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Home Town

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  1,076 ratings  ·  117 reviews
In this splendid book, one of America's masters of nonfiction takes us home--into Hometown, U.S.A., the town of Northampton, Massachusetts, and into the extraordinary, and the ordinary, lives that people live there. As Tracy Kidder reveals how, beneath its amiable surface, a small town is a place of startling complexity, he also explores what it takes to make a modern smal ...more
Paperback, 349 pages
Published April 20th 1999 by Random House (first published 1999)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,862)
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Vicky Pinpin-Feinstein
At the outset, I should say I am a big fan of Tracy Kidder. I have read several of his books and so therefore I am biased in this review. However, given that I only read books I have an interest in or that the author is someone I admire, what I have to say here can be helpful to those:
(1) interested in how a local community works and relates to the larger society; (2) how the trained senses of Tracy Kidder as a seasoned writer can create such a tour de force rendition of seemingly ordinary lives
Home Town is a profile/biography of an old Massachusetts town as seen (mostly) through the thoughts of a local cop who grew up there. The cop (Tommy O'Connor) suffers as all cops do from an excess of dealing with the lower strata of society. He makes up for it, though, with a generous spirit that somehow maintains its belief in the possibility of redemption. He also retains a sense of humor that has recognizable and appealing Irish Catholic and blue-collar roots.

When Kidder isn't writing about
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I have enjoyed many of Tracy Kidder's books - my two favorites were Mountains beyond Mountains and Old Friends. Home Town has some good parts but I never really connected with it. I think it was my problem because I had expectations of what the book was going to be about and then it wasn't.

This is the story of a smallish town (12,000 people) of Northampton, MA as seen by one of its policemen. The main character is likable and we get to see him as a full person, not just as a cop. The first chapt
This book was so interesting to read. I loved the characters, and they were actually real people. I am very interested in local politics wherever I am. This city and the issues they have dealt with was so interesting to read about. Northampton has such a cool history and atmosphere. I felt as though I lived there myself while reading the book. It made me want to visit the places described. To me it typifies America today--a conflict between the liberal, highly educated groups and the day to day ...more
Melissa Norton
A vivid, detailed and thoughtful social history of Northampton, Massachusetts, Home Town is vintage Tracy Kidder. He traces the ordinary lives of several residents, deftly interlacing history and subtle social commentary. Police officer Tom O'Connor emerges as the symbolic core of the book, and his personal and professional experiences draw the reader in. Laura Burmeister, a nontraditional student at Smith College, is another major character, and her story bridges the socioeconomic classes in a ...more
I didn't dislike this book, but It never grabbed me either. Kidder fleshes out all of the characters, especially Tommy and Alan, in such detail, and it's impossible not to admire such painstaking reporting, but I never felt compelled to keep going to see what happened to them.

Part of my problem is that it feels dated, at least reading it 15 years after publication. The life it describes isn't recent enough to feel contemporary, nor old enough to feel like a piece of history. It lands somewhere i
Brilliantly written view of Northampton, Massachusetts. Home Town reads like a collection of linked stories (which it is) as seen through the eyes of police force veteran Tommy O'Connor. Tracy Kidder captures the small town sensibilities typical of old New England college towns--the kind with a real downtown and an eclectic mix of established families and newcomers of all stripes. At the same time,Kidder also captures O'Connor's conflicted feelings about staying in his "home town" versus venturi ...more
I really enjoy Tracy Kidder's writing but I would argue that this wasn't his strongest book. Still, a weak book by Kidder is better than almost everything else on the shelves. Kidder writes non-fiction and tackles a variety of topics (old age, school teachers, home building etc) in a journalistic fashion that reads like fiction. This book is about the town of Northhampton, Massachusetts and Kidder delves into the everyday lives of its residents. The main focus is on Tommy O'Conner, the town's ch ...more
marcus miller
I was asked to read Home Town and after the first couple of pages I realized I had read it before. It was good enough I decided to finish reading it the second time.
Kidder takes us to Northampton, MA, the kind of town that exerts a hold on long term residents as well as those who move there for some reason. There are probably quite a few such towns or cities which seem to pull people in and make it difficult for people to leave. Right now, I'm sitting in the my house, in a town where I never th
Kris Munson
Tracy Kidder lives near the town of Northampton, Mass. I too lived there, after growing up in California. My husband and I transferred there, and fell in love with the place. We spent a year living in Northampton, and it will probably go down as the best year of our lives in a lot of ways. We were young, and just starting out, with only one child in our family. Northampton is the kind of place where you can walk around, and visit the shops, and enjoy the aspects of Smith College that infuse the ...more
This is my third Tracy Kidder book and it took me quite a while to get into. Eventually, I felt compelled to read it and thought about the "characters"—still do—when I wasn't reading it.

