A diverse collection of essays that delve into the fraught concept of home as both a physical and emotional space.
Editors Kahn (Horses that Buck: The Story of Champion Bronc Rider Bill Smith, 2008) and McMasters (Welcome to Shirley: A Memoir from an Atomic Town, 2008) both contribute essays, and the other contributors vary widely in their viewpoints and characteristics, including geographic location, ethnicity, culture, religion, age, and sexuality. Yet common themes and motifs weave throughout the book—e.g., mothers and maternal figures and the significance of landscape, which assumes the starring role in the pieces by Terry Tempest Williams and Pam Houston. For other writers, home failed to offer refuge and became a place of danger or emotional strain, such as Amanda Petrusich’s home near the Indian Point nuclear plant. Elsewhere, something as mundane as a garage door opener triggers emotional turmoil for the once-homeless Maya Jewell Zeller. Tara Conklin explores the issues involved in leaving your hometown and never really finding home, while Claudia Castro Luna chronicles her struggle to feel at home in America after leaving El Salvador. McMasters’ essay on leaving the city and beginning a new life in a country farmhouse is intense and raw. When a vacation home becomes a permanent residence, she discovered, dreams often shatter: “I thought we would bloom in the country; M. took root, but I withered. I tried growing things, to offset the blood and brutality that seemed to accompany the country life, but I couldn’t—I am no farmer.” One of the joys of any collection of essays is discovering new writers, and the editors’ inclusion of a concise overview of each woman’s work should help readers explore further. Other contributors include Leigh Newman, Jennifer Finney Boylan, and Dani Shapiro.
A compilation that delights on many levels and will appeal to anyone who has struggled or embraced the idea of home sweet home.