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Homesick

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The coming of age story of an award-winning translator, Homesick is about learning to love language in its many forms, healing through words and the promises and perils of empathy and sisterhood. Sisters Amy and Zoe grow up in Oklahoma where they are homeschooled for an unexpected reason: Zoe suffers from debilitating and mysterious seizures, spending her childhood in h The coming of age story of an award-winning translator, Homesick is about learning to love language in its many forms, healing through words and the promises and perils of empathy and sisterhood. Sisters Amy and Zoe grow up in Oklahoma where they are homeschooled for an unexpected reason: Zoe suffers from debilitating and mysterious seizures, spending her childhood in hospitals as she undergoes surgeries. Meanwhile, Amy flourishes intellectually, showing an innate ability to glean a world beyond the troubles in her home life, exploring that world through languages first. Amy's first love appears in the form of her Russian tutor Sasha, but when she enters university at the age of 15 her life changes drastically and with tragic results.


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The coming of age story of an award-winning translator, Homesick is about learning to love language in its many forms, healing through words and the promises and perils of empathy and sisterhood. Sisters Amy and Zoe grow up in Oklahoma where they are homeschooled for an unexpected reason: Zoe suffers from debilitating and mysterious seizures, spending her childhood in h The coming of age story of an award-winning translator, Homesick is about learning to love language in its many forms, healing through words and the promises and perils of empathy and sisterhood. Sisters Amy and Zoe grow up in Oklahoma where they are homeschooled for an unexpected reason: Zoe suffers from debilitating and mysterious seizures, spending her childhood in hospitals as she undergoes surgeries. Meanwhile, Amy flourishes intellectually, showing an innate ability to glean a world beyond the troubles in her home life, exploring that world through languages first. Amy's first love appears in the form of her Russian tutor Sasha, but when she enters university at the age of 15 her life changes drastically and with tragic results.

30 review for Homesick

  1. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    In Jennifer Croft's impressionistic memoir of sisterhood, Amy and Zoe, two children from an academic family in Oklahoma, are absolutely different and yet inseparable. Amy, the elder sister, is the family star, the perfectionist, obsessed by words and actions and collections, protective and attached to the three years younger Zoe, a lively and lovable girl striken by seizures caused by a brain tumor. Amy is our narrator, and unfolds a tale of mutual dependence and shakily growing separation, as t In Jennifer Croft's impressionistic memoir of sisterhood, Amy and Zoe, two children from an academic family in Oklahoma, are absolutely different and yet inseparable. Amy, the elder sister, is the family star, the perfectionist, obsessed by words and actions and collections, protective and attached to the three years younger Zoe, a lively and lovable girl striken by seizures caused by a brain tumor. Amy is our narrator, and unfolds a tale of mutual dependence and shakily growing separation, as they both fall in love with their homeschool language teacher, Sasha, from whom Zoe, in love with Oksana Bayul, takes Ukranian, and the brilliant Amy, in love with the figureskating pair Ekatarina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov--takes Russian. Zoe is still a child, 9 or 10, but Amy is twelve, is thirteen, and graduate student Sasha is a movie star to them. Following a bitter tragedy, the brilliant Amy is admitted to college--at 15 years old. There is no way to know if this will be a triumph or a curse. As the homeschooled girl struggles to find her way on frat row in the Honors House of the University of Tulsa, her beloved younger sister can't abide her absence, and runs away from home to live with her in the dorm--only to fall ill from her recurring seizures. Finally, the family leaves Amy behind to move to Minnesota with the parents, where the father gets a new teaching job. I found it fascinating and enigmatic that the memoir was written in third person, and that the persona of the author doesn't bear the author's name. But the more I thought about it, the more I understood--that in telling the story of Amy and Zoe, the author could present the picture of the two girls more equally. When it become I and the Other, I is automatically amplified, and the Other drops back into secondary character hood. Where in this book, Zoe is the other half of the story, by no means the lesser. That was phenomenally important to the story--the tenderness that Amy feels towards Zoe would probably not have rung as true or been as convincingly depicted in the first person. The small anecdotes which comprise the memoir--one or two page vignettes--alternate with enigmatic color photographs taken by Amy (thought in Sebald style, it's hard to know whether these are Amy/Jennifer's childhood photographs, or photographs later used to dimensionalize the memoir) juxtaposed to captions having to deal with words, word use and translation. (Jennifer Croft is a Man Booker Prize-winning translator of the Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk). All in all it's quite a heady brew for such a quiet book, readable in a day or two, but the power of it is such that you should be careful not to start it when you have other books you need to read, because it will hold you until it's done with you. A beautiful, unusual, simple yet deep work. Profoundly moving.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    Since I first received this book in March, I have read it twice. It’s something I rarely do unless I’m returning to one of the classics or to a touchstone, but this book demanded it, which I guess means it has become a touchstone. There is something to the way that Jennifer Croft explores the seams of language and the paths by which personal idiom intersects with, becomes collective parlance (and the opposite: the way we eke out private meaning from common language). The way words con Since I first received this book in March, I have read it twice. It’s something I rarely do unless I’m returning to one of the classics or to a touchstone, but this book demanded it, which I guess means it has become a touchstone. There is something to the way that Jennifer Croft explores the seams of language and the paths by which personal idiom intersects with, becomes collective parlance (and the opposite: the way we eke out private meaning from common language). The way words conjure image and the essence of the work of translation, part and parcel of our relationships and the agglutinating material of the systems of meaning embedded within them. Eschewing the esoteric language and frames that so often (wittingly and unwittingly) are employed to explain the task of the translator, Croft’s memoir of sisterhood, illness, and notions of home is, to my mind, a supreme example of what it is to inhabit a language, its dark corners and its bridges to points previously unknown. It is a personal reflection that, in its generosity, invites us to examine this phenomenon in our own lives.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Will

    “Every word is untranslatable if what translation is is making something new that stays the same . . . But that’s not what translation is.”

