May 10, 2012
By Karen M. Thomas, special contributor
In Toni Morrison’s much-anticipated 10th novel, Frank Money is an angry, tormented veteran of the Korean War who returns home to a racist America.
Suffering from what is surely post-traumatic stress syndrome after standing witness to the war’s brutalities, Frank is prone to explosive outbursts and self-destruction. He can only occasionally keep his demons at bay with alcohol and with Lily, a woman who soothes his psyche: “When he lay with the girl-weight of her arm on his chest, the nightmares folded away and he could sleep.”
But neither drink nor Lily is enough to heal his fractured sense of self. Frank eventually lands in a mental hospital. Only one thing snaps him out of his spiral downward and barefoot into the snowy night during his hospital escape: his younger sister, Cee.
“Come fast. She be dead if you tarry,” the letter says. Cee, a victim of a deranged white doctor’s experiments, lies near death at the man’s Atlanta home, and Frank must rescue her. Thus begins the siblings’ journey back home to Lotus, the small Georgia town that they both despised and fled.
The novel is compact, a novella really, and filled with Morrison’s signature style — clear, razor-sharp, poetic writing and layered storytelling. At the center of the novel are race and self-identity, common themes in the 81-year-old Nobel and Pulitzer prize-winning author’s work....
Karen M. Thomas teaches journalism at Southern Methodist University.