Monday, September 16, 2013

The men and women next door

Book: Home Town
Author: Tracy Kidder
Published: 1999 (Washington Square Press)
Pages: 417

A policeman is a great person to focus on for the story of a town. A policeman who’s lived his whole life on the same street, knows the place inside and out, loves his job, but is getting into the first stage of possibly moving on to bigger things is even better.

The perspective of a poor single mom who came to the town on its university’s older student scholarship program is also really valuable. She’s got that outsider view of both sides – the elite Ivy League and the shitty by-the-month-apartment part of town – and how they interact with each other.

The small town lawyer whose OCD is rapidly getting the best of him…well, I mean he’s part of the town and its structure, too.

But the problem is the story never gets past these characters. It’s supposed to be the story of a town, specifically, and what the concept of “home town” means in general, and it barely touches on either of those, like at all. There’s some smattering of Northampton history at the beginning of a few chapters, and I guess I could argue that the policeman, single mom, and crazy lawyer all talk about their places in town in the natural order of talking about what they do in it.

I’m not going to argue that, though, because it doesn’t work. All of this is well-written and well-researched and well put together and I liked reading it, but I’m giving it away because I wanted it to be a lot heavier on the sociology of the concept of a town as the center of people’s lives. It fails in that.  

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