The legendary 1993 Nobel Prize-winning Toni Morrison begins her latest novel with a jarring disconnect of warning: the title is Home, and yet the first pages open with an unannotated verse – “Whose house is this? / …. It’s not mine. / I dreamed another, sweeter, brighter / … Say, tell me, why does its lock fit my key?” Home, the very concept of comfort, safety, familiarity, is already something “strange. / Its shadows lie.” And then, the story begins …
Frank Money lies in a “nuthouse,” plotting his escape through the fog of hospital drugs. He survived the Korean War that took the lives of his two childhood friends, but for the year since his discharge, he’s been on the West Coast, unable to venture back to his Georgia hometown: ” … he hated Lotus. Its unforgiving population, its isolation …” His impetus eastward finally comes from a warning letter about his beloved younger sister : “‘Come fast,’” the letter demands. “‘She be dead if you tarry.’”
As Frank makes the long journey across his home country where the dark color of his skin determines his interaction with his fellow Americans, he recalls his southern childhood, what he thought was his escape to the front lines, and the tragedies he suffered on the other side of the world. Interwoven with his fragmented, at times unreliable (“I lied to you and I lied to me“) memories, are glimpses of his sister’s experiences as an uneducated young woman desperate for knowledge, his step-grandmother’s excuses for her abusive relationships, and his girlfriend’s determination to make a better life.
With controlled nuance, Morrison herself reads us Home (how lucky are we?), unfolding a multi-perspective narrative about one man’s struggle to find his humanity. In spite of its novella length, Home is a rich, dense, challenging meditation that continues to haunt long after the final page.