What if Ann Patchett wrote a novel about cam girls? On Home chronicles three generations of women, each leaving Appalachia to find a new life, each pulled back to the land they know.
When tragedy strikes, Cassidy, a cam girl living in Southern California, must return to the small West Virginia town she left behind. Cassidy likes her job getting naked for men on camera, though she prefers sex with women. She never came out to her family or friends back in her home state—not about her sexuality and certainly not about her sex work. Now, she must figure out how to hold on to the life she’s built for herself while picking up the pieces of her fractured family.
As Cassidy's story unfolds, we glimpse into the lives of the strong, complicated women who came before her: Jane, the sheltered daughter of farmers, escapes West Virginia for Washington, DC to work as a Government Girl for the FBI during World War II, until a fateful mistake threatens her future. Paloma, a Fulbright Scholar, journeys to newly Westernized Prague—only to fall for an idealistic but safe man from West Virginia.
Though worlds and generations apart, all three search for meaning as they face impending motherhood and the pull to return home to rural Appalachia.
A Note From the Publisher
On Home explores the nuances of online sex work with unabashed curiosity: though a burgeoning industry, very few fiction books explore sex work, and even fewer treat online sex work as legitimate. That tension triumphs in this novel.
The young protagonist's journey highlights the complexities of coming out in different geographic and relationship spaces as well as the notion that being open about one's sexuality includes more than one's place on the LGBTQ+ spectrum.
The novel offers a timely addition to an Appalachian literature renaissance spurred by backlash to JD Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, especially with a focus on tolerance of the “other” in the American south.
The novel embraces timelessly complicated feelings about home: On Home is both a love letter to West Virginia and an honest exploration of the suffocating insularity sometimes inherent in small-town America.
On Home offers immersive historical detail: two of the three narratives are inspired by first-hand sources of two distinct historical moments—the Government Girls of World War II and early 1990s Prague after the fall of the Soviet Union.
"On Home artfully complicates the familiar Appalachian escape narrative with characters whose experiences of home, like that of love, are in the choosing." —Jessie Van Eerden, Author of Call It Horses, Winner of the 2019 Dzanc Books Prize for Fiction
“A story about the joy found in the present moment. From embracing the anchor of unconditional love. And ultimately, from becoming part of the shared history that makes a place truly our home.” —Donna Meredith, Associate Editor of Southern Literary Review
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Average rating from 31 members
Becca Spence Dobias is a dear friend, and I have had the pleasure of editing her work several times. I am so pleased that ON HOME will soon be out in the world. Although Cassidy is the main protagonist, this is really a family story, with many layers going back generations. Cassidy makes her living doing cam work in California, but her roots are back in West Virginia. Her mother, Paloma, and her grandmother, Jane, both tell their parts of the story. In short, arresting chapters, we cycle through their points of view. Jane, who is in a nursing home now, reflects on her life as a Government Girl during World War II, while Paloma recollects her time spent in Czechoslovakia with Cassidy's father, Ken. Jane isn't doing well, and Paloma wants Cassidy to come home - but when Ken dies unexpectedly, Cassidy doesn't have a choice but to return. Through the flashbacks and unfolding of the present-day story, the novel explores the definition of home and what makes a place a home. It also comments on how our identities are tied to the places we're from, and how we can feel contempt for a place and yet be inextricably tied to it. Finally, there's the definition of family and how we make it, through both blood ties and chosen relationships. Layered with these themes is the lyrical writing, which propels the reader through each story and the novel as a whole. Since Becca is my friend, I can honestly say that I am jealous of how well she writes - with surprising turns of phrase that delight the reader on each page. Readalikes are going to be different depending on what brings you to the story. I would definitely recommend this book for those who enjoyed Natalka Burian's DAUGHTERS OF THE WILD. Burian's book includes magical realism, but both novels are set in Appalachia and contain gorgeous writing. I might also recommend to fans of Chloe Benjamin's THE IMMORTALISTS, another well-researched family story told from differing perspectives.
This beautifully written book is a sensitive and insightful portrait of three generations of women struggling with sexuality, relationships and belonging. Grandma Jane's story begins post-WW2 as she leaves her small town in West Virginia to go and work in the big city - Washington D.C where men in uniform seem to prey on young, impressionable women. Paloma, Jane's daughter-in-law, meets her husband, Ken in Prague while she's teaching at a university there. Cassidy, Paloma's daughter, left West Virginia behind and is a cam girl in Southern California. When her father, Ken is killed in an accident, she comes home intending only to stay for the funeral, but fate takes a turn . The setting of small town, West Virginia is a major factor in this novel. Jane sees it as a place of safety while Paloma, who at first viewed it as a good place to raise a family, feels suffocated and longs for the liberated lifestyle she left behind in Prague. Cassidy feels that returning to Buckannon is a sign of her continued failure in the eyes of her mother, and the interaction between the two is prickly and distant as they try to interact without the buffer of Cassidy's beloved father. The interaction between the three women and their attempts to come to terms with their life in the small town, and their place in the world as women, is skilfully and expertly portrayed by Dobias who weaves a well-paced, compelling story that deals with many deep human issues such as the fleeting nature of experience as well as the sanctuary of home and family, and the power of love.