March 3, 2016

Music in the Fire: A Book Review of Julie Gard's Home Studies

Review by Sheila Packa, published at MNArtists.com March 2016

Home Studies by Julie Gard is about a lesbian family in a small town in North Dakota. The narrator and her partner have adopted a daughter from an orphanage in Russia. The couple’s small town is not an easy place to live, what with the harsh winters, the lack of acceptance, and the arsonist. But these prose poems do not just aim to tell a personal story. From this domestic center, concentric waves travel across our culture.

The title evokes Robert Lowell's Life Studies, a groundbreaking book when it was published in 1960 that explored personal stories of family and mental health. (Sylvia Plath named his book as a strong influence on her own work.) Gard's title also refers to the process of adoption, in which a home study involves an investigation and assessment to determine whether an individual or a couple can provide a safe and stable home. Turning around the notion of home study, Gard’s book widens the angle on that definition to explore the everyday shortcomings, crises, and stresses on every family. Gard weaves intimate narrative threads into spacious stories.

READ the complete review at http://www.mnartists.org/article/music-fire

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