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Homesick: A Memoir

Homesick: A Memoir

4.3 6
by Sela Ward

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This is a story about home . . .

At a time when much of America is yearning to recapture the spirit and feelings of a more innocent era, comes this exceptional new book from one of our most beloved actresses: a story of one woman's journey to reconnect with the landscape of her childhood.

Though best known today as the star of the television series


This is a story about home . . .

At a time when much of America is yearning to recapture the spirit and feelings of a more innocent era, comes this exceptional new book from one of our most beloved actresses: a story of one woman's journey to reconnect with the landscape of her childhood.

Though best known today as the star of the television series Once & Again and Sisters, Sela Ward considers herself first and foremost a small-town girl. The eldest of four children, she was raised by a father who helped her believe in herself, and by a mother who taught her a sense of the importance of virtues like self-respect, grace, and sacrifice. In her hometown of Meridian, Mississippi, within a tightly-knit community of neighbors and kin, Sela learned ways that would remain with her throughout life — humble virtues that were "forged in the hearth of a loving home."

After graduating from the University of Alabama, Sela left the South in search of the excitement of cities like New York and Los Angeles, and the creative rewards of an acting career. But as she started her own family, she found herself pining for the comforts of her small-town childhood — and searching for a way to balance her children's West Coast upbringing with a taste of a more natural way of life. She and her husband built a second home on a farm there, where she and her family could retreat several times each year, and became involved in several projects designed to restore the vitality of the hometown she remembered so fondly. Even as Sela was reconnecting with the rhythms of home, though, her world was rocked by a crisis the family had long anticipated but never quite prepared for — the death of her mother. As her family gathered around her mama's bedside, Sela's simple journey home became something far deeper: a turning point in her own life, as she pondered her mother's complicated legacy, and came to terms with just what it was she herself was searching for.

Filled with warmth, storytelling, and laughter, Homesick is a book to treasure: an exploration of the lessons we carry away with us from childhood, and a celebration of the bittersweet legacy of home.

Editorial Reviews

Years before Sela Ward was an Emmy-winning star, she was a small-town girl, growing up on the Mississippi homestead that everybody called "Homeward." In this tightly knit community, she heard stories and learned lessons that would later inform her performances on TV shows like Sisters and Once & Again. In this memoir, she explains why returning to your roots is sometimes the best way to move forward.
Publishers Weekly
This earnest memoir by Ward, the 46-year-old star of the 1990s sitcom hits Sisters and Once & Again and spokesperson for Sprint long distance, juxtaposes a jet-setting Hollywood image with a smalltown Mississippi past. More sugared up than a glass of Southern iced tea, the book will surely build Ward's reputation with her TV fan base, as it doesn't delve deep into Ward's psyche or tell all about the biz. It's targeted at the women Ward grew up with in Meridian, Miss. the same women she wants to reunite with now that she's returned there to begin settling down, loaded with cash, a Los Angeles venture capitalist husband and their two children. The fascinating trajectory of Ward's ideal American woman's life she went from cheerleader and homecoming queen at the University of Alabama to fashion model and fixture of New York nightlife should intrigue readers who can relate to culture shock. There's also a smattering of intelligently researched treatises on civil rights and on the contemporary crumbling of social bonds. A portion of the book's proceeds will go to a foundation for abused and neglected children that Ward founded last year in Meridian. Her overly saccharine tendencies notwithstanding, Ward gives readers a cute story of a smalltown girl's rise to celebrity. Photos. (Oct. 15) Forecast: There's a large audience for this book, if one considers Ward's popularity on Sisters. But whether that sizable viewership will translate into big book sales is doubtful. Still, her publisher has planned an author tour stopping in cities such as Birmingham, Meridian, Jackson and Nashville. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
6.36(w) x 8.34(h) x 1.05(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Ask any Southern woman to tell you about herself, and she'll start by telling you about her people. The roots of my family tree run deep into the red dirt of Mississippi, and from the time I was born to the moment I left home for college, I was surrounded and sheltered by its branches: parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, Boswells and Wards. As a child I listened keenly to their stories, though I was shy and quiet and asked questions only rarely. Now, with so few of them left, I spend as much time in their company as I can, and I ask everything I can think of. There have been Wards living in and around Meridian for six generations -- since the 1840s, as best as my daddy can figure. His great-grandfather was the first Ward to live in this part of Mississippi; the wooden homestead he built still stands on its cypress-log pillars in the tiny community called Enterprise, eighteen miles south of Meridian on Ward Road. My daddy's generation calls it Homeward.

The house is small by today's standards, but once it was part of a six-hundred-acre plantation that extended to the banks of the Chunky River. Today the family holdings are a fragment of what they were, but Homeward is still there, home to Daddy's sister Celeste and her husband, Fred. In the yard there are fig trees and magnolias, and lilies that Aunt Celeste tends like children. At the edge of the property stands a cypress barn that's been there longer than my seventy-nine-year-old father can remember. At one time the field was filled with cotton and cornstalks, but it's been many years since this was a working farm.

Though he lived in Meridian as a boy, my daddy, Granberry Holland Ward Jr., loves this land as if it had always been his. In a sense, it has. All his relatives lived in Enterprise. "I would go out to Grandpa's house every time I'd go down there," he remembers. "He was a justice of the peace for fifty years. They called him Judge Ward. He married just about all the couples in Clark County. They would come out to his house to get married. He had a wagon that was pulled by mules. He lived about three miles out of town, and when he needed to go into town he would let me drive, holding the reins all the way."

