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Homeplace

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Overview

After twenty-one years Micah (Mike) Winship is making the big move—she's going home for a visit. She hasn't been back since 1963, when her father threw her out, but now he is dying and asking for her. And although she is armed with her succesful journalism career and the strength found after her divorce, she is nearing forty and her sophisticated urban lifestyle is falling apart.

Heading home, Mike is unprepared for a past that has lain in wait for her—one that includes an old ...

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Homeplace

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Overview

After twenty-one years Micah (Mike) Winship is making the big move—she's going home for a visit. She hasn't been back since 1963, when her father threw her out, but now he is dying and asking for her. And although she is armed with her succesful journalism career and the strength found after her divorce, she is nearing forty and her sophisticated urban lifestyle is falling apart.

Heading home, Mike is unprepared for a past that has lain in wait for her—one that includes an old love, a spoiled sister, and a plot to seize her family's land. And in trying to understand her long-forgotten self, she learns at last those lessons best learned early about love and loss, family and forgiveness, and the undeniable need for a place called home.

In 1963, Micah Winship fled her Georgia home, running from things she did not understand--the things that make a home a home. Twenty years later, her life in New York is falling apart. When her dying father calls her home, she goes--but is she still running?

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Editorial Reviews

Washington Post Book World
Siddons is a fine teller of tales.
Atlanta Journal & Constitution
Powerful, sensitive...You won't want to miss Homeplace.
Pat Conroy
Anne Rivers Siddons...writes with such astonishing lyrical beauty that you will want to read it aloud to everyone you ever loved.
Washington Post Book World
Siddons is a fine teller of tales.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061011412
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/28/2003
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 205,326
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Anne Rivers Siddons's bestselling novels include Nora, Nora; Sweetwater Creek; Islands; and Fox's Earth. She is also the author of the nonfiction work John Chancellor Makes Me Cry. She and her husband divide their time between Charleston, South Carolina, and Brooklin, Maine.

Biography

Born in 1936 in a small town near Atlanta, Anne Rivers Siddons was raised to be a dutiful daughter of the South -- popular, well-mannered, studious, and observant of all the cultural mores of time and place. She attended Alabama's Auburn University in the mid-1950s, just as the Civil Rights Movement was gathering steam. Siddons worked on the staff of Auburn's student newspaper and wrote an editorial in favor of integration. When the administration asked her to pull the piece, she refused. The column ran with an official disclaimer from the university, attracting national attention and giving young Siddons her first taste of the power of the written word.

After a brief stint in the advertising department of a bank, Siddons took a position with the up and coming regional magazine Atlanta, where she worked her way up to senior editor. Impressed by her writing ability, an editor at Doubleday offered her a two-book contract. She debuted in 1975 with a collection of nonfiction essays; the following year, she published Heartbreak Hotel, a semi-autobiographical novel about a privileged Southern coed who comes of age during the summer of 1956.

With the notable exception of 1978's The House Next Door, a chilling contemporary gothic compared by Stephen King to Shirley Jackson's classic horror novel The Haunting of Hill House, Siddons has produced a string of well-written, imaginative, and emotionally resonant stories of love and loss -- all firmly rooted in the culture of the modern South. Her books are consistent bestsellers, with 1988's Peachtree Road (1988) arguably her biggest commercial success. Described by her friend and peer, Pat Conroy, as "the Southern novel for our generation," the book sheds illuminating light on the changing landscape of mid-20th-century Atlanta society.

Although her status as a "regional" writer accounts partially for Siddons' appeal, ultimately fans love her books because they portray with compassion and truth the real lives of women who transcend the difficulties of love and marriage, family, friendship, and growing up.

Good To Know

Although she is often compared with another Atlanta author, Margaret Mitchel, Siddons insists that the South she writes about is not the romanticized version found in Gone With the Wind. Instead, her relationship with the region is loving, but realistic. "It's like an old marriage or a long marriage. The commitment is absolute, but the romance has long since worn off...I want to write about it as it really is: I don't want to romanticize it."

Siddons' debut novel Heartberak Hotel was turned into the 1989 movie Heart of Dixie, starry Ally Sheedy, Virginia Madsen, and Phoebe Cates.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Sybil Anne Rivers Siddons (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      Charleston, South Carolina and a summer home in Maine overlooking Penobscot Bay
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 9, 1936
    2. Place of Birth:
      Atlanta, Georgia
    1. Education:
      B.A., Auburn University, 1958; Atlanta School of Art, 1958

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Even before she opened her eyes, the child was afraid. Coming out of sleep, she was not sure where she was, only that it was wrong. She should not be in this place. He would be very angry. She was eight years old, and she had been afraid of him all of her life.

She lay still and listened, and heard the rain. The rain came riding on a vast gray wind, to pepper the flat tin roof and sing in the tops of the black-green pines in the woods across the road from the cabin. Over it, much nearer at hand, she heard the chink of the iron poker in the cooling fireplace, and the visceral, thumping wail of the Atlanta jigaboo station on the radio Rusky had given J. W. for Christmas.

