Despite an ever-present suspicion that this collection of essays is built on a trite and forced premise, it succeeds in celebrating different views of family, self, and space. The best of these 18 essays, by writers such as Tony Earley, Gish Jen, and James Finn Garner, manage to use the construct of a specific room--hallway, kitchen, front porch--to evoke family history and personal relationships. Richard Bausch, Mona Simpson, and Sallie Tisdale look back to childhood and their grandparents' homes as instrumental in forming bonds with home and family. Henry Louis Gates Jr. tells of the early years of the civil rights movement as seen through the family television set. Colin and Kathryn Harrison each write about bedrooms in their home and touch upon issues of responsibility and familial love. Esmeralda Santiago and Jane Smiley write of their solitude, but come to different conclusions: While Santiago sees the closets of her life as an escape from the burdens of poverty and unhappiness, Smiley's essay on the bathroom, one of the strongest in the collection, is a celebration of the body and the senses. In a lovely essay on a family garden that later becomes the grounds of a hotel, Bailey White paints a multigenerational portrait of family and land, and of the way the passage of time ultimately changes what previous generations strove so hard to construct. The afterword, by Allan Gurganus, is a summing up, in which the objects we surround ourselves with resonate with personal meaning, each with its own tale, each instrumental in creating a personal space to call home. Essays, collected by a husband-and-wife editorial and writing team, that invite the reader into the intimacy of the authors' homes and lives with affection, wit, and honesty.