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Home Town Paperback – May 1, 2000
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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
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Fascinating city--and a fascinating book about Northampton, MA. After all, how many U.S. cities were chartered by Oliver Cromwell?Published 17 months ago by R. Bienz
My mother gave me this book for Christmas one year because she raised me in the town in the book, Northampton, Mass. Read morePublished 20 months ago by EricJT
I was expecting more perspectives - this is mostly from the perspective of a police officer and local, though not all about policing. Read morePublished on May 30, 2014 by DRex357
as I grew up here in Northampton this book was another look at things that I wasn't aware of (as only kids can be) and the book added the depth that was needed to understand... Read morePublished on October 19, 2013 by Amazon Customer
I live relatively near Northampton and went to school there many years ago, but this book captures the human side and cultural flavor of the place in a wonderful way. Read morePublished on December 27, 2012 by Edith L. hunsberger
If I wanted a travelogue describing the life and history of Northampton, MA, this would fit the bill. But this is the only sense in which this book makes sense. Read morePublished on January 12, 2011 by jjrw
Few writers can take a slice of daily life in an "ordinary" town and make it as engrossing and interesting as Kidder. Northhampton, Mass. Read morePublished on April 3, 2010 by J. Carroll