In this splendid book, one of America's masters of nonfiction takes us home--into Hometown, U.S.A., the town of Northampton, Massachusetts, and into the extraordinary, and the ordinary, lives that people live there. As Tracy Kidder reveals how, beneath its amiable surface, a small town is a place of startling complexity, he also explores what it takes to make a modern small city a success story. Weaving together compelling stories of individual lives, delving into a rich and varied past, moving among all the levels of Northampton's social hierarchy, Kidder reveals the sheer abundance of life contained within a town's narrow boundaries. Does the kind of small town that many Americans came from, and long for, still exist? Kidder says yes, although not quite in the form we may imagine. A book about civilization in microcosm, Home Town makes us marvel afresh at the wonder of individuality, creativity, and civic order--how a disparate group of individuals can find common cause and a code of values that transforms a place into a home. And this book makes you feel you live there.
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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 BolonikFrom the Back Cover:
"Tracy Kidder's gift as a writer is one that is also often associated with certain great center fielders: a grace that makes the difficult look effortless.... The eloquent interplay, not just between history and the present, but between the public and private moments of life, results in a book whose subtle originality is at the service of the deep humanity of its portraiture. I can't think of an American writer who gets that sense of human scale more right, more consistently, than Tracy Kidder."--Stuart Dybek, author of The Coast of Chicago
Praise for House
"This book is the story of the building of a house, and it is told with such clarity, intelligence, and grace it makes you wonder why no one has written a book like it before. In the way that a well-told story of a marriage or of a love affair or of a child's coming of age fills you with a sense that you are reading about a fundamental human experience for the first time, so it is with House."--Paul Goldberger, The New York Times Book Review
The Soul of a New Machine
"Kidder has endowed the tale with such pace, texture and poetic implication that he has elevated it to a high level of narrative art....Splendid."--The New York Times Book Review
"Sheer magic." --Walter Shapiro, Time
"Tracy Kidder can turn the most unlikely story into a riveting drama." --Anne Tyler
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