Home is gorgeous and intense, brutal yet heartwarming—and could only have been written by the author of Beloved and Sula. Deceptively slight, it is like a slingshot that wields the impact of a missile ... Home is as accessible, tightly composed and visceral as anything Morrison has written. The lush, biblical cadences for which she is known have partially given way to shorter, more direct sentences—which still have the capacity to leave a reader awestruck ... I felt I needed an inhaler or defibrillator or something to catch my breath while reading this devastating, deeply humane—and ever-relevant—book.
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 ... a transparent narrator who re-creates scenes and conveys dialogue in sharp but unadorned prose—no ghosts, no magical realism, none of the famous (or infamous) impressionism that so annoyed John Updike ... Morrison is composing a kind of prose poem here in which only a few tightly described incidents convey the ill health of the larger culture ... 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.
What kind of selfhood is it possible to possess when we come from a spiritually impoverished home, one that fails to concede, let alone nourish, each inhabitant’s worth? This is the question Morrison asks, and while exploring it through the specific circumstances of Frank Money, she raises it in a broader sense. Threaded through the story are reminders of our country’s vicious inhospitality toward some of its own ... the book’s most powerful proposition: that there is no such thing as individual pathology ... At times, Home displays its meanings with all the subtlety of a zoot-suiter ... revelations read like in-text SparkNotes. The book doesn’t need them. 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.
It is not that novelists should shy away from historical trauma, far from it: but their job is to find something interesting to say about evil, rather than simply announcing its existence, being outraged, and going home ... if Morrison had finished writing the novel she so carefully began, it might have been one of her best in years. But at well under 200 pages with wide margins, Home barely begins before it ends ... Frank's post-traumatic stress disorder disappears...easily, effecting one of the least satisfying 'redemptions' I can remember ... Home should be relentless, unsparing, but Morrison relents halfway through, and spares everyone—most of all herself.
Toni Morrison's new novel, Home, is deeply flawed. It travels ground Morrison has previously travelled, without bringing new insight. Its characters are not drawn with much subtlety ... Reading about Frank Money is like witnessing Morrison's struggle to find something redemptive in a character to whom she has given almost insurmountable character flaws ... Home also suffers, occasionally, from Morrison's reaching for—but not attaining—poetic diction and imagery ... It's difficult not to wonder, while reading this novel, if it would have been published in its present state, were it not written by Toni Morrison ... If you love Morrison's sensibility, Home may be for you. It's a crystallization of her sensibility. If you don't know her work, this is not the place to start. Far, from it. Begin nearer the beginning.
Home is a lean and powerful work featuring polished prose in the company of images that linger long after they are read ... This work captures the milieu of the 1950s, of the return home of a black man who served in the Korean War, of the strange and often hurtful adages that country black folk can hold onto.
Home is a short, swift, and luminescent book. It also resembles nothing [Morrison] has ever written ... It is in fact a remarkable thing: proof that Toni 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 ... There is one false note in the book: Frank’s war memories. On the page, as Morrison has rendered them, they sound luridly war-filmic ... Home is, in this book, a place within a place. It is the people who help, rather than divide; it is the tie of blood that does not curdle.
Poor black women are simply bodies to be used for their masters' ends, and the echoes of Beloved and A Mercy here are both deliberate and deafening. Like the best writers, Morrison has politics underpinning her prose. Class permeates her symbolism; the injustice of poverty, made worse by race and gender, weighs down her characters. And yet they never lose their humanity. Only Morrison can take the human soul down into its darkest parts, yet somehow let it flourish.
Although the plot is straightforward, even familiar, Morrison embellishes this template with characters who manage to be at once idiosyncratic and realistic ... 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 ... 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 ... 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.
Morrison's 10th novel...is a thin book with some beautiful writing that ultimately comes off as insubstantial and contrived ... the most striking thing about the novel may be how little it succeeds in drawing us in ... when escape finally comes, it is so easy, effortless almost, that we wonder how it could have ever been in doubt. This lack of narrative tension recurs throughout Home ... There's a certain Old Testament-style simplicity to such a story, with its archetypal concerns ... but here they don't challenge ... On the most basic level...this is a Toni Morrison novel, although that sounds snarkier than I intend. Still, it may be the most I can say for Home, which reads like a pastiche, a writer returning to the well once too often, operating less from narrative urgency than a kind of muscle memory.
[Morrison's] latest, Home, is her shortest yet, not even cracking 150 pages, but it’s one of her best ... Morrison assembles all...via an ending that packs an emotional wallop, but even if she hadn’t, the beauty of the individual images along the way would have marked this as a special book ... Morrison’s eerie symbols—a ghostlike man in a zoot suit, a watch without hands—have just the right feel of a nightmare that’s become real, and the book’s sparseness keeps her from dwelling on them to the point where they would become too familiar. It’s the same way with the descriptions of the story’s natural settings, which are effectively otherworldly. This gives the book’s closing chapters—which finally return to Frank and reveal the wartime secret that’s causing his mind to fragment—a wonderful feeling of healing.
While Home is compelling, it is not Beloved, which remains, for me, the pinnacle of Morrison’s genius. Nor is it A Mercy, which dug even further into America’s past to invent something loamier, richer than Home. But it’s still Toni Morrison, whose wisdom and gorgeous prose seep into every dip and turn in the story ... There’s a nugget...on nearly every page.
...slim but beautifully wrought ... While some readers might be tempted to bypass it, concluding that it's most likely a late, minor work by a major author, to do so would be a mistake. The novel 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.
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 cadence 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.
Morrison's sparkling narration has a musical quality—her sonorous voice capturing the essence of her characters—and conveys a wide range of emotions, often within a single sentence. Although Morrison doesn't create accents or particularly distinct voices for all the characters, her reading is compelling and will make listeners care deeply about her characters and their fragile futures.
A deceptively rich and cumulatively powerful novel. At the outset, this might seem like minor Morrison ... Ultimately, the latest from the Nobel Prize–winning novelist has something more subtle and shattering to offer than such social polemics. A novel that illuminates truths that its characters may not be capable of articulating.