CBR10Bingo: Home Sweet Home
Growing up in Nebraska, Willa Cather was required reading. I loved loved loved My Ántonia in junior high, but I soured on her after reading O Pioneers! and hating the bummer of a preachy ending. When I first saw the Home Sweet Home square, I thought I might have to give one of her other books a try until I remembered I have a new favorite Nebraska author, thanks to CBR: Rainbow Rowell!
Eleanor & Park went right to my wishlist after I read Fangirl and Carry On this spring, and though I wouldn’t have minded waiting a bit to stretch out my RR enjoyment, I also didn’t mind having an excuse to move it up on my TBR list. Even with my sky-high expectations, given how much I loved those first two books, this one did not disappoint.
Eleanor is new to the school bus and to the school, having gotten a late start to the year. Park grew up in the neighborhood and has known most of the other kids his whole life. Eleanor reluctantly takes the empty spot next to Park, who does his best to pretend she doesn’t exist. And so it begins . . .
They find each other strange and annoying at first, but when Park catches Eleanor reading comics over his shoulder, he softens and begins sharing his books and music. Eleanor is hesitant and guarded, even as the two become friendly and begin to discover their mutual attraction. She knows her mother and stepfather would never let her date anyone, let alone someone . . . well, you know . . . different. As they grow closer, and as Park’s family opens their home to Eleanor, she worries about what will happen when the inevitable blowup comes. Will Park let her down like everyone else in her life?
There’s a moment where Eleanor thinks about “jumping from something so high that she’d never hit bottom”. It reminded me of those times in high school and college when I was in so much pain that I thought about driving so fast that I’d miss a corner and just sail off and never come down. My heart broke for Eleanor as I relived those same fears of being discovered and destroyed, the same feeling of hopelessness that comes from being utterly trapped. That’s the magic of Rainbow Rowell. She’s willing to give her characters real problems. She lets them be imperfect and vulnerable, but she also gives them strength and resilience.
I don’t kid myself that I have anything new to add about this book here, given that it’s one of the all-time most-reviewed on the site. I can only say that I love Rowell’s storytelling. I love her little Easter eggs for us Nebraska kids. (SKATELAND FOREVER!) I love how she knows that kids can be nasty to each every day but turn around and stand right up for each other when adults are being assholes. Her books are funny and touching and joyful and melancholy, all at once, and I’m so glad that I’ll be able to look back on the massive tire fire that is 2018 and remember it as the year I finally found Rainbow Rowell.