by Toni Morrison
2012/147 pages
genre: black historical fiction

Chapter 1 –   in italics – very short – two kids escaping into something much worse and crawling back home.

Chapter 2 –  In the pre-dawn hours 24-year old Frank Money manages to feign sleep, escape his cuffs and sneak out of an asylum in Oregon or Washington to make his way to the AME Zion where he meets the Rev. John Locke, a kindly curmudgeon.  Frank has no money, no memory of why he was put into the asylum – only that he had a few drinks following Lily’s door slam.  His clothes had had  a lot of blood on them.   He’s about a year out of the service and now suddenly on his way home to Lotus, Georgia because he got a letter which said,  “She be dead” meaning she “will be” dead.  Locke feeds him, lets him sleep, gives him a few things, and sends him by bus to a Portland minister he knows.  Portland manages to send him to Chicago.

En route, a strangely dressed man, small, wide hat, zoot soot,  appears in the seat next to him and then disappears without even leaving a mark in the seat.  Very peculiar.

Morrison is working in second person stream of consciousness – inside Murray’s head like he’s talking to himself or someone is talking to him.  The latter is not thoroughly discountable because he does think he’s insane.

In Chicago he is advised about food and sleep,  finds a good cafe has a few drinks (the source of his major troubles recently) and sleeps at the home of Billy,  a new friend.  But the little man in the zoot soot shows up again – and disappears.   In the morning he and Billy go shopping for decent clothes and boots but he’s stopped by the police but let go because of his vet (Korea – 1954?)  status.  In the end he boards a bus for Georgia.

Chapter 3 –
In italics –  I guess this means flashback.  The family is leaving Texas – Frank is narrating about his family’s journey – the walking, the heat,  the food,  the birth and naming of  his sister Ycidra (Cee),  the heat –

Chapter 4
Cee’s voice – Frank’s sister – younger than he is –  her memories interwoven with her daily life.   Grandma was not “nice” the town was small,  and now she’s living in Atlanta because of a “rat” – a man who courted her,  married her, took her to the city and absconded with the car.  She works at a restaurant but gets a better job with a doctor who seems excellent although he did fire a young male helper for being a “fellow traveler.”

Chapter 5
Italics – Not sure who is writing this – probably Frank but it’s weird for him.  He falls in love but has the reverse view of a situation on the bus.  Could it be the little man?

Chapter 6
Lily’s story – Frank’s girlfriend in Portland.  She works in theater but the theater closed. Maltz “The Morrison Case” –   “In 1952 Maltz tried to strike back at HUAC by writing a hard-hitting, agit- prop play called The Morrison Case based on an official transcript of a hearing held at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.”http://mmagsig11.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/cru-mccarthy-era.pdf
Then there’s a back flash to how she met Frank, what happened,  how she prefers the money you can spend.

Chapter 7
Lotus Georgia through Frank’s eyes

Chapter 8
Lotus residents –  Lenore and Salem who took Frank’s family in when they arrived from Texas.  Lenore hires Jackie to do the ironing and help – Jackie is excellent but then a dog comes along and although Jackie loves the dog, Lenore whips it, so Jackie leaves.

Chapter 9
Frank writing about Korea – a girl fumbles for food in the trash – anything.  A guard kills her because of his own desire.

Chapter 10
Frank in Korea – Mike dies in his arms and Frank goes a bit nuts. Now he’s better, the bus to Atlanta is showing that –  They get to Chattanooga – get out, wander around,  gets into a fight – a personal fight – not a “war” fight.  He might need that to help his sister. Felt good.

Chapter 11
Frank – writing about going to help his sister, Cee.  He’s going home to save her although Mike died in his arms.  He will kill if anyone hurts her.

Chapter 12
In Atlanta, which Frank likes, he’s attacked by kids.  He’s helped by a stranger with a long pony-tail – the man gives Frank two dollars.   Wandering around he hears music:

“After Hiroshima, the musicians understood as early as anyone that Truman’s bomb changed everything and only scat and bebop could say how.”

The drummer lost control and kept on going.  A singer is applauded.  He stays in the club, fails to get a cab,  gets a bus and keeps riding – he wonders what he will do when he gets to Cee’s:

“Maybe, as with the drummer, rhythm would take charge. Maybe he too would be escorted away, flailing helplessly, imprisoned in his own strivings.”

He gets to the house, the doctor panics – thinks he’s being invaded, pulls a gun,  it’s not loaded.  He runs for the phone but while Sarah (the other hired girl) bars the phone, Frank kidnaps Cee.   Turns out (though Sarah’s voice) that the doctor has been experimenting on her.

Between a bus and a cab they get to Lotus.  Frank brings Cee to Miss Ethel who apparently knows what’s wrong.

Frank hangs around Lotus while Cee is treated by the women – he rents his parents’ old house and finds old treasures. He goes to work with the pickers,  time passes,  Cee heals and goes to Frank in his house.  Cee had been treated very poorly by the women and then very well.

No more notes – no spoilers

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