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A Country Called Home    by Kim Barnes order for
Country Called Home
by Kim Barnes
Order:  USA  Can
Anchor, 2009 (2008)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

A Country Called Home (by Kim Barnes, author of Finding Caruso) is a rather dreamlike novel. Thomas Deracotte, a young doctor with no confidence in his calling, and his pregnant wife Helen (a rebellious blue-blood) purchase an isolated farm in 1960s Idaho. They seek a 'grand adventure'. While Thomas spends his time fishing and avoids pursuing his profession, Helen becomes close to young Manny, whom they hired as a handyman. Deserted by his father after his mother and sister died, Manny was fostered by the community and lived 'like a hobo.' Kind Dr. K, the druggist, suggested that Manny find work with the newcomers.

When Helen gives birth in their wilderness site, Thomas is unable to save one of the twins and hides the small corpse from his wife, that event poisoning his life from then on. They name their surviving daughter Elise. When tragedy strikes the small family once more, it's Manny who continues to run the household and act as Elise's surrogate father, while Thomas loses himself in 'a rage of self-loathing'. Elise grows up, falls foolishly in love, and is institutionalized for anorexia. In the hospital she meets Lucas, abused all through his childhood by his father until he finally fought back and killed him with a tire iron.

A Country Called Home is an intriguing psychological study, that ends with a degree of redemption for Thomas and with understanding for Manny. Its characters fight against damage passed down through generations - with differing degrees of success - and they all seek a place, and people, where they can belong.

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