I really loved the premise of this novel. The trauma suffered by men who have returned from war is something that, especially in the 1950's, was a taboo. Men had a masculinity to uphold and were required to repress the memories of the brutal acts they committed during the war when they got back home to their roles playing husband/father/son. The displacement they felt and how fractured they became, body and mind, was such a hard thing to address. In this novel, Toni Morrison attempts to portray a man who is doing just that. He is displaced in time, with a fractured voice and a sense of isolation and loneliness surrounding and suffocating him.
However, I found it really hard to connect with, or sympathise with, Frank, which really surprised me. If there's one thing that Morrison has always done it is make me care so much about the characters that I feel PAIN BUTTERFLIES. I have already read 'Beloved' and 'The Bluest Eye' and I ached for the characters and their pain until my eyes produced copious amounts of water. In 'Home', Frank didn't have that effect on me. For the first part of the novel I wasn't entirely sure what he was doing or where he was going...or why so many people were helping him no questions asked. He escapes a mental health clinic and then drifts from one stranger to another who give him money and clothes. I didn't understand this and, please, if I'm being really stupid and blind to something really obvious please enlighten me!
I also felt very geographically ignorant while reading this book, which spoilt the story for me a bit. I live in the UK not the US and there are lots of assumptions in this book that everyone knows where states are in relation to each other and that the reader will know what kind of places they are in terms of climate/ attitudes/ customs etc. I did not so I constantly felt like I was missing something. This is probably my own fault but I got very confused about where Frank was actually going and where he was at different points; all the locations blurred into one!
However, I did really love some aspects of this book. I loved Frank's relationship with his girlfriend and how real and lonely it felt. Although she wanted to sympathise with his trauma, she found it difficult to be the only person in the relationship who could take care of them. I like the way he loves the back of her knees.
I think my favourite part of this book was Frank's sister Cee's subplot and how uplifting I found her story to be. As always with a Morrison book, women are used and abused and so very disposable. Violence against black women is always a theme and Cee's story is no different. Cee is not a victim though because she doesn't allow herself to be.
Overall, I didn't find this book as moving as Morrison's other novels. Don't get me wrong; she writes about pain better than anyone I know, but this one lacked the memorable images and magical-realist edge that I felt in her other novels. As Sarah Churchwell points out in her review in 'The Guardian', with this novel it does feel a little as though Morrison has put her hand into the grab bag of painful black history and pulled out something else she can write her themes on to; in this case, the Korean war. Then, just as the story kicks in, she seems to lose interest and things are over much too quickly with no clear resolutions. Nevertheless, she does it with beautiful style as always.