Synopses & Reviews
A sudden death, a never-mailed postcard, and a longburied secret set the stage for a luminous and heartbreakingly real novel about lost souls finding one another
The Darby-Jones boardinghouse in Ruby Falls, New York, is home to Mona Jones and her daughter, Oneida, two loners and self-declared outcasts who have formed a perfectly insular family unit: the two of them and the three eclectic boarders living in their house. But their small, quiet life is upended when Arthur Rook shows up in the middle of a nervous breakdown, devastated by the death of his wife, carrying a pink shoe box containing all his wife's mementos and keepsakes, and holding a postcard from sixteen years ago, addressed to Mona but never sent. Slowly the contents of the box begin to fit together to tell a story—one of a powerful friendship, a lost love, and a secret that, if revealed, could change everything that Mona, Oneida, and Arthur know to be true. Or maybe the stories the box tells and the truths it brings to life will teach everyone about love—how deeply it runs, how strong it makes us, and how even when all seems lost, how tightly it brings us together. With emotional accuracy and great energy, This Must Be the Place introduces memorable, charming characters that refuse to be forgotten.
“ ‘This Must Be the Place makes for a lively read as it explores the themes of friendship, love, loss and forgiveness. . . . [T]he author creates subtle moments of poetry by way of everyday objects and lives.” -Los Angeles Times“By books end, readers will know they have unearthed a treasure. Highly recommended for discerning readers.” - Library Journal “The author brilliantly captures teenage angst and uncertainty as she conveys some very grown-up truths about the choices we make and the prices we—and others—pay for them. Intelligent, warm-hearted and tough-minded—Racculia is a talent to watch.” - Kirkus (starred)
“In This Must Be the Place Kate Racculia reveals herself to be a wonderfully witty writer whose vivid characters—young and not so young—are capable of endless surprises. Her absorbing plot and her deep understanding of the connection between past and present make this an affecting and deeply pleasurable novel.” —Margot Livesey, author of The House on Fortune Street
“What a lovely, utterly endearing book this is—effulgent and alive, peopled with originals, alchemically forging whole souls out of fractured hearts. Kate Racculia tells her tale with the rare, light-winged grace of a natural-born storyteller who finds meaning and beauty in the deliciously strange half-twist.”—Beth Kephart, author of Undercover and A Slant of Sun
“Never has it been more aptly presented than in this engaging novel that love can take us all on unexpected journeys—often when we least expect it. Here is a story that is part mystery, part meditation, part romance, part imperative. It is presented from different points of view: cake-baking Mona, mistress of a boarding house, for whom a long-ago act of love for a friend leads to a complicated romance. Mona's teenage daughter, Oneida, whose tentative forays into love bring her far more than she anticipated. And Arthur, a man widowed too soon, on a path that will lead him to understand who his young wife really was. Kate Racculia has a strong and original voice, and a lot to say about the chances we take—or miss.”—Elizabeth Berg, author of The Last Time I Saw You
About the Author
Kate Racculia has her MFA from Emerson College and a background in art history, illustration, and design. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts.
Reading Group Guide
Questions for Discussion
1. Very early on, Max Morris says to Arthur that, "sometimes you let the people you love believe what they want to believe." Do you think thats true? How does that statement play in to the rest of the novel?
2. What role does food play in the novel? Mona bakes cakes for a living, and also feeds her tenants each night - its pointed out several times that both Monas meals and cakes are especially delicious. Do you think her skill with food is meant to imply something about her personality as well? Is she a nurturing person in general?
3. The novel opens with a young Amy on a bus headed towards Hollywood. What were your initial perceptions of teenage Amy? How did your opinion of her change over the course of the novel?
4. We never get to see Amy as an adult, except through Arthurs eyes. Do you think she was a different person as an adult with Arthur than she was as a teenager with Mona? Or are Mona and Arthurs perceptions of Amy just different? Are they reconcilable? Do you think its possible for people to ever change in any fundamental ways?
5. Mona notes fairly early on that, "the past was never past. It always came back to kick your ass." Is that true for the characters of the novel? In what ways?
6. The novel follows the development of several romances, some between adults and some between teenagers. Think of Oneida and Eugenes relationship and compare it to Mona and Arthurs. How do age and maturity alter the development of each relationship? How do the teens act differently? Do you think theres anything to be said for the naïveté that the teenagers bring to their relationship? Or the experience that the adults bring to their relationship?
7. Secrets play a large role in the novel. Do you think that any of the secrets that are revealed should have been kept? Do you think that one person can ever truly know another? Or are we all bound in some way by the secrets that we keep?
8. When Oneidas real parentage was finally revealed, were you surprised? How does Oneida deal with the revelation? Do you think that it changed her feelings about Mona in anyway?
9. Eugene tells Oneida that "life is art." What do you think he means by that? How does the novel illustrate the point?
10. Art is a major theme of the novel. Many of the major characters are artists: Amy, a puppeteer and animator; Arthur, a photographer; Astor, a forger; Mona, a baker. How does each persons chosen medium suit his or her personality?
11. The novel also deals closely with misconceptions - how do art and misconceptions relate to one another? What do you think the novel is trying to say about art? What do you think of the fact that Oneida goes on to become an art historian? That Eugene becomes a forger?
12. In Eugenes dream, Joseph Cornell tells him that he will grow up and die, and that "its the single greatest thing that will ever happen to you." What do you think this is supposed to mean? How is this a novel about growing up? Do all of the characters mature in one way or another - even the ones who are already "grown up"?