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Home Town


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About the Author

Tracy Kidder is an American nonfiction author and Pulitzer Prize winner. He studied at Harvard College and served in the United States Army.


Kidder has gained fame with his popular nonfiction portrayals of people in ordinary circumstancesÄnursing home residents in Old Friends (LJ 9/93), elementary students and their teacher in Among Schoolchildren (LJ 8/89). The "home town" in his latest book is Northampton, MA, a Berkshires community of 29,000. The narrative centers on policeman Tom O'Connor, a Northampton native, and his partner, who is being investigated for incest. In a series of asides, Kidder records Lieutenant O'Connor's encounters with Northampton's fringe dwellers: a drug informant, a stripper, a lawyer with obsessive-compulsive disorder, a welfare student at Smith. The reader is also introduced to O'Connor's wife, Jean, who is trying to get pregnant, and his father, Bill, an inveterate storyteller. In the end, Tom's buddy pleads guilty and Tom leaves Northampton to take a job with the FBI. Kidder's book, like life in Northampton, is ultimately boring and lackluster. Recommended, with reservations, for libraries that cater to Kidder's many fans.ÄCarol Ann McAllister, Coll. of William & Mary Lib., Williamsburg, VA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Kidder (The Soul of the New Machine) applies his hands-on style of journalism to an examination of small-town AmericaÄspecifically Northampton, Mass., home of Smith CollegeÄthrough assembling a group portrait of some of its everyday citizens. His central premiseÄ"if you do all your growing up in the same small place, you don't shed identities, you accumulate them"Äis chiefly demonstrated through the story of Tommy, a local cop. He's first seen as a mischievous teenage townie, an "exuberant youth" wooing his high school sweetheart, living in a white clapboard house. As Tommy grows into adulthood, Kidder shows his life becoming more complex, as when a childhood friend and fellow cop is suspected of child abuse. Because Kidder's writing style is so descriptive, it abridges easily into self-contained observational episodes, and reader Krall, though animated in his character depictions, preserves Kidder's overriding tone of earnestness. Based on the 1999 Random House hardcover. (May) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

YA-Kidder presents a masterful guided tour of Northampton, MA, which dates back to the Puritans and then became a mill town during the Northeast's industrial boom. It suffered from urban blight during the blossoming of suburbia, but has recently managed a high-end renaissance. The author's goal is to show readers the community through the eyes of its citizens, particularly a young, straight-arrow police officer who sees not only the plush Northampton of yuppies and Smith College professors, but also the projects. Tommy seems to know everyone in town, from the hardworking female mayor to a drug dealer turned informant who teaches him the ins and outs of the crack business. There is also the town eccentric, a lawyer and real-estate mogul who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder. Teens will be especially interested in Laura Baumeister, a Smith College student in her 20s on a special scholarship. Together she and her young son must learn to adjust to life at the prestigious institution while maneuvering through the unforgiving welfare system. The lives of these and many other citizens intertwine to provide a moving picture of life in a small New England city.-Jane Drabkin, Chinn Park Regional Library, Prince William, VA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Booklist (starred review) A remarkably detailed, accomplished, and empathic portrait....Kidder's acutely observed, crisply written, and utterly absorbing documentary proves that there is nothing on this spinning earth more amazing and full of grace than everyday life.
Grand Rapids Press (MI) Home Town is a masterwork.
People ...a grand vision of a small place.
The Boston Globe Kidder's protagonist...is Northampton itself. And there's no better way to see it than with a Kidder's-eye view.
The New York Times In Tommy O'Connor, Kidder has given us that rare thing, a rich likeness of a breathing, complicated human being.
The Philadelphia Inquirer ...nothing less than a valentine to a place and the people who nurture it. It may be Kidder's best and most elegiac work.
The Sun (Baltimore) Kidder is a master of the nonfiction narrative, one of those rare writers who can make a reader forget the story and instead experience the sensation of life happening before his or her eyes. In doing this so well, and in getting it right, Tracy Kidder transports us to an ordinary place where ordinary people live ordinary lives -- and every bit of it is fascinating.
Time Extraordinary
USA Today A book about the fabric that holds a town together...it proves drama, large or small, Is found in unlikely places.
Jonathan Harr author of A Civil Action ...at times hilarious, at times painful, and altogether spellbinding.

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