Review GPA

Review GPA: HOME by Toni Morrison

In Review GPA, we translate reviews of notable new books into letter grades and determine a grade point average.

This post is part of our Toni Morrison Reading Day: a celebration of  one of our favorite authors on the occasion of her new novel, Home. Check out the rest right here.

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Home by Toni Morrison

Publication Date: May 8, 2012

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publisher: AA Knopf

Publisher’s Synopsis:

America’s most celebrated novelist, Nobel Prize-winner Toni Morrison extends her profound take on our history with this twentieth-century tale of redemption: a taut and tortured story about one man’s desperate search for himself in a world disfigured by war. Frank Money is an angry, self-loathing veteran of the Korean War who, after traumatic experiences on the front lines, finds himself back in racist America with more than just physical scars. His home may seem alien to him, but he is shocked out of his crippling apathy by the need to rescue his medically abused younger sister and take her back to the small Georgia town they come from and that he’s hated all his life. As Frank revisits his memories from childhood and the war that have left him questioning his sense of self, he discovers a profound courage he had thought he could never possess again.  A deeply moving novel about an apparently defeated man finding his manhood—and his home.

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Ron Charles, in The Washington Post

Gold Star:

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.

Demerit:

None.

Grade: A

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David Ulin, in The Los Angeles Times

Gold Star:

That’s fascinating, the novel echoing back upon itself, its voices in conflict, as if to express the tension at the heart of the impulse to tell a story. What is narrative, after all, but a frame, an attempt to make meaning out of the chaos of the world? It’s all about interpretation, how we read or connect events that are, in and of themselves, not connected, the through-lines that we follow, the unities we draw.

Demerit:

On the most basic level that 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. 

Grade: C+

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Tayari Jones, in The San Francisco Chronicle

Gold Star:

As always, Morrison’s prose is immaculate, jaw-dropping in its beauty and audacity.

Demerit:

None.

Grade: A

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Sarah Churchwell, in The Guardian

Gold Star:

It is a powerful set-up, building suspense and a mounting sense of anxiety: what terrible things are going to happen to Cee, and how will Frank save her, when he can’t save himself?

Demerit:

But at well under 200 pages with wide margins, Home barely begins before it ends; just when the reader expects the story to kick in to gear, as Frank arrives back in Georgia and finds Cee, Morrison seems to lose interest.

Grade: B

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Melissa Maerz, in Entertainment Weekly

Gold Star

Told in the stark, economical tone of a short story, with all the philosophical heft of a novel (Morrison delves into eugenics, the ethics of medical experimentation, and the nature of victimhood in 160 pages),Home is a moving testament to taking responsibility for your own life — especially the parts you’d like to look away from.

Demerit

None

Grade: A- (publication assigned)

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Review GPA: 3.48 (B+/A-)