Tabitha's Reviews > You Can't Go Home Again

You Can't Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe
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's review
Jan 23, 2012

really liked it
Read from October 17, 2011 to January 23, 2012

"Perhaps this is our strange and haunting paradox here in America--that we are fixed and creatin only when we are in movement. At any rate, that is how it seemed to young George Webber, who was never so assured of his purpose as when he was going somewhere on a train. And he never had the sense of home so much as when he felt that he was going there. It was only when he got there that his homelessness began." (page 53)

Timing, they say, is everything. And so it is with some books--a book read at one time of your life might not resonate as much as five years earlier or ten years later. It is a serendipitous moment when you find the right book at the right moment of your life. So I feel with "You Can't Go Home Again", read when I am somewhere between growing up, being a grown-up, and moments of utter childishness.

A word of warning about this book: it is a book of the first half of the twentieth century, written by a white man from the South. While it does show more sympathy for people of color than other white men from the South might have written at the time, it is a product of its time, as is Wolfe. There are some racial epitaphs, and individuals of other nationalities are mostly stereotypes, with some flesh added to show some dimension of humanity.

The parts that resonated with me, however, were not moments of action or plot, but rather were Wolfe's observations of what it mean to be alive in the 1920s and 1930s, as the world seemed to be crashing down all around. Webber, the main character, is in New York for the stock market crash, in Germany for the beginning of the Nazi's rule, and records the darkening of the days across the world. While so much of these observations are specific to that moment of history, many, many, many of the descriptions resonate today. How eerie it was to read of the build-up to the crash of 1929, and realize Wolfe's words could have just as easily these passages could have be written today. How unsettling to read of the suspicions of foreigners and the tightening of movement across the borders of Germany in light of our own immigration debate.

And finally, how strange it was to read of George's growing up, redefining home, and discovering the world for himself, at a moment when I find myself on similiar quests.

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