If Home Is a Place

by K. Linda Kivi,
276 pages,
ISBN: 189609502X

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First Novels - A Stay-at-home Travel Agent
by Eva Tihanyi

The concept of "home", especially the refugee's struggle to come to terms with the loss of it and the immigrant's need to recreate it, is the theme of K. Linda Kivi's If Home Is a Place (Polestar, 176 pages, $16.95 paper). The novel, although it employs multiple narrators, is primarily the story of twenty-seven-year-old Esther, a second-generation daughter of Estonian parents who barely escaped Europe with their lives during World War II. The story alternates between the 1943-48 period (the lives of Esther's mother, aunt, and grandmother) and Esther's life in the nineties. These time and place shifts illustrate various ways of looking at "home". Home is not only where we live but whom we live with and what we carry within us. When Esther's grandmother recalls family history, the history itself becomes a "home".

Esther has been raised with the understanding that home "is never a given." She has also been raised with her relatives' fears, desires, and contradictions: "Her parents had wanted her to reach for what they could not have, but not what they didn't want."

She is concerned with what she calls "making home". She wants to create a place where she belongs as an individual in her own right, away from her family, and it is this quest that fuels the book.


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