A moving reflection on the complicated nature of home and homeland, and the heartache and adventure of leaving an adopted country in order to return to your native land—this is a “winsome memoir of departure and reversal . . . about the way a series of unknowns accrue into a life” (Jia Tolentino, author of Trick Mirror).
When the New Yorker writer Rebecca Mead relocated to her birth city, London, with her family in the summer of 2018, she was both fleeing the political situation in America and seeking to expose her son to a wider world. With a keen sense of what she’d given up as she left New York, her home of thirty years, she tried to knit herself into the fabric of a changed London. The move raised poignant questions about place: What does it mean to leave the place you have adopted as home and country? And what is the value and cost of uprooting yourself?
In a deft mix of memoir and reportage, drawing on literature and art, recent and ancient history, and the experience of encounters with individuals, environments, and landscapes in New York City and in England, Mead artfully explores themes of identity, nationality, and inheritance. She recounts her time in the coastal town of Weymouth, where she grew up; her dizzying first years in New York where she broke into journalism; the rich process of establishing a new home for her dual-national son in London. Along the way, she gradually reckons with the complex legacy of her parents. Home/Land is a stirring inquiry into how to be present where we are, while never forgetting where we have been.
About the Author
REBECCA MEAD has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1997. She has profiled many subjects and has contributed more than two hundred pieces to the Talk of the Town. She is the author of One Perfect Day and My Life in Middlemarch, a New York Times best seller. She has served as a McGraw Professor of Writing at Princeton University and is the recipient of a 2020 Guggenheim Fellowship. She lives in London.
“A timely and powerful read . . . Clear and profound . . . Home/Land certainly has a memento mori quality, but it’s not depressing. In embracing the complexities and paradoxes of home and belonging, Mead also finds solace, even joy. She captures brilliantly the bittersweetness of being far from home. . . . Even for those who stay put, which is to say most of us for the last two years, Home/Land is a remarkable exploration of how being mindful of the past can enrich and imbue with urgency our everyday lives.”—Charles Arrowsmith, Los Angeles Times
“Exquisite detail . . . [With] many arresting images and diverting anecdotes . . . [Mead] has an exacting eye and a gift for trenchant phrasing.”—Becca Rothfeld, The New York Times
“Inventive . . . [Mead] deftly layers historical research with autobiography to unsettle familiar ideas of homecoming—and of memoir-writing. . . . At a time when little feels truly sturdy, Mead’s book is a reminder that having a place to return to, and a history to explore, is a luxury.”—Stephanie Hayes, The Atlantic
“Beautifully written . . . [Mead’s] non-linear approach never disorientates — rather, it invigorates, creating as it does a rich patchwork of overlapping ideas and recollections. . . . This is an artfully crafted memoir which offers a clear-eyed examination of home, roots, belonging, and personal and national identity.”—Malcolm Forbes, Star Tribune
“In her work at The New Yorker, Rebecca Mead has so often turned her wry, generous, graceful, and precise attention to the lives of others — here, in this winsome memoir of departure and reversal, it’s such a pleasure to read her excavating her own roots. Home/Land is about unexpected mobility, about historical chance and accident, about the way a series of unknowns accrue into a life; above all, it demonstrates the way displacement and longing has shaped Mead's manner of seeing into a profound gift.”—Jia Tolentino, author of Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion
“It might seem peculiar to describe a book as at once digressive and rigorous, but Rebecca Mead's superb Home/Land somehow manages the trick. This is an elegant, graceful and poignant memoir about decision and happenstance—a reflection upon what we inherit and what we assemble, and how the accidents of our days give way to a life of shapeliness and coherence.”—Gideon Lewis-Kraus, author of A Sense of Direction
“Compassionate, witty, at moments wonderfully exuberant, and at others, melancholy and wistful. Home/Land is a stirring book of memories and meditations, filled with the wild beauty of the English coast, the noise of SoHo's streets, and the great literature that captures the spirit of getting lost and finding home. Rebecca Mead made me fall in love with London and, at the same time, fall back in love with New York.”—Merve Emre, author of The Personality Brokers
“In her fine memoir of leaving and returning, Rebecca Mead confronts her American and English identities and explores with a precision at once surgical and elegiac the ‘questionable gift’ of a ‘lost place to long for.’ Her journey is personal, full of ambivalence about the ‘chilly, moated island’ she encounters after giving up the New York that freed her, but it is also a subtle exploration of an era when the ‘buried was coming to the surface.’ In Home/Land, past and present, loss and reconciliation, exist in exquisite symbiosis.”—Roger Cohen, author of The Girl from Human Street
“Unfailingly insightful, precise, and well written . . . Following the unexpected results of the 2016 presidential election, Mead moved with her husband and adolescent son from Brooklyn back to London, where she was born. Since she hadn’t lived in England for more than 30 years, the experience was a curious mix of homecoming and alienation, the distinct strands of which Mead disentangles with nuance and writerly sensitivity . . . She traces her family history from its humble origins . . . through a series of different London abodes, elegantly weaving in the larger socio-economic and urban-planning contexts of the storied city as she moves through each generation.”—Kirkus Reviews