When he was a teenager Daddy would ride his bicycle to Enterprise, up and down fifteen miles of hills, to see his cousin James; the two of them were best friends. "We'd go skinny-dipping in a little creek that goes through the town there. It had a kind of deep part in it, and we would dive off in the water, swim there."

James was a popular boy in Enterprise. "He dated every little girl there, before he went in the service." But he got into a little mischief now and then. "He told me the girls would sit at a certain spot at the school, and when they'd have a short dress on, you could see up their leg, you know?" Did Daddy succumb to the same temptation? "I didn't ever know where that spot was," he laughs. "I never did sit there. I was a good boy."

Then, when Daddy was seven years old, came a day whose every detail he still remembers. He and his sister were outside at half-past four in the afternoon, laughing and dousing each other with a garden hose, when their mother came out to tell them their father had just died. It wasn't a sudden death; he had suffered from encephalitis for months. But the news transformed Daddy's life. For years thereafter, he recalls, "Wherever I was out playing, at 4:30 in the afternoon I'd run home and see if Mama was still living."

The concept of orphanhood was familiar to Daddy's family: his own first name, Granberry, came from the man who ran the orphanage where his grandmother -- Judge Ward's wife -- was raised. After his own father died, Daddy says, "The lady across the street told my mother, ‘It's too bad your husband died -- I know you're going to have to put all your children in the orphans' home.' That kept her all upset all the time." That never happened, but their father's death changed the family all the same: Daddy's seventeen-year-old brother, Thomas, had to go out and find work to support them all, taking a job at a lumber mill during the day and at a drugstore until ten o'clock at night. It was Daddy's job to bring his older brother his lunch every day; during the summer he hopped from lawn to lawn to save his bare feet from the sun-cooked sidewalks.

I remember, throughout my own childhood, listening quietly as Daddy and his kin told and retold stories about those times. It was the Depression, but "we didn't know we were poor," Daddy says. "We didn't know we didn't have anything, and for some reason it didn't matter. People were closer because we were all suffering in the same boat. I don't remember anybody feeling like they were better than the family next door. We had a big two-story house, and plenty of room to take others in. We took several children and their mother into our home when I was young, because of adverse conditions. It was no big thing."

Daddy's Aunt Margaret, his cousin James's mother, was like a second mother to him. When I was a child Daddy and Mama would take us down to Enterprise visiting Homeward on Sunday afternoons, and at least once a month we'd stop by Aunt Margaret's on the way back. I was so fascinated with her rambling yellow Victorian clapboard house. It always seemed dark to me; she never really had the lights on, and being there was like stepping back in time. The rooms were full of dark old furniture, embroidered settees, and stacks of handmade quilts everywhere; whenever I visited I'd find an excuse to go into the bathroom, just to stare at the porcelain pitchers and old-fashioned washbasins from the days before houses had running water.

What everybody remembers about Aunt Margaret, though, was her passion for canning. Her kitchen shelves were lined with all types of fruits and vegetables -- relishes and jams, tomatoes and figs and sweet pear relish. "If you ever went to her house," Daddy remembers, "you would always leave with something in your hand. She would give you some gift of food. She just loved people." The same was true in my childhood, thirty years later. The figs and relishes I accepted politely, but I couldn't wait to get hold of her blackberry jam.

Meet the Author

Sela Ward is the recipient of two Emmy awards for her work on Once & Again and Sisters, and a Cable Ace Award for her role as Jessica Savitch in Almost Golden. She recently founded Hope Village for Children, a permanent home for abused and neglected children, in Meridian, Mississippi. Sela lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband and their two children, and returns frequently with her family to her Mississippi hometown.

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Homesick 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
SuzeJones58 More than 1 year ago
Not sure you want to bother to buy this book and read it? Thinking it will be lightweight, only the work of a TV actress? If so, you will be missing something. It is for the most part light, but it is also a very sweet reminiscence of a time and place gone by with a smattering of what it was like to grow up Sela Ward. No tell-all here, but a respectful longview looking backward. Ms. Ward touched my heart so much so that I was at one point in my reading in tears. She struck a chord with how much we have lost in our senses of community, and in our sense of coummunity with other women. Not a lyrical book, but Ms. Ward does hit a high note with essentially this thought 'live not through the rule of logic, but through the whim of poetry.' Lovely, just lovely.
Guest More than 1 year ago
SELA WARD'S "HOMESICK" is so much more than this reader expected. Reminding me of the writing in Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" WARD tells us about the traditions and values she grew up with in the South, how she went from shy small-town girl to college, to New York City during the intense drug and crime era of the 1970's, her entrance into modeling and with it mandatory association with supersized egos and free-flowing cocaine --- staying clean. In Hollywood her success in television and meeting the love of her life. ALWAYS guided by the solid values of her upbringing, and always determine to not only return to those values but to pass them on to others. When Frasier Craine had his fictional one night stand with WARD on TV, well, he should have got to know her first. Beauty is often not just skin deep. Excellent writing. Top notch
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book's title, "Homesick" grabbed by attention immediately because of the potential that one word holds for me. It's not like being homesick while away at college or boarding school, it's the longing and yearning for the way one "feels" just by being in a certain place, the familiar smells and the emotions this presence evokes and the way your mind rambles over the past like a dew-drenched honeysuckle vine on a fencerow. Just by hearing the title and seeing the jacket cover it is all I anticipated. Knowing that Sela Ward is from Meridian, MS I knew her story would have that compelling Southern genteelnees.
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