cover image A Place in the World: Finding the Meaning of Home

A Place in the World: Finding the Meaning of Home

Frances Mayes. Crown, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-0-593-44333-0

Novelist Mayes (See You in the Piazza) delivers a soulful meditation on “what home means, how it hooks the past and pushes into the future” in her spellbinding latest. She examines the question through an evocative tour of her homes: there’s Chatwood, with its demanding yet rewarding rose garden in Hillsborough, N.C. (“As much as you own an old house and garden,” she ruefully muses, “it owns you”); Bramasole, the Tuscan villa in Cortona, Italy, immortalized in her hit 1996 memoir Under the Tuscan Sun; and her childhood Georgia home, a place that conjures memories of her mother’s cooking (the mouthwatering recipes for which are sprinkled throughout). Elsewhere, temporary dwellings induce reflections on life changes: cooking lessons at Simone Beck’s “honey-colored house” in Provence, for example, inspired Mayes to enroll in graduate school and begin a career as a teacher and writer. As she meanders through her memories, poignant takes on transience and mortality mingle with tributes to the people who bring her homes their vitality: friends, family, and Italian neighbors who drop off gifts of fresh ricotta, wine, eggs, zinnias, and tomatoes. “For my part,” Mayes writes, “these gifts give me a chance to feel at home in the world.” This rich testament to the pleasures of wanderlust and permanence is a gift as well. (Aug.)