I tend to only read short story collections if I am already a fan of the author through reading their novels. I've read and enjoyed both The Poisonwood Bible and The Lacuna by Kingsolver, so I was excited to see this collection available at the library. It contains twelve stories, all very different from each other but all united by their strong sense of place.
The stand out piece of the collection was the title story, Homeland. Gloria's Great-Grandmother is dying and her parents become convinced that Great Mam would like nothing more than to visit Cherokee as she is a Native American who once belonged to the Bird Clan. But when they get there, the commercialism and misrepresentation of the culture breaks Great Mam's heart and Gloria can't bear to watch. Other stories that I appreciated were Rose-Johnny, about prejudice towards those associated with mixed race families, Stone Dreams, about having the courage to move on in your life if you need to, and Blueprints, about loneliness within marriage.
In fact, all of the stories in this collection were well written and Kingsolver was able to hook me into each one very quickly, something essential for short story writing. But the best thing about the stories was the vivid backdrop that the setting for each provided. From the desert to hippie trailer parks to the deep South to St Lucia, Kingsolver bought each place alive and made it as much of a character as the actual humans in her stories. Thinking about it, this is exactly what I loved about The Poisonwood Bible and The Lacuna too - that experience of being transported to somewhere new.
As with any short story collection, there were some stories that weren't as strong as the others. Occasionally the female characters felt a bit too introspective and a bit too similar to each other but as a collection as a whole it's one of the strongest I've read. Recommended especially for armchair travellers.
First Published: 1989
Score: 3.5 out of 5