1. Call Me Home by Megan Kruse
Paperback: 292 pages
Publisher: Hawthorne Books (March 3, 2015)
Amazon: Call Me Home
Call Me Home has an epic scope in the tradition of Louise Erdrich’s The Plague of Doves or Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping and braids the stories of a family in three distinct voices: Amy, who leaves her Texas home at 19 to start a new life with a man she barely knows, and her two children, Jackson and Lydia, who are rocked by their parents’ abusive relationship. When Amy is forced to bargain for the safety of one child over the other, she must retrace the steps in the life she has chosen. Jackson, 18 and made visible by his sexuality, leaves home and eventually finds work on a construction crew in the Idaho mountains, where he begins a potentially ruinous affair with Don, the married foreman of his crew. Lydia, his 12-year-old sister, returns with her mother to Texas, struggling to understand what she perceives to be her mother’s selfishness. At its heart, this is a novel about family, our choices and how we come to live with them, what it means to be queer in the rural West, and the changing idea of home.
This is a beautiful tale told in three voices: Lydia speaks from the first person point of view, and Jackson and Amy speak from the third person point of view. The timetable is not linear, but the writer purposely reveals the details of their lives as needed. The struggles of physical/mental abuse are shown by each voice as they perceive them and add up to the tragedy that is domestic abuse. The gay theme is masterfully told by both Amy and Jackson. At one point Amy goes to Seattle to participate in an LGBT rally because she wants the best for her son: "She wanted every promise that lit from these hopeful tongues, the warm and waiting streets they marched on. She wanted him to have what was owed to him, for the world to crack open for him. She did not want for him to feel the poor, small life that was already around him for a minute longer, when all of this was here, waiting." There is also the relationship between Lydia and Jackson. more like siblings they are twins. They feel each other's presence even when they are apart: "...if Jackson lives as though he never knew us at all - it doesn't matter. I'll remember it for us, I thought; I will remember all of it; I will leave nothing out. I didn't know why it was important, but it was." The character development is outstanding. They pop out of the page and speak to you. After a few pages you can't help but feel their pain. This is the best novel I've read this year! At its heart, this is a novel about family, our choices and how we come to live with them, what it means to be queer in the rural West, and the changing idea of home and family.
Kruse seamlessly weaves the story through past and present - each time period as pertinent and relative to each other in the story as they are in the individual’s life. No loss of suspense in the transitions, rather a skillful heightening. The writing is as spare and plain as the emotionally impoverished lives the characters lead, and the settings are perfectly balanced - as broken as the characters yet full of potential. Perfectly paced character development - the damaged young daughter hating and fearing her abusive father; the gay son so hungry for his father’s love and his hate for his mother; the guilt-ridden mother driven after decades of abuse to finally flee her the husband she once loved, who could at turns be fun and loving. It would have been easy to keep him just a bad guy but Kruse makes him as sympathetic and damaged as the rest of his family. A lovely novel of resiliency and continuing to believe in ones dreams.
Heartbreaking and richly told.
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