I've been thinking about how authors structure their books lately because I think I've been baffled by a couple. This book is divided into sections or parts and I'm not sure why the divisions come when they do. It might be more apparent on a second read, but I don't imagine I'll get to that. It took me quite a wh
When Home Town by Tracy Kidder was nominated as a selection for the August book club meeting of the Professors and Partners book club in MA, I was excited about the prospect. I really enjoyed Kidder's book Mountains Beyond Mountains, so I had high hopes for the selection. Unfortunately, I did not have a similar fondness for Hometown. At various points, I felt like I was in the middle of a very long episode of Praire Home Companion without the funny commercials and variety of voices.

Some of the
Another good work of nonfiction by Tracy Kidder, an alum of the Iowa Writer's Workshop. An old, historic town in the east (Jonathon Edwards preached here), Northampton, is the "main character" that the book illuminates. We follow various citizens, chiefly a conscientious young cop and hometown boy named Tommy, a single mom named Laura on scholarship at exclusive Smith College, and a former lawyer named Alan whose OCD behavior (e.g. plastic bags on his hands) the town seems to regard as just mild ...more
This was not my favorite Tracy Kidder book. And perhaps that's because the story for me was not as compelling as the other two books by Kidder that I read (i.e., Soul of a New Machine and Mountains Beyond Mountains).

In Home Town, Tracy Kidder delves beneath the surface of Northampton, Massachusetts, a small peaceful town, to show us that things aren't always what they seem. OK, great - but that’s true of all towns both big and small. I did however enjoy the stories of some of the characters, es
I read this in conjunction with Kidder's "Good Prose," keeping my eyes open for examples of the issues and lessons he discusses in his book about writing. This is serving as a fabulous model for the biography I'm working on. Kidder is a master at handling POV in non-fiction, keeping it flowing, fascinating, and non-academic without violating the code to tell the truth as fully as possible with clear indicators about where the information originates. I've re-read the opening chapters a half dozen ...more
Sally Atwell Williams
This non-fiction book reads as fiction sometime. Tracy Kidder examines the day to day life of Northampton, Massachusetts, in the 1990's. Northampton is the home of Smith College, which my sister attended in the early 1950's. Riding with Tommy O'Connor, a police officer who was born in the town, Kidder captures the flavor of the town and its people; its history and problems of today, which seemed to me in terms of policing was the amount of cocaine and crack that were coming in to the area. Almos ...more
I'm reading this because I miss New England and this book is set in Northampton, Massachusetts, about 30 mins from where I grew up. I'm going back in October. It will be my first time in Mass since I was about nine. (I've been back to other parts of New England since I was a kid, but never "home.")

