Brittani Sonnenberg’s Home Leave isn’t what I expected it to be. And that is not to the detriment of the story. I did not expect to start a book about an ex-pat family’s life around the world in America to begin from the point of the view from the mother’s childhood house. It threw me for a loop at first but then it became clear that “home leave” really does begin with the literal home. There are a lot of cliches about houses and homes and they all fit Sonnenberg’s story.
Elise, Chris, Leah, and Sophie live in many houses over the course of thirty years plus years and they try their hardest to make a home in every city. And it rarely works.
Life for them, for the Kriegsteins, is a constant search for belonging and home – and Sonnenberg even traces Chris’ homeless roots back to a long-dead German ancestor. They never really realize what no one ever really wants to realize – that home is where your family is. You can set up as many living rooms and kitchens and bedrooms in as many cities as you can name but once your family is gone… you’re never really home.
The four Kriegsteins are perpetually searching for what they can’t have and I sense Sonnenberg’s allegory to the home leave of Americans living overseas and never really belonging in one place or another.
Home Leave, with it’s surprising perspectives – there is one at the end that rivals the house that starts the story, is a novel that made me want to live in Hamburg, Shanghai, Singapore, London, and Berlin at the same time it made me want to stay home. There’s no easy answer and that’s what makes this book really, really good.
(I received a copy of Home Leave via the Goodreads FirstReads Giveaways in return for an honest & original review.)