I discovered Jennifer Croft’s new memoir, Homesick, through a New York Times review. I always have an eye out for hybrid and experimental work, so I ordered it right away and read it in two sittings. (It would have been one sitting, but I started too late in the day.)
It’s a physically gorgeous book with rich endpapers as well as a hauntingly beautiful memoir, but it’s also exciting on a craft level.
From Unnamed Press:
The coming of age story of an award-winning translator, HOMESICK is about learning to love language in its many forms, healing through words and the promises and perils of empathy and sisterhood.
Sisters Amy and Zoe grow up in Oklahoma where they are homeschooled for an unexpected reason: Zoe suffers from debilitating and mysterious seizures, spending her childhood in hospitals as she undergoes surgeries. Meanwhile, Amy flourishes intellectually, showing an innate ability to glean a world beyond the troubles in her home life, exploring that world through languages first. Amy’s first love appears in the form of her Russian tutor Sasha, but when she enters university at the age of 15 her life changes drastically and with tragic results.
Homesick is written in third person (yay! I always love to find memoirs in 3rd, so I feel less freakish about Girlish), and the main character is called Amy, not Jennifer. Seeing as I called my character Girl and not Lara, this makes some sense to me.
Croft includes photographs not to illustrate, but rather as a supplemental through-line whose purpose becomes clear as you read, and adds an added layer of depth. I’m always looking for memoirs that integrate visual elements with text, and Croft’s braiding of images is masterful. Croft is perhaps best known for her work as a translator, and her small meditations on untranslatable words add to the sense of yearning.
Growing up, my brother was my second half, my closest confidant and the one person who went between our father and mother’s houses. I was closer to him than to any other friend or relative—I felt as if we were the same person in two bodies. To read a book focused on the sibling relationship as primary bond really resonated with me, and I hadn’t realized how much that narrative was missing from the collective body of memoir literature.
Copyright © 2022 Lara Lillibridge
Public domain imagery courtesy of Snappygoat.com