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Review: 'Home' by Toni Morrison feels distant

This is not among her best works. The novel about Korean War veteran Frank doesn't seem to engage even its author.

May 06, 2012|By David L. Ulin | Los Angeles Times Book Critic

Part of the problem is that everything happens too quickly, with no real sense of what's at stake. But even more it is the author's — or the narrator's — distance, the sense that Morrison is not fully invested in this fictional world. Even in the culminating scene, when Frank and Cee right an ancient wrong, we can't help feeling disassociated, as if this were a structural inevitability rather than a narrative one.

Ultimately, the impression with which "Home" leaves us is of a novel that, like the town it encircles, is "much less than enough." Or maybe it's that the book seems tired, as if it were something we've read before. Either way, it leaves us wanting, without the discovery, the recognition of how stories can enlarge us, that defines Morrison's most vivid work. "You can keep on writing," Frank warns the nameless narrator late in the novel, "but I think you ought to know what's true." There's that moral sensibility again, perhaps the author's most essential aspect. But in "Home," she fails to make us care enough for it to resonate.

david.ulin@latimes.com

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