Northampton, Massachusetts, boasts a rich history that dates back to the 17th century. It is home to Mount Holyoke, which has been climbed by Charles Dickens and Henry James (among others), and to Sylvia Plath's alma mater, Smith College. It has always been the quintessential New England town, while becoming in recent years a politically progressive small city, whose population of 30,000 has WASPs rubbing elbows with lesbians, immigrants, students, and the homeless. Driven by a narrative force comparable to that of the best fiction, Home Town is a remarkable evocation of small-town life at the end of the 20th century.
Pages: 349 (Hardback)
Rating: 5 out of 10
Source: Checked out a copy from library in MA and another copy when I moved to VA
When Home Town by Tracy Kidder was nominated as a selection for the August book club meeting of the Professors and Partners book club in MA, I was excited about the prospect. I really enjoyed Kidder's book Mountains Beyond Mountains, so I had high hopes for the selection. Unfortunately, I did not have a similar fondness for Hometown. At various points, I felt like I was in the middle of a very long episode of Praire Home Companion without the funny commercials and variety of voices.
Some of the characters were interesting. I did appreciate the ending of Tommy O'Connor's story; although, by the time I got to the end and cried I wondered if it was from relief of being finished or whether the story was really moving. I also liked reading about Laura Baumeister who went to Smith College as an older student. Alan Scheinman's eccentrics and struggle to deal with obsessive compulsive disorder were interesting. Overall, I did not find any part of the book compelling. I started the book in August and only finished it yesterday. I would force myself to read passages and at times that felt painful. I wanted to finish because I really did love Kidder's other books. I noticed that this book is written early in his career, so maybe Kidder's later books would be more enjoyable to me.