Racculia’s wonderful novel centers on Amy, who is dead in reality but seems to be very much alive in the minds of people whose lives she entered and affected irrevocably. Mona (short for Desdemona, I love this name) Jones and her daughter, Oneida are two of the mentioned people. They own the Derby-Jones boardinghouse in New York and make it a home to a few renters. Life couldn’t be more peaceful, bordering on boring even. Oneida is a nerdy teenager with no real friends, Mona runs the house and her wedding cake business and everything seems to be as it should. Until one day, a new renter arrives. It happens to be Andy Rook, a devastated and a slightly deranged husband of a newly deceased Amy. In his denial that his wife is truly dead, he decided to open a mysterious pink box that belonged to Amy hoping to find something that could keep her alive for him. What he finds brings him to Ruby Falls, New York and Mona Jones, and Oneida, and a lot more secrets than he bargained for. The pink box and its contents hold a story of Mona’s and Amy’s friendship, of their lives and ultimately tell the truth that Andy might not be prepared to hear. But you, my dear reader, better be prepared for one hell of a story within the pages of This Must Be the Place.
To describe this book in only a few words really is nearly impossible but were I to make an attempt, I would call it rich and succulent. That was my first impression when I finished it. I loved the characters, all of them brought something to the table that wasn’t there before. Kate just did a wonderful job by making them all so different and yet fit so well into one big picture. There is Oneida, the nerdy teenager and Eugene “Wendy” Wendell, the feared boy who falls for Oneida’s strangeness. Their budding relationship, the newness and sometimes even hilarity of sexual intimacy was exactly the way I imagine teenage relationships go nowadays. Both of them were really endearing. And then there is Mona with her secrets and beauty she is completely unaware of, poor Andy, whose perfect picture of his wife is being shattered into pieces right in front of his eyes, and finally dead Amy, who seems to be quite alive in the lives of people she affected in one way or another. Truly, a beautiful cornucopia of characters. All I needed to do is just relax and enjoy. I honestly fell in love with each and every one of the people. I laughed when reading about their antics, I cried at the depth of love and friendship, and I pondered on what really makes a family.
I know I will be coming back to visit Ruby Falls more than once. This Must Be The Place is a keeper, take my word for it. It's a perfect summer read, a perfect winter read, a perfect any time of the year read. It's light but asks important questions, it's a coming-of-age story in more ways than you'd expect and once finished, it leaves you wanting to go back to the first page and start over again. Kate Racculia's book is exactly all I love about contemporary American fiction and I hope that tons of people will get to love it too.
I received this novel from Henry Holt & Co for a review.
Make sure you visit Kate's awesome website.