Homesick, by Jennifer Croft, tells the story of Amy and her relationship with her little sister, Zoe. It is a bildungsroman of sorts, starting when Amy is five years old. The sisters are close, with Amy believing it is she who looks after Zoe rather than their parents. She is content with this arrangement until she reaches her teenage years when the secrets she keeps from her sibling increase.
The family lives in Oklahoma, close to the girls’ grandparents who they see regularly. The mother wishes her children to understand the realities of the world they live in, telling them stories of disasters, natural and man-made. The girls share a bedroom and draw comfort from each other when these anecdotes cause nightmares. Although not wealthy, theirs is a happy enough childhood until Zoe gets diagnosed with a health issue that could kill her.
Removed from school, Amy thrives academically. She enrols early at university but finds herself unravelling there. She believes her successes have come at a cost to those she cares most for. To save them may require a sacrifice.
The book is structured in short, succinct chapters. Despite its brevity, much of depth is conveyed. The author is a master of language and uses it to effect. The story remains warm and engaging despite elements of tragedy.
Originally written in Spanish in 2014, Homesick was published in Argentina under the apt title, Snakes and Ladders. It was described as a memoir, the key events in Amy’s life mirroring the author’s. This new, English edition is marketed as a novel and dedicated to Croft’s sister.
Whether Amy is based on the author or not, the tale told is riveting. Written with elan and compassion it captures the close world of childhood, how it shapes the emerging adult in myriad ways. The minimalist portrayal adds power to the complexities of character conveyed. A recommended read that will linger beyond the final page.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Charco Press.