  4. 5 out of 5

    Idra

    This inventive, stellar memoir examines the tensions between siblings and their separate fates in the most unsettling, unexpected ways. Croft's keen attention to the nuances and music of language is abundantly present in every sentence of Homesick.

  5. 5 out of 5

    John

    First off, this is a beautiful book as object. From the swirling colors on the cover to the square color photographs integrated into the text. Frequently, as I read this, I couldn't help flipping through the pages to indulge in the physical pleasures of the book. And then the story itself, a memoir of the author's emergence in relation to her sister. Except that the author has given herself and her sister fictional names in order to write the memoir in the third person. And what I loved most abo First off, this is a beautiful book as object. From the swirling colors on the cover to the square color photographs integrated into the text. Frequently, as I read this, I couldn't help flipping through the pages to indulge in the physical pleasures of the book. And then the story itself, a memoir of the author's emergence in relation to her sister. Except that the author has given herself and her sister fictional names in order to write the memoir in the third person. And what I loved most about this voice was its compassion and wonder, and how tenderly it gave meaning to the book's title.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    Having won many awards, including the 2018 Booker for translation, lends to interest in Croft's story. Her gift for seeing a richness in words beyond that of others fascinates. The construct is unusual for a memoir, as she has changed all the names, including those of the two main characters, which are herself and her sister. Photographs, primarily hers, illustrate the book throughout.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Elijah Lucas

    This is an incredibly beautiful book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ayeh Bandeh-ahmadi

    The genius of this book is in how it tackles heavy themes (family secrets, mental illness, tragedy) through a really innovative and delightful format of vignettes interspersed with gorgeous, full-color photos. Croft layers the protagonist’s point of view then (via vignettes describing the events as they originally unfolded) and her point of view now (via photos and commentary on them as she writes the book). Together, the text and photos wrap their metaphorical big arms around the distances of t The genius of this book is in how it tackles heavy themes (family secrets, mental illness, tragedy) through a really innovative and delightful format of vignettes interspersed with gorgeous, full-color photos. Croft layers the protagonist’s point of view then (via vignettes describing the events as they originally unfolded) and her point of view now (via photos and commentary on them as she writes the book). Together, the text and photos wrap their metaphorical big arms around the distances of time and pain into a big hug. Croft wisely leaves much room (and trust) for the reader to fill in gaps between characters and across time and also to layer his or her own experiences about how we come to other the people we are closest to and how, if ever, we overcome those histories. In doing so, this is a book that elicits compassion and patience and acceptance. For someone who has put tremendous time and energy into reprogramming old patterns with family, into rebuilding relationships, into translating and connecting experiences, Homesick makes me feel so much less lonely and reminds us of the importance of the hard work and reflection we put into those struggles. Also, the narrator’s voice evokes childhood like nothing else! It’s worth reading it for that alone.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Donia

    Memoirs are subjective and are difficult to honestly review in that anyone with a caring personality would not wish to offend the writer and hence my quandary. I'm sorry this family had to endure what they did and wish them well but it is the publication that I am reviewing. Homesick is a lovely little book to hold and look at. The book is filled with small artsy photographs that any of us could produce throughout the pages. Along with the photographs is verse that shares the personal Memoirs are subjective and are difficult to honestly review in that anyone with a caring personality would not wish to offend the writer and hence my quandary. I'm sorry this family had to endure what they did and wish them well but it is the publication that I am reviewing. Homesick is a lovely little book to hold and look at. The book is filled with small artsy photographs that any of us could produce throughout the pages. Along with the photographs is verse that shares the personal journey of the author and her family as they learn about and deal with the illness of her younger sister. For what the book is, it is well done. My issue with the book is that it doesn't have any meaning for me as a general reader. Most of us have experienced tragedy and profound loss of one sort or another during our lives if we live long enough and readers will frequently resonate with an author depicting a tragedy, yet in this case the the book left me going, "huh".

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Vatner

    Homesick is a book that defies categorization. It's a memoir, it's a novel, it's a series of snapshots of a young life. The story of Amy, a brilliant Oklahoma girl whose sister Zoe suffers from frequent seizures, runs alongside an illustrated meditation on language and translation. The cumulative effect is gripping and moving and profound. I devoured the book and am still thinking about the sadness woven throughout.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany

    I may be a little biased because I am friends with the author and her family, but I think I would have loved the book regardless. It has such a unique format and voice with a story particular to one person but that anyone can relate to in one way or another. It's a poetic, emotional but optimistic, beautiful, portrait of two people and the relationship between them.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kimberli

    I’m not capable of writing a sentence worthy of describing/reviewing the writing that happens in this book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nesli Sen

    Captivating story. Croft is doing an amazing job weaving her memoir. I could not help but think the book is her quilt, an image that pops up throughout the story.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kaitlyn

    a memoir that refuses to fit into a genre written by someone with a love of languages--this book is 100% for me

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dan

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ayeh Bandeh-ahmadi

  17. 4 out of 5

    Azarin

  18. 5 out of 5

    Peter Wilhelm

  19. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte Whittle

  20. 4 out of 5

    Katie

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kari Doyle

  22. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Devlin

  23. 5 out of 5

    Colin

  24. 5 out of 5

    Max Hechter

  25. 5 out of 5

    Susannah

  26. 5 out of 5

    Brinna Dessert

  27. 4 out of 5

    Josh Hamilton

  28. 5 out of 5

    Aly Michelle

  29. 4 out of 5

    sydney healey

  30. 5 out of 5

    J

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