Saturday, April 28, 2012

Home by Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison--or TMo as I like to call her--is having a pretty good spring.  She's going to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the US, along with some no names like Bob Dylan, Madeleine Albright, and John Glenn.  (On a side note, this round of award-winners includes three of my hero types--TMo, Dolores Huerta the civil rights activist, and the winningest coach in basketball history, Pat Summitt.)  Aside from the accolade, though, and more importantly, the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning Morrison as a new book going on sale May 8.

Medal of Freedom
Home, like the rest of Morrison's fiction, is a short narrative that manages to pack every sentence, every paragraph, every page with unparalleled writing and emotional depth.  However, I'm stating it now--Home is the best Toni Morrison novel in a decade.  This is the Toni Morrison who wrote Beloved and Sula, two of my all time favorite books.  This is TMo proving that she's still the best writer in the United States.

Here is the story of Frank Money, an angry veteran trying to readjust to life in the United States after fighting in the Korean War.  Frank, though, as an African-American, is moving from the equality of a desegregated army into the harsh, segregated world of 50's America.  He's once more a second class citizen and he's suffering from his experiences in Korea.  And Frank needs to get across the country.  He needs to go home to help his sister--the only family he has--escape from a bad relationship.  As Frank travels from Seattle to Georgia, he encounters both kindness and hostility, and he experiences the rages of PTSD.
Toni Morrison

What sets Home apart from other Toni Morrison novels is that it's contemporary.  It's set in the 20th Century and it addresses issues at the forefront of modern American society.  Race relations are explored even as the radical right rails against our black President.  The plight of traumatized soldiers transcends the decades from that war to the ones fought in Afghanistan and Iraq as soldiers come home.  And women; women still fight for equality in relationships and in society.  This is an important book, and it's a beautifully crafted one.  If I had to place a bet on the front runner for next year's Pulitzer Prize (assuming one is awarded...sigh), my money's on TMo.

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