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Leave it to my mother. Every time I get to the point where Ive almost relegated her to the lands of the unenlightened, she pops out of the woodwork and shows off a surprising amount of taste; for a Baptist minister who proudly voted for George W. Bush and thinks Carrot Top is funny, my mom occasionally knows whats up. Homeland was an Easter gift, buried between chocolate bunnies and inspirational literature meant to soothe what she sees as my wayward soul. Like a lot of her gifts, the aforementioned Mom Stigma kept me from tearing right into it; on the contrary, it was five months before a long road trip provided the impetus to finally see what Ms. Kingsolver had to tell me.The timing, I found, couldnt have been better. Like everyone in 11th grade AP English, I read The Bean Trees , took the quiz, wrote the essay and forgot about it, my only memories of the story being Jesus Is Lord Used Tires and a vague notion that I didnt hate it. Knowing that I would soon be trapped in car driving from Maine to western Kentucky, I grabbed a pile of books that I hoped would preserve my sanity- enter Homeland. By the time wed left New England my literature stash was already half-depleted, so as the forests and fast pace of the northeast faded into the slow, rolling hills of the south I said a silent prayer that my mom didnt strike out, smoked a bit of marijuana and tackled the first story.Give either Kingsolver or the pot credit- Ive never been able to keep interested in Native American stories (am I a bad person? Likely), but Homeland didnt bore me one bit. In fact, for the first time, I kind of understood the allure of the culture and the people that actually care about it (and as the author presumably falls into this category, one could chalk this up as the definition of successful literature). Beautifully written, the titular tale whispers a sad message on the disintegration Native American culture without the kind of overplayed pity that usually turns similar pieces into unwitting self-parodies; instead of a feathery, face-painted Indian shedding tears at someones discarded soda can, Kingsolver presents a character old but vibrant, stoic but sad, and the reader is left not with obligatory guilt but a soft melancholy. Its kind of beautiful.All the stories in Homeland subscribe to a general theme of small towns and simple people. Rather than crafting elaborate or glamorous plot lines, Kingsolver lets her nearly-poetic words and characters carry the stories, and as our vehicle plunged into the warm drawl of the mid-south it felt like each narrative could be happening right next to me. Homeland could never be a Hollywood film. The relationships within eschew fiery breakups and dramatic, emotional reconciliations for slow, subtle declines that creak and bend like an old weathered bridge; moments of clear profundity sometimes strike the characters, but like real life these epiphanies rarely change anyones life significantly. In Kingsolvers world, people live and love and hurt- but they still have to get up for work the next morning.Homeland is not a Catcher in the Rye type of book; no one is going to rethink their lives or carry it with them on a trip to murder John Lennon, but that, in essence, is the point. Its hard to relate to most popular books and films, with their fantastic tales and characters that always seem to end up ok regardless of what craziness ensues. While those kinds of things hold an integral place in the artistic world, its refreshing to see the lives of ordinary people brought to life in an equally entertaining way, and one could argue that the simplicity of Kingsolvers stories makes them more impressive. Ill leave that to someone else. But by golly, if you find yourself on a long drive through the heart of America, pick up Homeland and let yourself get wrapped up inside it- even if it lets you down, itll be subtle and you might not even notice.

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