Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Group Review: This Must Be the Place

Summary: A sudden death, a never-mailed postcard, and a longburied secret set the stage for a luminous and heartbreakingly real novel about lost souls finding one another.

The Darby-Jones boardinghouse in Ruby Falls, New York, is home to Mona Jones and her daughter, Oneida, two loners and self-declared outcasts who have formed a perfectly insular family unit: the two of them and the three eclectic boarders living in their house. But their small, quiet life is upended when Arthur Rook shows up in the middle of a nervous breakdown, devastated by the death of his wife, carrying a pink shoe box containing all his wife's mementos and keepsakes, and holding a postcard from sixteen years ago, addressed to Mona but never sent. Slowly the contents of the box begin to fit together to tell a story—one of a powerful friendship, a lost love, and a secret that, if revealed, could change everything that Mona, Oneida, and Arthur know to be true. Or maybe the stories the box tells and the truths it brings to life will teach everyone about love—how deeply it runs, how strong it makes us, and how even when all seems lost, how tightly it brings us together. With emotional accuracy and great energy, This Must Be the Place introduces memorable, charming characters that refuse to be forgotten.

Jenn's Review: I was intrigued by the summary of this book when Julie told me she was getting an Advanced Reading Copy, and totally thrilled to find out Jason at Henry Holt sent me a copy too ~WOW am I glad he did!

This was a refreshing read that was hard to put down. There are several main characters in the book and all of them are accessible and fascinating in their own right (which is not an easy feat, mind you). Even though I didn't love all of the characters immediately, the more I read, the more endeared I became. Racculia jumps from character to character advancing the story from different points of view and each character's recollections, but not once did it feel disjointed or choppy. It left me craving more of each person's story and Racculia doesn't disappoint on that front either.

I loved the entire concept of the plot ~the rippling effect one unsent postcard could have on the lives of so many. So unfold the secrets of the past, and possibly the key to the future, with twists and turns I never imagined. By the end of the book the characters seemed like old friends with whom I didn't want to loose touch.

Racculia's writing style is smooth and unhindered. It seems so honest. I found it to be a stunning debut novel and I can't wait to see what else she has in store for us.

Jenn's Final Take: 5/5

Julie's Review: In case you didn't know, I love coming of age stories and I don't think they necessarily have to be traditional in the sense that the only time you come of age is during your teen years. For a debut novel, Ms. Racculia sure knows how to write. She tells the story from different points of view that flow easily and steadily. I never felt that I got lost by the different voices telling the story. Each one was distinct and unique. This Must Be the Place: A Novel is about the things in our past that come back to bite us in the butt. Not necessarily bad but they disturb the lives that the characters have built. Amy Henderson Rook is the catalyst in how the story explodes and how the lives of Mona, Oneida and Arthur intersect. In the book it all comes down to how Amy affected their lives. I didn't particularly like Amy. I thought she was selfish and irresponsible. She definitely wasn't a good friend but she was Mona's best friend.

Arthur comes to Ruby Falls, NY to discover who Amy was when she was younger. I don't really think he had any idea what he was in for. Nor did Mona and Oneida when he shows up at the Darby-Jones house. Chaos pretty much ensues once he arrives on a couple of different fronts for all of them.

All three characters are flushed out well and developed. I enjoyed all 3 for different reasons. I love that Mona was responsible even at 16 and I loved that her daughter Oneida was a bit more like Amy in the fact that she was a bit more irresponsible. I loved reading about Oneida and Wendy (Eugene). Those were the parts that I found the most endearing probably because we've all been teenagers and tried to find where we fit in.

Ms. Racculia had a wonderful way of wrapping up the story. She did it in such a way that we know everything would be ok without giving us that proverbial bow. She is an amazing storyteller. The way she described Ruby Falls and Darby-Jones house, makes me want to visit. I felt that I was an observer in their lives and became a friend. The book is warm, refreshing and original.

You know a book will stay with you when you finish it, go to bed and dream about the characters and there lives. If they ever make a movie out of this, Jason Ritter should play Arthur because he was him in my dream. Premonition, maybe?

If you want a great novel that develops the characters, the setting and a fantastic story, go and pick up This Must Be the Place: A Novel you won't regret it.

Like Jenn, I can't wait to see what this author comes up with next.

Julie's Final Take: 5/5

Thanks to Jason @Henry Holt for the ARCs!!



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