Hamner, Earl, Jr. John J. O'Connor - Essay

John J. O'Connor

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The plot [of "The Homecoming"] seems to be the problem. Just as one story line gets under way, another appears to sidetrack it.

At the center is the Walton family, seven attractive children overseen by mother … grandpa … and grandma…. The family is awaiting the weekly return of father, who is forced to work fifty miles away during the Depression years….

Traditional family routines keep stumbling into dramatic crises that are oddly resolved. At one point, the oldest son is sent in the middle of the night to look for his father, who may have been hurt in a bus accident. His trip includes a stop for Christmas services at the local Negro church with Cleavon Little doing the preacher-man shtick from "Purlie." Then he winds up with two genteel spinsters who are part-time boot-leggers.

That is about the extent of the son's search for his father, who finally shows up anyway and turns out to be a fount of love and understanding. "The Homecoming," unfortunately, turns out to be a string of incidents, varying widely in quality, that are never pulled quite firmly enough into a cohesive whole. (p. 75)

John J. O'Connor, in The New York Times (© 1971 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), December 21, 1971.