The “home” of the title is the minuscule (and aptly named) settlement of Dire, Wyo., where Addie Maine revisits a locus of love and loss 40 years after the tragic events that had transpired there.
In the 1880s, Addie travels from Kentucky to Wyoming at the behest of her brother, Tommy, who had settled in those unpromising surroundings and was trying to make his way as a homesteader/coal miner. Addie finds herself helping out in any way she can, primarily by shooting rabbits and entering into a business relationship with Wing Lee, a Chinese immigrant who’d moved from San Francisco to Wyoming along with a number of his fellow countrymen. While Wing is a cook, most of his peers are coal miners, and their willingness to work for extremely low wages causes resentment among the white population. At this time prejudice against the Chinese is rife, for they’re seen as bestial and subhuman. When Tommy is killed in a mine collapse, she marries the laconic, depressed and depressing Finn Atso Muukkonen, who is both unable and unwilling to consummate their relationship. Addie finds herself more and more attracted to Wing, and despite cultural prejudices it’s clear that he’s attracted to her as well. One day they give in to their sexual impulses, and Addie finds herself carrying Wing’s child. Eventually, tension between the white and Asian cultures gets so extreme that anti-Chinese riots break out, and a number of Chinese are killed, including Wing, but in a final gesture of generosity he makes Addie’s escape from Dire possible and allows her to go to California to start a new life. Leung (Lost Men, 2007, etc.) tells most of his story through flashbacks, as Addie travels back to Dire in the 1920s, largely to confirm whether it was her own husband who had shot her during the riots 40 years earlier.
An engaging and beguiling novel about prejudice, relationships and the possibilities of redemption.