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Homesick

de Jennifer Croft

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982282,115 (3.73)10
"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."--provided by publisher.… (mais)
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This is the English edition of a book that has been previously published in Spanish, then in English as a memoir with photos for the US market, and finally here, without photos (why?).

This book is a haunting one, presenting the childhood of Amy and her younger sister Zoe in a series of vignettes, often extremely short. We gradually build a picture of two extremely close siblings: the elder gifted in languages and -later - photography, the younger dogged by frightening ill-health - a rare but benign brain tumour. Because of this, the girls are home schooled, and their closeness intensifies. They both develop a passion for their young student teacher of Russian and Ukrainian, but Zoe's condition is that thing that casts a pall over their world.

Tragedy after tragedy strikes -indirect, but significant. Then Amy gets into the University of Tulsa aged only 15. Separation from family and especially her sister makes her vulnerable: she doesn't cope well with student life and is hospitalised.

A much shorter section details Amy's post-graduate life until her mid 30s. Like the earlier part of the book, it's fragmented, yet intimate and sensitive. I was kept at a distance from the two girls: I felt something of a voyeur, though a sympathetic one. I was privy to some of the many disasters that had struck the girls, without really getting to know either of them. Which felt appropriate. Complex lives make for complex characters. How can we really know what goes on in someone else's head?

A sensitive series of sketches which provoked and will continue to provoke thoughts and questions. ( )
  Margaret09 | Apr 15, 2024 |
*Longlisted for the 2023 Women’s Prize for Fiction*

“And there is no single word in any other language that means the same thing as the Welsh hiraeth, which I’m told is a refusal to surrender what has already been lost(akin, but not identical to homesickness).”

Homesick: A Memoir follows award–winning translator Jennifer Croft (her character is named Amy) as she reflects on her childhood adolescence and early adulthood and how her relationship with her younger sister Zoe (real name Anne Marie) has shaped her life. We follow Amy and Zoe through their childhood in Oklahoma. They share a close bond as is evident from Amy’s memories of their fun and games, their secret language of communication and their affection for one another. Amy, older than Zoe by barely three years, is fiercely protective of her younger sister. Zoe is prone to seizures caused by a benign brain tumor. Zoe’s ill health and suffering affect Amy deeply but she takes it upon herself to keep her sister in good spirits amid the pain. Amy is also fond of photography from a very young age as is evident from the pictures interspersed throughout the narrative. When Zoe’s tumor renders her unable to attend school they are homeschooled. Sasha, their tutor who both sisters admire, also fuels Amy’s passion for languages and her hopes for her future.

Amy begins to attend the University of Oklahoma at the age of fifteen, her first brush with independence. However, she struggles in the the aftermath of a tragic loss, experiences conflicting emotions in the context of separation from her family and the realization that hers and Zoe’s lives are headed in different directions also hits her hard. Amy struggles to break free and spread her wings and eventually manages to do so fulfilling her dreams of travel and much more, but it is not an easy journey and as the narrative progresses this story takes on the form of a meditation on the concept of homesickness and how Amy perceives and interprets the same in the context of her relationship with her sister.

Part coming-of-age, part ode to family and sisterhood, Homesick: A Memoir by Jennifer Croft is a poignant read. The narrative is presented through vignettes, short notes (that read as parts of a letter addressed to her younger sister) and photographs. I don’t pick up memoirs too often but when I heard that this book was originally released as fiction (in Spanish), it piqued my interest. Though written, for the most part, in the third person narrative format, the author’s writing is personal, made even more so by the use of photographs taken by her ( a few taken by her mother, as she mentions in the Acknowledgments). This is a short memoir, possibly read in a single sitting but I would urge you to take your time (I read it slowly, over a couple of days) to fully appreciate the depth of emotion expressed in the author’s simple words.

“All of us are anything, everything, brimming with secrets.”
“Above all we are the shelter we seek out in others and the safe havens we become for those we choose to love.”
( )
  srms.reads | Sep 4, 2023 |
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We photographers deal in things that are continually vanishing, and when they have vanished, there is no contrivance on earth that can make them come back again.
Henri Cartier-Bresson
A picture is a secret about a secret. The more it tells the less you know.
Diane Arbus
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for my sister
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Remember when I used to make you practice saying words?
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"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."--provided by publisher.

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