Without opening her eyes, the child burrowed her head under the flaccid feather pillow and dragged the quilt closer around her. Her body was warm in the piled nest of quilts and blankets Rusky had heaped over her during the night, but her feet were icy and her nightgown must be up around her neck, because her legs were cold up to her thighs. She took a deep breath, inhaling musty bedclothes and the ashy, dark smell the cabin always had, made up of smoke from the fireplace and the smell of Rusky and J. W. themselves. It was not sweat, though that was part of it, it was more, was the fecund essence of the Cromies, who lived in the sagging cabin behind the big house on Pomeroy Street. It was a rich smell, deep and complicated, somehow very old, the essence of all Negroes Mike had ever known.

"Why do Nigras smell like ashes?" she had asked Rusky once.

"'Cause dey spends so much time tendin' to white folkses' fires," Rusky said, thumping the iron down onthe ironing board in the big, square, sweet-steamed kitchen. "And 'cause de Lord give 'em that smell, same as he give you a smell like a new li'l ol' puppy. Kindly of sweet and sour at the same time. It ain't polite to ax folks why they smells like they does, Mike. It hurts they feelings."

"Are your feelings hurt?"

"Naw, but I'm yo' family. Don't you go axin' nobody outside yo' family why they smells like they does. "

"Why are you my family if you're black and I'm white?"

"Go on, now, I got to finish this arnin' and get on to them beans, or ain't none of you gon' get any supper. You just axin' questions to hear yourself talk. "

The child's name was Micah Winship. She did not want to open her eyes, to lose the cocoon of the bed and the covers. She drifted for a space of time, her legs and feet drawn up to her body, willing Rusky to remain silent, but she did not.

"Git up, Mike. Time to go over yonder an' start breakfast. You know you daddy don't know you over here.

"I don't want to get up."

"I don't care what you wants. You really be in a fix if he come back from his walk an' fin' you over here with me. I promise him the las' time I ain't gon' bring you home with me no more. He like to fire me if he catch you sleepin' over here with me, an' then what you all gon' do?"

"I don't care. I'm not going to get up.

"You promise me las' night after that nightmare an' all that hollerin' you doin' that you get up when I call you if I let you come home with me. Big girl like you, in the third grade, yellin' an' hollerin' like that. Git up, now. Move yo' self."

"I don't have to. You can't make me."

"Well, I know somebody what can make you, an' right quick, too. Come on, J. W. We gon' go tell Mr. John Mike over here in the baid an' we cain't git her out."

"Aw, Mama . . . " J. W. said from the shed room off the cabin's main room, where he slept winter and summer.

"I'm gon' out dis door, Mike, J. W.," Rusky said, and slammed it to emphasize her words.

"Wait!" Mike shrieked, jumping out of the cocoon of covers and rummaging blindly for her blue jeans and sweater. Fear leaped like brush fire. "Wait for me, Rusky! I'm coming . . . don't tell him!"

"Don't tell who what?" said Derek Blessing, and Mike awoke finally and abruptly, and sat up in the great bed in Derek's crow's nest of a bedroom atop the beach house on Potato Road, in Sagaponack, Long Island. Rain on a tin roof and the sough of the wind in the sweet pines of Lytton, Georgia, became the residual spatter of the sullen, departing northeaster and the boom of the surf on the beach, and the acid smell of Rusky Cromie's moribund fire became the first breath of the resurrected one in Derek's freestanding Swedish fireplace. J.W.'s radioed Little Richard became Bruce Springsteen. She looked around her. She was naked in the bed, with the ridiculous mink throw trailing across her and onto the floor, leaving her feet and legs bare to the cold air flooding in from the open sliding glass doors facing the heaving pewter sea. Her heart was still hammering with the now-familiar slow, dragging tattoo of the past two days, and her mouth tasted foul and metallic from the unaccustomed tranquilizer and the congnac they had drunk last night. The snifter still sat, half full, on the table beside her, and the sweet, cloying fumes sickened her slightly. She cleared her dry, edged throat and combed her hair back with cold fingers. She squinted up at Derek Blessing, who sat down on the bed with a proffered mug of coffee. It smelt only slightly better than the cognac, probably because of the cinnamon Derek ground into it, an affection he had picked up somewhere on his latest promotional tour for Broken Ties.

