Saturday, December 13, 2008

(111) Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos

This was a really, really good book.

Sing Them Home is such a captivating, intricate story, that I am not sure where to begin.

It was 1978 when a tornado swept through the small Nebraska town, Emlyn Springs. The tornado swept away Hope Jones & her daughter, Bonnie. Bonnie was eventually found in the roots of an uprooted, overturned tree, but Hope was never to be seen again. Leaving her three children (Gaelen, Larken & Bonnie) motherless.

Fast forward to 2003. Their father, the good mayor of Emlyn Springs is adamant that he will not miss his tee time. Even if it is in the middle of yet another unrelenting spring storm. Even though, they had not gone far, all three children find their way back to Emlyn Springs. Through their grief, they confront the things in their lives that are holding them back. Professionally, socially, & emotionally.

The novel is written in such a way that you get perspective from all characters involved. From the entries in Hope's journals, to Viney, their father's common-law wife & once best friend to their mother, to the Dead Mothers & Fathers of the town(it may sound strange, but really it is a charming piece of the story), you experience it all.

I think the reason why I enjoyed this book so much is because I can relate to so many things in the story. Particularly the location. I grew up in a small town Southeast of Omaha (on the Iowa side). Yet it is so similar. And Kallos has nailed the descriptive qualities of small town living

"But when you've lived here as long as I have, folks expect you to
behave a certain way. It's as if they've already imagined your life &
get truly, deeply upset if you don't play your part the way they've written

I was shocked to learn that Ms Kallos was not a native to Nebraska, also because of her observations of Nebraska culture. There was mention made of Runza's, a fast food chain born & bred in Nebraska, and a MUST have for visiting out-of-towners like me.
But, most importantly, it was the observations & writing regarding Welly's season tickets to the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
"Season tickets to University of Nebraska football games are to Nebraskans what
rent-controlled apartments are to Manhattanites
And when it came to selling those season tickets?
"There is a small country that forms on certain Saturday's in the autumn
within the city limits of Lincoln, Nebraska. On those Saturday's hundreds
of thousands of people gather to cheer on a football team called The Cornhuskers.
In the end, Larken couldn't SIGN HERE -- Not today,
maybe never, because selling her father's small territorial holdings within that
Saturday country would be exactly like selling the family farm."
Having recently attended my first Cornhusker football game in Lincoln, I can very easily understand what a treasure it is to have those season tickets. And obviously so does Stephanie Kallos. Sing Them Home is an excellent, well written study at life, death, living, dying & small town America. It is not an easy read, nor is it a fast read, but it is a book that will leave you a better person at it's conclusion.


Mimi said...

I think the author is fairly local to me (so she'd be on the West Coast) - interesting she nailed Nebraska so well.

I'm off to put it on my PBS list, thank you!

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I remember the carefree summer days when I used to ride my bike to the public library to pick out new books. I would go almost daily to find books to read. I read to learn. I read to explore the world. I read to escape. I read because not reading is not an option.

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