A really interesting post from writer and fellow blogger Jan Morrison has got me thinking about how we conceive of ‘home.’ For some people, that word represents a geographical place. Home has to do with the culture, lifestyle, and language of a particular setting. There are also people who think of a building when they think of ‘home.’ Perhaps it’s one they grew up in or had constructed.
For other people, though, it’s less about a physical place than it is about family and the people in one’s life. In those cases, home is wherever loved ones are. I don’t have the data to support this, but my guess is that that conception of home is getting more common as the world gets smaller and more and more people move. Certainly we see it in crime fiction, and have for some time.
For example, Agatha Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence Beresford are not physically bound to one place they call home (as, say, Miss Marple is to St. Mary Mead). They’ve lived in several places, and they’ve traveled to many more. For the Beresfords, home isn’t so much a geographical location. Rather, it’s wherever they are together. They’ve lived in small service flats, houses, and, in Postern of Fate, a smaller house they intend to use as their retirement home. It’s not spoiling the series to say that even at the end of that novel, when the Beresfords are into their ‘golden years,’ they’re contemplating moving yet again. For them, ‘home’ means family rather than one particular town or region.
Timothy Hallinan’s Philip ‘Poke’ Rafferty is an ex-pat American travel writer who lives and works in Bangkok. His conception of ‘home’ has little to do with geography, although he’s come to feel comfortable in his adopted city. Rather, ‘home’ for him is the life he’s cobbled together with his wife Rose and adopted daughter Miaow. Rose, too, equates home with family, rather than one particular geographic location. Her conception though is a bit different. She is Thai, with that culture’s view of family and family obligations. Her parents, siblings and relatives are as much a part of how she sees ‘home’ as are Rafferty and Miaow, much as she cares for them. It’s an interesting difference in world views and perspectives, and Rafferty and Rose have their occasional difficult moments as they learn to live together.
Angela Savage’s PI sleuth Jayne Keeney is originally from Melbourne. She’s happy enough with her Australian cultural identity, but she doesn’t really think of Melbourne as ‘home.’ In fact, she’s got no real desire to live there at all. She’s made a life for herself in Thailand, where she’s come to feel very comfortable. And she’s also begun to equate ‘home’ with her partner, Rajiv Patel. He’s originally from India, but moved to Bangkok to escape his family’s micromanagement. He starts by helping run his uncle’s bookshop (that’s where he and Keeney first met). Later he becomes Keeney’s business partner, then her partner in life as well. Like Keeney, Patel is happy enough with his cultural identity. But ‘home’ for him is no longer India. Rather, it’s the life he’s trying to build with Keeney. Interestingly, they’re both moving from not having a strong sense of ‘home’ to a perception of ‘home is where you are.’
Vicki Delany’s Constable Moonlight ‘Molly’ Smith is from Trafalgar, British Columbia. That’s where she grew up and the place she thinks of as home. For her parents, though, it’s a very different story. In the early novels featuring Smith, we learn that her mother Lucy ‘Lucky’ and father Andy are originally from the US. Lucky moved to Canada with Andy so that he could avoid being drafted to serve in Vietnam. They’ve made a new place for themselves in Canada, and are content there. For both of them, ‘home’ has much less to do with a particular geographic place than it does with being together.
Of course, ‘home is where you are’ doesn’t always turn out well, as Joanna Lindsay discovers in Helen Fitzgerald’s The Cry. She and Alistair Robertson met and fell in love in Scotland, where he moved from his home outside Melbourne. Now he wants to return to Australia with Joanna and their nine-week-old son Noah. It’s not so much that he misses Australia, so he tells Joanna. What he wants is to fight for custody of his teenage daughter Chloe, who lives there with her mother Alexandra. He believes that a stay in Australia will strengthen his case. Joanna’s never been there, but she agrees to go; as many qualms as she may have about leaving Scotland, her home, as she sees it, is with Alistair and Noah. When they arrive in Australia, they begin a long drive to the house where they’ll be staying. Along the way, they face every parent’s worst nightmare: the loss of Noah. When his disappearance is reported to police, they start a massive search; soon, the Australian press goes into high gear about it. But gradually, questions are raised about, especially, Joanna’s possible role in what happened. As the story evolves, we learn what really happened to Noah. Without spoiling the plot, I can say that Joanna’s perception of home as ‘where my family is’ doesn’t turn out as she expected it would.
What about you? What do you think of when you think of ‘home?’ Is it family? A geographical place? A building? Thanks, Jan, for offering this rich ‘food for thought.’ Folks, do check out Jan’s wonderful writing blog, as well as her blog about life in Labrador.
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Billy Joel’s You’re My Home.