Books are cheaper than heroin, but they DO add up....

Amy, Carrie, Chanin and Sarah buy (and read and review) their own stuff. They've been known to shop around from dealer to dealer looking for the best price. If you're interested in slipping them something to try out, just contact us.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Home by Toni Morrison

Washington DC derecho storm damage
From The Guardian.  Apparently the storm is called a
derecho.  Everyone here just calls it "bad."
 Late again.  This time, it's was Mother Nature making it difficult.  I would take some time to complain about not having access to the Internet (5 days! I forgot everything I knew!) but that would be really petty considering there are still tens of thousands of people without power in the area.  Last Friday, the metro DC and greater Baltimore areas were hit with a severe thunderstorm.  It lasted about 20 minutes.  But that's all it takes to wreak havoc. (I suppose tornadoes don't last 20 minutes and can produce greater damage, so I'm not sure why it surprises me that chaos happens in minutes rather than hours or days.)  For 1.5 million people, the power went out and didn't come back on for days.  This would have been an inconvenience at any time, but it became a public health threat because of the temperatures.  It's been over 95 degrees every day since the storm, and it hasn't been cooling off that much at night.  Trees were uprooted, power lines were toppled, roads were blocked by debris: it was a serious storm.  And it killed the power box for my FiOS.  It got replaced yesterday.  I did a happy dance.  Then I felt like a heel, because there are still people without power.  So I sent out some positive thoughts and prayers for the linemen working on getting power back to everyone and did a much more subdued happy dance.

I love Toni Morrison.  She and I have very little in common, but we both love words.  She just happens to put that love into making beautifully crafted novels and I, instead, pass off puns as jokes.  Clearly, we don't run in the same circles.  But if we ever meet somewhere, I would tell her that I love her writing.  I would tell her that I appreciate how she makes ordinary words seem beautiful and full of magic.  I would tell her that I am able to understand and empathize - as opposed to sympathize - with her characters despite not having one thing in common with them.  I would thank her for making the experiences of others accessible to me through her novels.  Then I would keep my mouth shut for fear that I would tell her a bad joke.  I can't help myself, they just come out of my mouth before I can stop them.  I blame my dad.  If we've ever met and I've told you a bad joke, you can blame my dad too.

HomeHome is short and bittersweet.  It's a bit of a departure for Ms Morrison in that it's set in the early 1950s; post Korean War.  Frank Money came home from Korea without his two best friends and without any idea of how to live life after that sort of loss.  Not just the loss of his childhood pals, but the loss of his self-perception.  War can make people see the best and the worst in other people and, even more difficult to bear, the best and the worst in themselves.  Frank has seen and done things he didn't know he was capable of withstanding, and now he has to learn how to be a part of society while shouldering that knowledge.  It's not going particularly well when he receives a letter telling him his sister is gravely ill.  Now he can no longer wander aimlessly and he heads south to the tiny town where he grew up protecting his sister from the harsh world surrounding them.

Cee, Frank's sister, has learned some tough lessons since leaving Lotus, Georgia.  Newly married, she learns that some men aren't worth the car they were given as a sort of dowry.  She learns that money can be hard to come by.  And in finding what she thinks is a good job as a doctor's assistant, she learns that dangerous ideas can be wrapped up and presented as good deeds.  Sarah, the maid for the doctor and his wife, realizes that Cee is not going to recover from whatever it is the doctor has been doing without an intervention.  She feels powerless to stop it herself without risking her job and/or safety, so she sends a letter to Frank.  The good doctor has strong feelings about race and eugenics which he has incorporated in his practice.  Neither Sarah nor Cee know what that implies, but Frank knows that it would have killed his sister if he had shown up any later to take her out of the doctor's home.  Frank takes Cee back to Lotus where the women of the town nurse her back to health.  Cee lives, but she'll never be able to have children; something she didn't know she'd miss until it was gone.  From there, both Frank and Cee have to come to terms with their pasts in order to figure out a future.   They both have to understand how their experiences have shaped their identities so they can be comfortable in their own skin.  Home is not always a building, but a place of comfort and a mind at ease; something you take with you once you find it.

This is not what I'd call a beach read.  It's short but it's powerful, just like the storm we had here.  Some of the images hurt.  But that's not to say they should be ignored.  And, in all honesty, it's one of the easiest of Ms Morrison's to read.  Beloved ( which is in my All-Time Top Ten) is hard in every sense of the word: the language is dense, the story is complicated, the dialect is heavy, the images are often cruel, and the harshness of that world hits you full force again and again and again.  Yet it's an amazing story with beautiful words and strength beyond anything I've known.  Home is easier than that, but that doesn't make it light beach-reading material.  Well, I suppose it depends on the beach.  :)  Everyone have a happy and safe Fourth of July!
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1 comment:

  1. This goes on my list! (But perhaps NOT for the flight home.)