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Condition: Used: Good
Comment: This book has already been loved by someone else. It MIGHT have some wear and tear on the edges, have some markings in it, or be an ex-library book. Over-all it's still a good book at a great price! (if it is supposed to contain a CD or access code, that may be missing)
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Home Town Paperback – May 1, 2000

3.8 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.

Probing beneath Northampton's friendly exterior, Pulitzer-winning author Tracy Kidder uncovers the town's many layers, from the lowest to the highest rungs of society, and renders a portrait of Northampton by introducing those who know it best. Kidder relies most heavily on native Tommy O'Connor, a 33-year-old police sergeant who has never left his beloved hometown. Tommy's optimism and gentle humor make him an appealing guide, as he shows both the darkest and most charming streets of his town and wrestles with a future that may forever alter his relationship to Northampton. Kidder also introduces readers to Laura Baumeister, a young working mother and Ada Comstock scholar at Smith College who is struggling to care for her son and keep up with the rigorous school curriculum; Alan Scheinman, a real estate lawyer who made a fortune in the 1980s, now plagued by a crippling case of obsessive-compulsive disorder; and Samson Rodriguez, a former loom operator who may have been one of the first people to bring crack cocaine to Northampton. --Kera Bolonik --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The small Massachusetts city of Northampton, tucked away in the Berkshires, makes a compelling case study of civilization's highest aspirations and its inevitable chaotic failures. Combining postcard prettiness and urban peril, Northampton, writes Kidder (Old Friends, etc.), "still preserves the old pattern of the New England township, a place with a full set of parts." That set includes apparent order (its population has changed little in 40 years), leafy neighborhoods, a thriving downtown and the elite Smith College. But through that stability run cracks: ragged housing projects, crumbling infrastructure and crime. Kidder finds Northampton capable of harboring "appalling abundance" in the private lives of its 30,000 citizens, and he taps the town's diversity selectively, profiling a single mother from California who studies at Smith, a crack-addled drug informant, a judge, a lawyer whose obsessive compulsive disorder occasions bizarre behavior and, at greatest length, a 33-year-old police sergeant who touches all their lives to varying degrees. As Kidder contrasts diverse newcomers' delight with the more seasoned, conflicted emotions of natives, his book turns into an examination of what holds those who stay, what draws those who come and what haunts those who leave. Kidder's vision combines the realistic detail of a documentary with the broad sweep and imagination of a 19th-century novel of the streets. His assessment of Northampton's unruly equilibrium is an apt description of this book: "somehow it works," and very well. BOMC selection; first serial to the Atlantic Monthly.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press; 1St Edition edition (May 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671785214
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671785215
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.3 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #480,162 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gary Delsohn on February 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Tracy Kidder is the best non-fiction writer in America since John McPhee went off the deep end and became fixated on rocks. Kidder takes seemingly small subjects, in this case a nice little town in Massachusetts that works pretty well for most of the people who live there, and manages to tell us a great deal about a great many things: cops, friends, yearning for family, homelessness, a single woman's dreams and even obsessive-compulsive disorder. The writing seems effortless but only because the book is so well crafted. This is one of those books where you feel you have more life inside you simply for having read it. He manages to bring real people to life in a way that makes us truly care about what happens to them. A less talented writer might tell his or her publisher I want to spend a year watching what happens in a small town and the publisher might say forget about it. In Kidder's hands it works beautifully, as we've come to expect. I loved this book.
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Format: Paperback
HOME TOWN by Tracy Kidder is a highly entertaining and compelling book where truth is indeed, stranger than fiction, and certainly more entertaining. Kidder writes about the sleepy town of Northampton, Massachusetts, a town that at first glance seems like any other typical small town. Its inhabitants are anything but. There's the local judge who sentences his neighbors, the millionaire with a devastating disorder, a single mother struggling to begin a new life who enrolls at Smith College, a likeable crack addict who works as a police informant, a cop who is accused of a terrible crime and vilified by the town, and holding it all together is life-long resident and detective, Tommy O'Connor, Northampton's paen to small town family life, and its moral glue. HOME TOWN examines what it's like to grow up and live your whole life in the same town and the trepditation that goes with leaving it, about wanting more than what life has to offer, and about loyalty and virtue. Although this is a work of nonfiction, it reads like a novel and is an extremely engaging story and an excellent book.
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Format: Hardcover
Tracy Kidder continues his reign as a top writer of narrative non-fiction in 'Home Town', a book well worth reading for the engaging character portraits alone. Literature if full of stories of good and evil. In this book the good people, like father-of-the-protagonist Bill O'Connor, are charming, funny, and very good. Interestingly, most of the bad guys are at least a little bit good too. While other excellent authors have successfully built around dramatic events (Perfect Storm, Thin Air), Kidder crafted this story around a vibrant community, the people who make it work, and the people who test its limits. The book could just as easily have been set in Santa Fe, Charleston, or a thousand other interesting places. As one of the legion of Northampton expatriates who follow the community through the local paper's gazettenet.com, I have to admit that Kidder showed me parts of the town that I had missed in 25 years of living there and 15 years of watching from afar. News reports of horrible tragedies around our Nation focus us on places that have imploded in social disaster. 'Home Town' shows in contrast a community that is at least narrowly winning the struggle to achieve comity and civility...and have some fun.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read some of the weaker reviews here before writing this, and I just don't see how people who have enjoyed his other books didn't also love this one.

As usual with Kidder, his non-fiction prose read like a novel. And this story is a difficult one in that he had to blend more people and more place settings than he had to do in the other works of his I've read. Nevertheless, most of the internal stories pulled me in to the point I care about the people and what was happening to them.

I suspect Kidder had planned on this work to go in some different directions than never panned out over the course of the year he spent with the principals. For example, he includes a fair amount of foreshadowing about the upcoming Mayoral election, then then "pfft", the election happens as a non-story. I suspect he thought there would be a story line that never panned out--and perhaps there were some election characters he ended up not including.

The story of the police officer's best friend was, to me, the most gripping of the book. I can't imagine Kidder knew going in that this would become an important part of the narrative (I am staying vague here to avoid spoilers for those who have not yet read Home Town.)

My five stars are based on my own reading (albeit three years ago already), and the fact that I find myself buying this book as a gift to every friend who moves to a small New England town.
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Format: Hardcover
First I must say I am a fan of Kidder's, and truly enjoyed 2 of his other books that I've read ("Soul of a New Machine" and "House"). And the writing is this book is as splendid as ever.
Something, else, though, is wrong. In the previous books I've read Kidder was following a small group of people, and you got a sense of their larger mission and purpose (build a new computer, etc) thru his depictions of the people and their interactions. And few are better at their craft then Kidder.
So when I read that Kidder raised his sights from a small group to encompass a small town, I was eagerly anticipating the book. Sadly, he is unable to deliver. While he plumbs the character of a few people in the town, a larger sense of the town and what its like is missing. He tells us, for example, that most people born there leave and are replaced. Yet telling a detailed story of one immigrant is far from capturing the range of experiences newcomers encounter, moving to a place where many people have ties that go back generations.
There's so many things I hoped a writer with Kidder's talent would have addressed but find nary a mention. The whole small-town vs big-city dilemma, for example. If you're sick do you stick with a local doc or go to the city? How do merchants compete with the big malls? Are students in the local HS at a disadvantage applying for college coming from a HS with more limited resources? What are sports like? Do people root for local teams (probably HS or amateur level) or identify with city teams? The performing arts?
I could go on and on, but to summarize I'd say that its a shame that a writer as skilled as Kidder misses the forest for a few trees.
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