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Home by Toni Morrison
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May 25, 12

Read in May, 2012

I have read all of Toni Morrison's books save for Jazz and A Mercy. I have even spent time picking them apart in a Toni Morrison Graduate Level Topics Course. A friend of mine and I joke that Toni Morrison, aka The TM, is sometimes TMI. She's an incredible writer and she has the ability to weave several story lines, tropes, and metaphors into her work. As a first year grad student, I found her work to be difficult, but worth the struggle. A lot of my frustration is because of my inability to grasp the point. For instance, I read Paradise in that class. The first line of the book is, "They shot the white girl first." If you've ever read the book, you know it has hundreds of characters in its pages. I spent the entire time trying to figure out who the white girl was. When I finished the book, I threw it across the room and took a nap. When I woke up, I read it again. By the end of the second read, I still had no idea. I vented my frustration in class and all the professor said to me was, "does it really matter?" Yeah, I missed the point.

When A Mercy came out, I was fresh out of graduate school and physically incapable of reading a book for pleasure. I read the first couple pages of it and then realized that I had written notes to myself in the margins and underlined words and phrases so that I could look them up and cross reference them to her other works and to the time period. I knew then that I wasn't ready to go back to reading for pleasure.

Flash forward a few years and I picked up Toni Morrison's newest book on CD from my local library. When I was commuting to my adjunct professor gigs, I started listening to audio books because I find that it eases my anxiety about traffic and commuting. When I popped the first disc into my car stereo and started driving to my new job, I nearly wept because the book is read by the author. It may sound cliche given the title of her book, but Toni Morrison's voice feels like home to me.

There were several places in this book that also brought me close to tears. The first of which was when Morrison wrote that having a mean grandmother is the worst thing a girl-child could have. Her description of Lenore was spot on for my step-grandmother and that broke my heart. The second time was when she described the meaning behind Sarah's muttering of "Thank God." But the section that had me weeping in my car on the way to work was when Morrison described the "demanding love" of another character as she relayed bad news to a young woman in the story. Everything Morrison wrote hit home for me. Everything in that character's monologue has either not been said to me or has been said, but I completely forgot. It broke my heart and lifted me up hearing Toni Morrison read those words to me. In that passage, there was nothing that needed deciphering or decoding. It was so simple and so beautiful that I turned it off and cried in my car for another ten minutes before walking into work.

I understand how folks can see this brief book as one that falls short of her past masterpieces, but this novel was home to me. For me, and for the characters in her novel, going back to the place where you came from is often painful, but necessary. I loved this book. I listened to it on audio CD, but I am going to buy it so I can have it around in those times when I need another good and useful cry.
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Barbara Glad to have read your review. Most others had less than positive things to say about the audio version. It is gratifying to hear such detail about how this book affected you. I wish fewer people would feel the need to write a "book review" and just relate how they felt about it.


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