Weeks later, when her baby, delivered on a mattress in Reverend Baily’s church basement, turned out to be a girl, mama named her Ycidra, taking care to pronounce all three syllables. Of course, she waited the nine days before naming, lest death notice fresh life and eat it. Everybody but Mama calls her “Cee.” I always thought it was nice, how she thought about the nae, treasured it. As for me, no such memories. I am named Frank after my father’s brother. Luther is my father’s name, Ida my mother’s. The crazy part is our last name. Money. Of which we had none. – from Home, page 40 –
Frank Money has returned from the Korean War with anger, regret, guilt and the need for redemption. He arrives back in an America where racism is still dividing the country. As he travels to his hometown of Lotus, Georgia to rescue his little sister from an abusive situation, he remembers scenes from his childhood. His memory of Lotus is not a good one and he does not think of the place as home.
Lotus, Georgia, is the worst place in the world, worse than any battlefield. At least on the field there is a goal, excitement, daring, and some chance of winning along with many chances of losing. Death is a sure thing but life is just as certain. Problem is you can’t know in advance. – from Home, page 83 –
But, what Frank finds in Lotus is not just a sister in need, but something less tangible that binds him to the place. Deep in the south he finds himself immersed in the rich African-American culture and reconnecting to the people who are there to carry him forward.
Toni Morrison’s newest novel explores the scars of war (both physical and emotional), the depths of grief and regret, and the road to recovery. Morrison does not spare the reader the ugliness of racism in the mid-century south, a blight on American life which robbed people of their dignity and freedoms. She also touches on the medical experimentation which impacted black women during that time – something I had very little knowledge of until I read this novel. I researched this topic after reading Home and found this article which notes:
In the US South, throughout the the 1960s and 1970s, federally funded welfare state programs underwrote the coercive sterilization of thousands of poor black women. Under threat of termination of welfare benefits or denial of medical care, many black women “consented” to sterilization procedures. Within southern black communities knowledge of the routine imposition of non-consensual and medically-unnecessary sterilization on black women was well known – a practice so common it came to be known as a “Mississippi appendectomy.” (Roberts 2000)
Home is a sparse book (less than 150 pages) which packs a big punch. Morrison’s writing is poetic, rich, and character-driven. She makes a huge impact on the reader with very few words – one reason, I believe, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993.
Readers who appreciate literary fiction will want to read Home, a novel about a man who must return to his past in order to move forward into his future.