shoulders tight and tried to pull her trembling into my own bones because, as a brother four years older, I thought I could handle it. The men were long gone and the moon was a cantaloupe by the time we felt safe enough to disturb even one blade of grass and move on our stomachs, searching for the scooped-out part under the fence. When we got home we expected to be whipped or at least scolded for staying out so late, but the grown-ups did not notice us. Some disturbance had their attention.

Since you’re set on telling my story, 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. And they stood like men.

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Reading Group Guide

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?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 97 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(55)

4 Star

(19)

3 Star

(9)

2 Star

(7)

1 Star

(7)

Your Rating:

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 97 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 3, 2012

    Masterful storytelling in a compact novel...

    Toni Morrison's latest novel (or novella) is a compact tale tackling the broad subject of "home". Frank Money is a veteran returns to the US after serving in the Korean War. Like most Black soldiers of that time, he's returning to a country that could care less about his service and the trauma that he's experienced. Frank works hard at trying to achieve some level of normalcy and overcome the memories that he can't escape. He receives news that his younger sister, Cee, is in trouble and must pull himself together enough to come to her aid.

    As usual, Morrison's writing is beautiful and descriptive, making even the smallest detail appear paramount to the story. It's hard to believe that a book that is only about 160 pages long could contain a wealth of storytelling. The plight of Black people in the 1950's is fully explored here: returning soldiers, travelling the country under Jim Crow laws, medical research exploitation, and much more. Morrison's incredible talent assures that no matter how many physical pages there are, her stories are always fully told.

    25 out of 25 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 9, 2012

    A Web Spun with Words

    As usual, Toni Morrison does not disappoint in this her latest novel. I was pulled in immediately and unable to put the book down. So engrossed I was that I actually finished it in one sitting. It is not a long novel but it backs a great deal in its pages. Absolutely loved it.

    10 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2012

    Home by Toni Morrison

    I had finished reading the latest novella by Toni Morrison titled "Home".
    Short reading but she tells a good story. An interesting and engaging plot that provides an exciting description of the main characters. Toni Morrison's stories are getting shorter but quality of writing still exists in her fiction. The plot engaged me from the start. I had finished reading this novella in three sessions. It goes on for 105 pages or so, not a very long story. Succinct and colorful, descriptive and enticing, draws you in from the very beginning. A well spent time reading this book. The twists and turns surprise and enchant. What happens at the end? I wanted the story to go on, but the writer decided to end the story. There is nothing we can do but carry on the plot in our own minds.

    9 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2012

    Tony Morrison strikes again

    Great read, compelling narrative, beautiful language.

    9 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2012

    Stop telling the story

    When I read reviews, I don't want to read a book report because it ruins any chance of me buying the book. Just say what you thought about it and leave it at that. Please!

    7 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 14, 2012

    Difficult to follow

    I was excited to read this book because I had heard of Toni Morrison but had never read any of her books. While the story was good, I found it at times hard to follow. The character's names changed, as well as the setting, without me being aware. It wasn't until I read the summary at the end that I understood that. Maybe upon reading again, I would enjoy it more, but I was disappointed.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 5, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Toni Morrison is a literary genius. "I can be miserable if

    Toni Morrison is a literary genius.

    "I can be miserable if I want to. You don't need to try and make it go away. It shouldn't go away. It's just as sad as it ought to be and I'm not going to hide from what's true just because it hurts." (from page 131)

    Why is it so hard to write about books that are so amazing? I always seem to have this issue with my favorite books. This is definitely the case with Toni Morrison's Home. Even though the novel is shy of 200 pages, the story inside it is so artfully crafted and brilliantly executed. The varying points of view and switch between first person and third person gives the reader different versions of the 'truth'.

    I've learned about eugenics in my women's studies classes. It's a horrible dark secret in American society that often gets overlooked or ignored. In a way, I am glad that Morrison decided to talk about this piece of history in her latest novel. I am disgusted that it happened, don't get me wrong, but I strongly believe in learning about any sort of discrimination. That's another reason why I admire Morrison so much. She links together all of the oppressions and shows how racism exists right along with sexism and classism. The voices of minorities have always been silenced, and there is great power in learning from the past. The other choice is to ignore it, but what does that do to a person?

