I happened to finally reach Alison DeLory’s Making It Home in The Pile right before three exciting developments for this book (and author):
- It got shortlisted for the Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize .
- It became the latest selection for the Nimbus and Vagrant Book Club.
- It’s the featured eBook this week for our campaign with Nova Scotia’s public libraries, Stay Home Read Atlantic.
I finished reading recently enough that I can give it the ole “live-blog” treatment here.
There are three parallel, linked plot lines/settings:
- Young Cape Bretoner Charlie is working in the Alberta tar sands and struggling with addiction issues. His girlfriend Nell initially helps him through it, but in the process starts feeling at home in Alberta.
- In Cape Breton, Charlie’s grandparents, Tinker and Flo, learn they have another grandson, Charlie’s half-brother, and Flo starts fundraising with the church to sponsor a family of Syrian refugees.
- Amira, Sami and their children reluctantly flee their Syrian home, adapting to a difficult life in a Turkish refugee camp, hoping for the opportunity to immigrate to a permanent home.
Reading Speed: DeLory’s writing is straightforward, active and engaging. The mounting tension in each story line makes the novel a literary page turner. For me it was a quick read, despite not being light in subject and theme.
Format: From a hard Advanced Reading Copy.
Accompanying Music: Although it’s about Halifax, which is barely mentioned in the book, I’m going with “Love This Town” by Joel Plaskett. It beautifully evokes the longing-for-home theme of the book.
…all they needed were breast milk and love to thrive.
There are other excellent sentences in this book, but this one above all had me scrambling for a highlighter. It puts things into perspective. Could a single line say any more about humanity than that?
In fact, the entire story line from which the above quotation is from–Amira, Sami and their children in the refugee camp–really put things into perspective for me.
More than a decade ago, while working at a newspaper in Ghana, I wrote a story about the Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana, which is home to more than 12,000 Liberian refugees who fled civil war, though many were born in the camp. My story focused on a dozen local chiefs, each of whom represented a warring group back in Liberia. They met weekly, like a city council, to talk about peace and community building for the miniature city their people had created in a new country.
It was positive, what they were doing, much like Sami’s efforts to doctor the sick in the Turkish camp featured in Making It Home. But they, and Sami, duty-bound, were making the best out of an unfathomably difficult situation; their true homes had been quite literally destroyed. There was nothing to go back to. Survival, and hope for a better future, was all that was left.
Of course that got me thinking about our current situation, in which essential workers must take significant risks. The rest of us simply must stay home. None of it is easy, and I don’t mean to downplay the impacts that feeling under virtual house arrest can have, the extreme stress it sometimes causes, the mental-health fallout. But reading Making It Home refreshed my gratitude that I have a home where I can stay, and that I am with people who love me.
DeLory plots her debut novel perfectly, incorporating remarkably diverse perspectives seamlessly, balancing different cultural and gendered perspectives, and bringing the stories together for an ending in which every character shares, in their own way, that same refreshed appreciation for home.