A reader’s perspective of settings
Where is home? Is it truly where the heart is? Is it where you were born and raised? Kind of like when Kim asks if I want to go home with her for the holidays- meaning Kentucky. Or is home where you drive after a day at work or are returning from a long trip as in, I’m driving home now? Or is it where your family resides? Though I have no other connection to West Virginia than my mother lives there and my father was snow birding between Florida and Virginia so wouldn’t even know where to start with where he thought home was. But maybe it is just the building where the mail is delivered. I truly don’t know. Home seems to have so many meanings so how does one become or retain their home town status? And what is with the idea that you can never go home again?
Well I think there are some beautiful places in this world that I wouldn’t mind calling home. Places near the water be it the ocean, a lake, or rivers and places near the mountains, even places in the dessert are incredibly beautiful. I’m not sure if I would say a city is a beautiful place but that might be because I’m a little biased toward being outdoors or having access to the outdoors. It’s how I grew up, in a smallerish town with easy access to lots of green space. Now I realize those green spaces are called golf courses, but still, lots of trees, ocean and outdoor beauty. Growing up I didn’t realize how incredibly beautiful the area was and now, my sister and I agree that if there was any way to afford to live in our hometown it would be a dream come true. So, yeah, I would go home again to the place where I was born and raised. However, none of my family lives there and my heart is with Kim so where does that make home?
What I was able to do, though, was to read about it in KG MacGregor’s story Photographs of Claudia. What a surprise to begin a book and realize that the setting was my home town. And with a few descriptions of places and tourist spots I was transported into the story, connecting with the characters and becoming even more invested for their outcome. Settings can do that though and having a convincing one adds to the story. It brings one more way to connect to the characters, the plot and the overall ability to sink into the story. It can even make you want to visit new places. When I was reading Jae’s Something in the Wine I realized that the setting of Paso Robles and Moonstone Beach in Cambria where just a couple of hours away. A great day trip that added that much more to the story. As I was driving through the twisty roads with wineries hidden among the hills I could picture Drew’s home. And when I was walking along the boardwalk above Moonstone Beach I could see Drew and Annie’s picnic spot.
But I have since moved away from both locations found in these wonderful stories and there is nothing left but my memories. I really would love to return to the town I was raised in, but what if I made the town unable to forget me? Sort of like what Pat Lloyd does in Edith Forbes’ Alma Rose by making a “monumental transformation” in her life for all the town to see. Again, no spoilers, but would it be hard to continue living there with that history right there in the present? Another example of leaving a legacy behind in a home town would be Jackie Cunningham in Anne Azel’s Tides. I wouldn’t say that the setting of the book is as intricate as others have been but the idea that Jackie Cunningham is going to create something that will benefit those in the hometown makes her past history more forgivable. It also is a returning home. Does that make her a hometown girl I wonder?
One thing I wouldn’t be able to do would be to return home because there is nowhere to go. There is no physical building or family there that could be considered mine. Reading about characters who are able to go home makes me think of Kim and her family. Her family has lived in the same house for three generations and there are aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins still in the area. Reading stories like Julia Watts’ Hypnotizing Chickens I connect with the setting of going home because I’ve been there with Kim. The descriptions of the houses, the family movements and routines all make the setting of “home” come alive for the story. Or in Kenna White’s Beneath the Willow where Paris Demont is able to retreat back to her Grandmother’s house where she spent her summers. That would be cool! To have the connection of safety from your past and be able to use it for a safety moment today.
Would it matter, though, if all of these places are places you would consider living in the first place? But that seems to be some of the conflict of these hometown stories. The character almost reluctantly returns home. But ultimately that setting, the home seems to be an intricate part of the story. So how does one become a hometown girl? How does one go home when there is just a place with no building and no family? What other stories have touched you because of where it is set? And have you ever read about your hometown and did that add to the story or was it too distracting? Our lesfic authors are amazing at what they give us from unforgettable characters to beautiful settings. I would love to hear how those places stay with you and what hometown story is your favorite.