    Frank is a perfect example of this. He may not be a perfect person, a perfect brother or boyfriend, but he is still human. He tries to ignore the past and it just haunts him and pulls him into a downward spiral. His post-traumatic stress is clear through his hallucinations and 'abnormal' reactions. When he finally says the truth, though, he is freed from that poisonous denial.

    I can't recommend this novel highly enough. If you love happy, care-free novels, then this isn't for you. You might say it's too depressing, too dark, too somber. But to her fans (like me) it is empowering and hopeful. The message here is really strong and inspiring. Nobody should make you feel like you're worth nothing. You might get discriminated against because of the color of your skin, or your gender, or the lack of money in your pockets, but those oppressors aren't better than you. No one is better than you. It takes a lot of courage to see that and accept it, but it's true.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2012

    Kevin

    * sits down*

    2 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2013

    Yes pkease

    Stop telling the whole book In the reviews .
    T

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2012

    1 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2014

    Read

    Ms Morrison never fails! Gotta love it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2014

    Disappointing....

    Home is the story of siblings Frank and Ycidra "Cee" Money, who grow up underloved in a small Southern town. As adults, each of them leaves home--Frank as an enlisted man unprepared for the ravages of war and Cee as the wife of a despicable cad. Despite their hometown's impenetrable hardness and meanness, the siblings end up back there years later, gaining the healing they have been unwittingly delaying in refusing to come to terms with the place they have wanted so desperately to leave behind.

    Morrison fans will find plenty of her signature elements in Home: the small-town setting, childhood trauma, the collision of race and sex, love gone wrong, and the redemptive magic of women's love. In this way, Home is unquestionably the work of the Nobel Prize-winning master of American letters. However, aside from these authorial tells, the novel falls rather horribly flat, which is decidedly uncharacteristic of Morrison novels. While I confess to being underwhelmed by her novel Love, I stand by my assessment of Morrison as a giant in American literature. This notwithstanding, Home simply fails to satisfy. It is unrelentingly ungenerous in backstory and characterological inner life. This omniscient narrator is inexplicably tight-lipped. Things are somewhat better in this regard with Frank, the story's hero, but other characters, including his sister, the heroine, are given appallingly short shrift in these areas.

    One of the deep joys of reading Morrison is hearbreakingly beautiful language. Another is the invitation to gut-level understanding of who a character is and why his/her actions make absolute sense within a sharply drawn physical, emotional, and economic context. Home has so many interesting characters--the siblings' hardworking but perpetually impoverished parents, their resolutely unconcerned grandfather, their evil step-grandmother for whom the siblings and their parents can never be good enough, the woman who loves but is relieved ultimately to lose war-torn Frank, the kind but tragically unethical doctor who nearly kills the naive Cee, the stern women who pray, sing, and doctor her back to a self she has never known how to be, and others besides. Unfortunately, this overly terse novel renders them all as little more than one-dimensional stock characters, and not the living, breathing fictional people we experience in the overwhelming majority of other Morrison novels. Home is not a bad book, but it clearly should be so much more than it is and offer so much more than it does.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2014

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2014

    Trent

    Me too ttyt

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2014

    Another Morrison Success!

    If you're like me and have already read you fair share of Toni Morrison's work, you won't be disappointed with "Home." It is yet another wonderful book that is complex and rich in it's brevity.

    Morrison has always written as if she wrote 400+ pages and then edits down to 100 making the reader really have to immerse themselves into the text to really see what Morrison is trying to say.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2014

    Holt

    Dang it nooks almost dead

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2013

    Did not like this one.

    Highly over-rated in my humble opinion. Dis-jointed and fairy-tale like ending. Disappointed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2013

    Gween

    Gween

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2013

    Ocean

    Sorry theres was a lag

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2013

    Great read

    Makes you realize that theres no place like home.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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