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Can’t Go Home Again

I grew up in Lynchburg, Virginia, a city much more beautiful than it sounds. My mother was a voracious reader, and though we couldn’t afford to buy new books often (library junkies, yes we were!), occasionally she would take me to the Little Dickens bookshop where they sold new and used books. I loved the smell of old paper pages marked by dust and fingerprints. I like the smell of new books too, but there’s something about the human connection captured in a used book that motivates me to join the community of readers before me who discovered this book and devoted hours in a day to explore it. (I’m a sucker for secondhand, eclectic items. What’s more eclectic than a writer’s mind on the printed page?) Anyway, we loved going to Little Dickens where we were like heroes crossing a threshold who returned with our boon of books. I loved this place more than any other place in my hometown (except for the mall during my acne-prone teenage years. Yes, I was obnoxious. Only a couple years, right, Mom?)

I moved away from my hometown as so many Americans do, but whenever I go home to visit my mother and sister, my husband and I go to visit the bookstore which is now called Givens Bookstore and is housed in a much bigger, brighter building. They even have a local coffee shop called The Sleepy Poet. (Amazing bean dip!) I am a devoted Givens customer, when I’m in Lynchburg, and a devoted independent bookstore supporter at large. I’m so grateful independent bookstores are finding creative ways to ride the changes in reader tastes and publishing and discovering ways to be the hub for literary life in their towns.

I’m so lucky to have my own hometown bookstore in Charlotte, NC. Park Road Books has supported my career from the publication of my first novel Season of the Dragonflies and now with my second book The Whole Way Home. I’ve reached out multiple times to Givens in Lynchburg to see if they’d have me for a reading. I’ve asked them to carry my books, considering I’m a local girl, but to no avail. They have their reasons, I’m sure. Thomas Wolfe’s novel You Can’t Go Home Again was aptly titled. Returning home has been a major theme in both of my novels. Can we return home? How does adulthood shift our relationship to home? Is home a physical place only? Can home be a person? A feeling? I haven’t fully worked out my ideas just yet. I’m certain this theme will keep coming up so long as I’m lucky enough to continue writing!

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