As a child, Peter Debauer becomes fascinated by a story he discovers in a volume of fiction edited by his Swiss grandparents. He initially reads only part of the tale, which has been torn from the bound proofs, the blank back pages of which he uses for his homework. He becomes obsessed with this tale of a soldier who comes home to find - what?
Debauer doesn't discover until years later when he finds the missing pages of the story and manages to extrapolate the locale and put the clues together that he has gathered over the intervening years. The crux of the narrative is mystery - and the attempt to unveil identity, both of others and of oneself - and it is told through Peter's search not only for the ending of the this pulp-fiction homecoming story, but also for his search for its author, as he believes the story to be more truth than fiction.
Peter knows very little about his father, but amongst all his reading as a child and latterly, as an editor himself, he is sent, for possible German translation and publication, a text written by a man, an esteemed American academic, who must be his father, but who writes and lives his life under an alias. Peter's mother has led him, and his grandparents, to believe Peter's father was dead, but why?
To a large degree The Homecoming picks up, thematically, where The Reader left off, and Schlink's preoccupation with return, foreshadowed in his earlier protagonist's references to the Odyssey, is grounded here. Intertwined with this is the narrator's (read Odysseus) own story of discovery and loss; his quest is for his father, and his own identity.
The novel is divided into two sections, with parts 1 to 4 forming the search for and discovery of who his father is, and part 5 their meeting, although 'closure' is not really an option, and Debauer never reveals his identity to his father.