Who Says You Can’t Go Home?

Home. It’s an emotionally charged word. For me, “home” brings up images of warmth, good food, comfort, and a sense of rightness. And for me, that sense of warmth and rightness has always included books.

In fact, as I sit here writing this post, I am surrounded by books. When we bought our house, one of the first things my husband did was install custom built, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in the small room we turned into a den/library. It took us all of one weekend to fill them. While I was away last weekend, he moved a smaller bookshelf into the room. It’s already more than half full.

Literature and music is full of the sentiment that once you’ve left “home,” you can’t go back. But I’m not sure that’s true. If home is where the heart is, then don’t we take home with us wherever we go? In our mobile, 21st century society, most of us will call many physical locations “home.” But I bet if we think about it, those places all share some things in common – whether it’s a color scheme or piles of books everywhere, from the back of the toilet to the living room.

Yes, home exists in the mind. Which means it can exist in places other than a physical address. It can exist in fiction and literature, too. A favorite book can feel like “home.” For example, Pride and Prejudice feels like home to me – something I can read over and over, and still get the warm fuzzies.

And I think that’s why books, especially series books, connect so deeply with readers. We spend time with these characters. We learn their world, put down our own roots. Series books invite readers to come in, put their feet up, and stay a while. Maybe have a cup of tea while we’re at it. It’s a complete “come as you are” invitation. Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne don’t care if we’re in our jammies when we visit. Harry Potter doesn’t mind if we take our shoes off and there’s a hole in our sock. It’s home.

Just as we enjoy catching up with family over Thanksgiving dinner (well, most of us), we enjoy learning about new doings in the lives of our favorite characters. What is Kinsey Milhone up to now? Will Jake Brogan and Jane Ryland ever get it together? Who knows? That’s part of why we read.

As a writer, I know my characters feel more like friends than fictional people. As such, I want to spend time with them, see what’s going on in their lives (okay, yes, I’m supposed to know that, but characters have a way of surprising you). I’d like to sit on the back porch and have a beer with my PSP trooper Jim Duncan, share a glass of wine with Sally, or have a girls’ night with Jaycee.

Because for me, as I hope it is for my readers, all of it is just like going home.

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Author: Liz Milliron

Liz Milliron has been making up stories, and creating her own endings for other people's stories, for as long as she can remember. She's worked for fifteen years in the corporate world, but finds making things up is far more satisfying than writing software manuals. A lifelong mystery fan, her short fiction has been published in online magazines Uppagus and Mysterical-e. She has also had stories included in Lucky Charms: 12 Crime Tales, Blood on the Bayou (the 2016 Bouchercon anthology), Fish Out of Water, and Mystery Most Historical. She is a past president of the Pittsburgh chapter of Sisters in Crime. Visit her online at http://lizmilliron.com, find her on Facebook at https://facebook.com/LizMilliron, or follow her on Twitter (@LizMilliron).

8 thoughts on “Who Says You Can’t Go Home?”

  1. Books are a kind of home, you’re right. That’s why series are like going home. For me, Tolkien is my best home, then J.K. Rowlings. When I have a new James Rollins or Steve Berry, I’m definitely home again.

  2. All very true, Mary. One of my favorite places to spend time is Sleepyside-on-the-Hudson. Those Trixie Belden books captured “home” like no other series! I think I first related to The Burg in the Stephanie Plum books because I’d recently moved to Texas from the northeast and the descriptions of Jersey reminded me of home.

  3. I’m so glad you mentioned books on the toilet! I’m exactly the same way. Books in every room, please. A house must have books and plants, or I’m not comfortable. What I don’t get are folks who relegate their bookshelves to the garage…What’s that about?

  4. 1. Great topic. (I was *just* drafting something up about characters and their homes this morning, too, for my post next week, ha!) We ARE interested as readers.
    2. I want your library! Do you think your husband will build me some shelves? 😉

  5. Cynthia, he loves building things. He also built two sets of bookshelves to flank our fireplace (shorter ones) and custom wainscoting for the dining room. I’m sure something can be worked out. 🙂

  6. This so resonated with me. Home is definitely more than one thing. For me, yes, books and plants are a must. Even my office at work has those things! And yes, revisiting certain books or series evoke a feeling of “home-ness”. When I’m hopelessly frazzled, I can dive into any J.D. Robb book, and lose myself in the familiarity of it. Trixie! One of my favorites–I’m anxious to share her with my daughter, although our tastes are very different. My favorite part of this: the come as you are concept. So spot-on! (PS I met Julia Spencer-Fleming this weekend–she’s SO lovely! And funny, too.)

  7. What a great, thought-provoking post on the deeper meaning of going home. I’m trying to teach my kids some of what you’ve talked about here and hope one day they understand!

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