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Reading Group Guide

Plot Summary
After twenty-one years of complete isolation from her family, Micah (Mike) is at long last going home for a visit. She hasn't been back to the small town of Lytton, Georgia since 1963, when her father, John, kicked her out for her involvement in the nascent Civil Rights Movement. Since then, she has gone on to a successful journalism career, and survived a bitter divorce and a string of short-lived affairs. Now, Mike's spoiled daughter, Rachel, has run away to her ex-husband, her Lower East Side rent has leaped out of her budget range, and her current affair has come to a disastrous end. In the wake of these losses, her estranged sister, DeeDee has telephoned with the news that their father is dying of cancer and that he has asked for Mike. Heading home, Mike is unprepared for a past that has lain in wait for her, all but forgotten over the years. She discovers that sparks still fly between her and Bayard Sewell, the high school sweetheart Mike was supposed to marry, who has stayed in Lytton and is now a fast-rising politician. And the old animosities between Mike and her father seem to have only been exacerbated by his illness; she can't imagine why he ever asked her to come home. But nothing is as it seems in Lytton. As she begins to unravel a plot to seize her family's lands, all the love and desire she thought she had buried long ago is reawakened. In trying to understand her long-forgotten self, Mike finally discovers who it is she wishes to become and what it means to have a place called home.Topics for Discussion
1. What role does the Civil Rights Movement play in the course of Mike's life? What lessons does she learn about the strugglewhen she returns to Lytton two decades later? How has Mike's relationship with J.W. changed since they were both children? How do you explain her father's acts of kindness to J.W. and Rusky, given his virulent animosity towards the Civil Rights Movement in general? Is J.W. saved or imprisoned by John Winship's employment?

2. Mike's old teacher and confidant, Priss Comfort, tells her, "love is a policy, Mike, not a feeling. Time you learned that." What does she mean? Which characters treat love as a policy, and which base their love on feeling? Which do you think is a better way to operate? Does Mike learn to value Priss' advice concerning love?

3. Sam tells Mike, "when you came down here, you were nothing but a child. All we saw of you for the longest kind of time was children. The 'good' child, the rebellious child, the little nymphet . . . But you were nowhere near being a whole woman." What was it about her visit to Lytton that enabled her to become "whole?" What role did the other people in her life play in her eventual growth? She sees very little of her father even during her stay, and yet he plays a tremendous role in Mike's transformation to wholeness. How calculating is John Winship in his behavior toward his daughters? How do you feel about him as a husband, as a father, and as a human being?

4. What does Siddons mean when she refers to "the bell jar" surrounding Mike? Do you find it an effective metaphor? Why, or why not? Can you personally relate to the feeling of living life through a bell jar? What does it block out, and what does it let in? How does the bell jar protect Mike, and how does it cripple her? Why might she have developed it in the course of her life?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 24 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(13)

4 Star

(6)

3 Star

(4)

2 Star

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1 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 24 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 16, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Highly Recommended

    Although written in 1986, this book and its storyline is NOT dated. I'm an Anne Rivers Siddons fan from way back, but somehow I never read this book until now. and I enjoyed it VERY much. The characters were fully dimensional, and the plot was interesting and important, with a satisfying twist at the end.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2007

    A reviewer

    I found this book in the back of my mother's old station wagon, we recently moved and have no cable tv at this time so I have been reading anything I could find until I have time to get to the library. I absolutely enjoyed this book, I have never read anything by her before but will look for other books she has written. I am not a fast reader and I managed to read it in a couple of long rainy evenings. The characters are interesting I want to know more about at least some of them even though I am now finished with the book. There are no earth shattering revelations that will change my life forever but if you want to just read something that doesn't require alot of intellectual input on your part, you will enjoy this one.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 23, 2011

    Enjoyed this Read....

    The storyline took a while to pique my interest but once it did, I found the book to be predictable but entertaining. It is well written.....good character development and very descriptive writing. A good read......

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 25, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    I had forgotten how much I enjoyed this author until I picked up

    I had forgotten how much I enjoyed this author until I picked up this book. I thoroughly enjoyed the story, the
    characters, and the message. Love the ending! I will be reading more books from this author.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2013

    I'm a Siddons fan. Have read many of her books and always look

    I'm a Siddons fan. Have read many of her books and always look forward to another one. This one left me satisfied, but wanting a sequel! Please?

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2014

    Wow! What a book The book Homeplace should be made into a movi

    Wow! What a book

    The book Homeplace should be made into a movie! In the beginning it took me a little while to get into it. But, (excuse my comparison) it’s like an onion – peel one layer at a time revealing something new which each layer until you finally reach the conclusion.
    This is a story about a complicated family and the baggage each of them carried. Micah (Mike) was given a boy’s name because her father wanted a son. She, in turn, always wanted something she thought her father would never give her – his love.
    After she was jailed for her participation in a civil rights movement, her father, whose bigotry was Deep South to his very core, used extremely harsh and called her many vile and hurtful names and told her he never wanted to see her again. She left for more than 20 years. After a man who she thought was a friend betrayed her when she told him her darkest secrets, she received word that her father was seriously ill and wanted to see her right away. She returned home and within a few weeks her life was taking one turn after another until she was not sure who was friend and who was foe.
    I rarely read one book more than the first time; however, this book has so many layers to it I know I will read it again in the future. I strongly urge other readers to give this a try.

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  • Posted March 16, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recommended - you must check it out!!

    Great read. Not what I was expecting. Hard to put down.

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  • Posted January 9, 2014

    I loved everything about this book -- one of her best!

    I loved everything about this book -- one of her best!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2013

    The Horseplace Bios

    Here

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 15, 2013

    we need more great storylines like this!

    we need more great storylines like this!

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    Posted September 28, 2013

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    Posted March 25, 2011

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    Posted March 17, 2011

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    Posted February 28, 2012

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    Posted November 29, 2009

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    Posted April 7, 2011

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