The notion of a hometown is weird. When you've spent several years in a few places, which one is "home"? I lived more than two decades in Florida and half of that time, I spent missing New England. No
Mary Lou
Home Town by Tracy Kidder ostensibly describes a typical American town in a meaningful way but I found it too uneventful and insignificant to care about and only finished because I skimmed to see if the end was worthwhile. For me, the answer is no. Northampton, Massachusetts may be the town where Jonathon Edwards lived and preached, where Smith College is located, and where Calvin Coolidge was mayor, but Kidder's description is too broad and all inclusive to be useful. He lays out in competent p ...more

Eh, I decided to read this book because I'm heading back to the Pioneer Valley for a college reunion (I went to Mount Holyoke, not Smith) but I spent a lot of time in Northampton in my college years. Anyway, some of the history was interesting, but this felt way to much like not that interesting qualitative research. Northampton is a nice town, a pretty town, but it's not quite as interesting a tale as Kidder likes to believe he is telling. Everything is told with deadly seriousness. I would alm
This is my first Tracy Kidder read, I'd like to read more, it's written so well and with a lot of humor and honesty which I appreciate.

Pressed for time here, I wholeheartedly agree with M Norton's August review : "A vivid, detailed and thoughtful social history of Northampton, Massachusetts." Home Town is a true biography of several Northampton natives and transplants, as Norton says, "deftly interlacing history and subtle social commentary. Police officer Tom O'Connor emerges as the symbolic c
I'm not sure if I enjoyed this book because of what it is saying or because of what it is talking about. I consider Northampton to be my new home and seeing it on this cover, unchanged in the thirteen years since the photo was taken is wonderful. This book also has Tracy Kidder to recommend it; Kidder is a master of telling people's stories. He gets inside of his subjects' heads and breathes more life into an ordinary person than any fiction writer could dream of. With that being said, this is a ...more
Although I admire Kidder's thoroughness and the way his smaller portraits build organically to the architecture of the portait of the town itself, I admit to becoming tired of the endless attention to details. I know; I know. God is in the details. But we do not read the face of God night after night, unless we are mystics or ascetics. And sociology is not spirituality. My enthusiasm for Kidder's fine writing and exquisite ear carried me more than half way through the book, but after that, it be ...more
Jun 04, 2008 Abby rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Librarians, small town enthusiasts, people watchers
Recommended to Abby by: Dr. David Carr
Shelves: informational
This was assigned in my Collection Development class, as an example of the importance of (getting to) knowing your audience.

Home Town is a non-fiction about a small town in New England. Mostly following a local cop, you learn about the more colorful residents of Northampton, Massachusetts, as well as what makes this small town unique. You also learn and go through the trials of the sergeant, as well as a few of the other residents.

This book is more than a little entertaining. The cast of charact
Occasionally long-winded, Kidder nonetheless writes a stunning novel of Northampton. It reads like a novel, but it's actually almost nonfiction, having been based on extensive research and interviews. The plot managed to keep me interested the whole way through despite its length. I'm not typically a reader of books by and about men. I think the magic of this book was largely because I've lived in the Northampton area for almost seven years. I love reading books about this area; it reminds me th ...more
A very setting and character driven book. I really got a feel for the town, some of its inhabitants and rhythm. I liked it, but but I really liked his other book Mountains Beyond Mountains
Keith Rackley
Kidder paints a detailed picture of a north-eastern town through overlapping mini-biographies of ordinary people. He adds a good measure of historical research, social and moral commentary, and his unique ability to be "a fly on the wall" gathering and sharing the most intimate of experiences and feelings of his subjects.

There are billions of ordinary people who will be born, live and die without their story told. It is good to see this examined by a great writer recording a few of these storie
Loved this book. I've spent some very pleasant time in Northampton and really enjoyed reading its history in this story format.
Linda Dittes
Although the character building was good in this story, I felt it was dated and had a hard time staying attached.
Now I want to visit Northampton, Mass! How cool if every small town would have their story written in this way.
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Tracy Kidder is an American author and Vietnam War veteran. Kidder may be best known, especially within the computing community, for his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Soul of a New Machine, an account of the development of Data General's Eclipse/MV minicomputer. The book typifies his distinctive style of research. He began following the project at its inception and, in addition to interviews, spent c ...more
More about Tracy Kidder...
Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World Strength in What Remains: A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness The Soul of a New Machine Among Schoolchildren House

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