Home Sweet Home
This page-turner about a liberal New York City family that leaves the rat race for a simple life in South Dakota in 1950 is not only entertaining but also thought-provoking. Its depiction of the conspiracy-riddled McCarthy era reminds us that fear-mongering, propaganda, and hatred are not new in American life.
Cal Kusek, a WWII pilot, and his wife Betsy, expect culture shock when they arrive in rural Rapid City with their daughter and son, Jo and Lance—but it doesn’t fully hit until more than a decade later, when Cal, now a successful attorney, runs for the U.S. Senate. His opponent, a popular, ultra-conservative talk-show host, learns about Betsy’s short-lived experiment with Communism many years before, and uses it to his advantage, embarking on a smear campaign that turns most of the community against the entire family.
The story rings all too familiarly with anyone following the news today, and highlights how little we’ve learned, or grown, in America over the last 65 years. Smith tells the story skillfully, although her writing is not as sophisticated or as finely tuned as one wishes: at times, she tells too much instead of trusting the reader’s discernment. She also uses a distracting and, it turns out, unnecessary framing device: an attack on a family member in the present time. She seems to be trying to inject a “whodunit” and will-they-live suspense into the story, but this book would be stronger without it. Overall, though, it’s an engrossing read with valuable lessons for our time. Recommended.