Book Discussion at Epiphany: "Home" by Toni Morrison
For the month of April, the Epiphany book discussion group discussed the novel Home by Toni Morrison. It is the story of Frank Money, a poor man from the South who goes to fight in the Korean War as a way of escaping his rural town. In the process he leaves behind his fragile sister Cee who has to learn to navigate her world without her big brother/protector. When Frank returns home from the war he experiences what we now know as post traumatic stress disorder, due to his experiences during the war that we learn about in flashbacks. He floats around for some time merely existing until he receives a telegram that his sister is in danger and he once again finds a purpose in going to help her. This in turn allows him to come to terms with demons that haunt him from his past.
There are a few interesting literary techniques employed by Morrison that give the story some creative flair. Intially the novel is set up so that the reader never knows the ethnic background of any of the characters. Clues are strawn throughout that hint at what they may be but anyone familiar with the United States and certain historical facts can easily figure it out. However this does allow the reader to become more engrossed in the story by not going in with any preconceived notions about how the story will play out. Another intriguing device used by Ms. Morrison was to have Frank Money talk directly to the narrator of the story in between chapters. This was used to provide insight into his thoughts as opposed to the conjecture of the narrator.
The general consensus about the novel from members of the book club was favorable. Everyone agreed that it was beautifully written, or as one woman said "it felt like reading poetry." Members were also impressed that Morrison was able to pack a lot of themes into a slight novel—it is only 160 pages—but handled them well. The size did contribute to the one criticism of some which was that the ending felt abrupt and even a little contrived. Overall people really enjoyed the story and felt the characters, though few, left an impact.
If you have already enjoyed the above novel or are interested in something similar in theme or scope, here are some titles to check out:
- Julian Barnes, The Sense of An Ending
- Ayan Mathis, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
- Toni Morrison, A Mercy
- Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns
- Anne Tyler, The Beginner's Goodbye