Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Review: This Must Be the Place by Kate Racculia
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (July 6, 2010)
From the back cover: "The Darby-Jones boardinghouse in Ruby Falls, New York, is home to Mona Jones and her daughter, Oneida-two loners and self-declared outcasts who have formed a perfectly insular family unit along with the three eclectic boarders who live in their house. But their small, quiet life is upended when Arthur Rook shows up in the middle of a nervous breakdown, devastated by the death of his wife, carrying a pink shoe box containing all his wife's mementos and keepsakes and holding a postcard from sixteen years ago, addressed to Mona but never sent. Slowly the contents of the box begin to fit together to tell a story-one of a powerful friendship, a lost love, and a secret that, if revealed, could change everything that Mona, Oneida and Arthur know to be true. Or maybe the stories the box tells and the truths it brings to life will teach everyone about love-how deeply it runs, how strong it makes us, and even when all seems lost, how it brings us together."
My thoughts: This book has a lot of things going on; grief, friendship, coming of age, teen angst, family dynamics, the power of love and how it affects our lives. The story also made me question the reality of those we love; how well do we know them and what makes them tick.
Actually, from the short synopsis on the cover, I thought the book would be more about Mona and Arthur but Oneida took up a lot of the story. Mona really interested me and I would liked to have seen more about her motivations why she did what she did. I did like the plotline of Mona's and Oneida's relationship with each other.
Racculia's character development of Amy through the voices of Mona and Arthur really brought her back to life. Most of the characters were very well fleshed out, especially Oneida. Honestly though, I think I would have liked to have seen less about Oneida's journey through high school and the side thread of her friend and his family.
The author did a great job of placing me in the scene when she described Ruby Falls through Arthur's eyes. I felt as if I were in the taxi with him.
"Ruby Falls also felt like a shared delusion and Arthur, again, immune. It was too atmosphereic to have occurrd naturally: the shadows too deep, the clouds calculated, too puffy and too perfectly slate-grey. The roadside forest was aggressively bucolic out the window of his taxi. The town center, anchored by a single blinking red light at a single intersection, spiraled out into the requisite townie bar and grill, small convenience mart, and post office photogenically fluttering American flag. it was Mayberry. It was Stars Hollow. There would be irascible widows who solved clever murders. He had traded the alien terrain of Lost Angeles for a land that was no less imaginary- absolutely unreal and cute as hell. "
For a debut novel, this is quite good. A little tighter editing would have fixed a few of the bogged down spots in the middle of the book where Racculia tended to go off on a tangent that didn't necessarily enhance the storyline and made me think, ooh, TMI about that character!
This Must be the Place was a satisfying read, even though there were enough hints about the big "secret" that by the time it was revealed, I was not surprised. The quirky enough characters not only made them interesting but also memorable. Overall, Racculia is a talented writer and I would certainly read any follow up works. 3.5 ***
Disclosure: A review copy of the book was provided by Henry Holt & Company.