Book Review: Dwelling Places by Vinita Hampton Wright

Map of USA with Iowa highlighted

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I found Vinita Hampton Wright by accident. I’m part of a writers’ conference newsfeed, I guess (I don’t remember signing up for it), and Wright’s book, The Soul Tells a Story was going to be the focus for a workshop at the conference. I kept the email because the book looked interesting. However, it was four months until I considered the book again.

One Saturday, I was cleaning up emails, and I noticed the Soul email again. I read through the review and then looked the title up on my library’s online catalog. Sure enough, they carried the Soul book as well as other books by Wright. I decided to reserve a bunch of her titles, including Dwellling Places.

I just finished Dwelling Places over the weekend. The tale takes place in Iowa as one family goes their four separate ways to find comfort in the midst of losing their farm. Mack deals with depression, his wife, Jodie, has an affair, Kenzie finds solace in fundalmentalist Christianity, and the son, Young Taylor, finds comfort with the Goths.

Wright shares the perspective of each person in the family, including Mack’s mother, Rita. We see the family’s trials through each person’s eyes, and as the turning point comes together, we see these conflicting comforts fall apart, and the family come together again, but with a new perspective to each person within the family unit. Values and beliefs are challenged and stretched, but not denigrated and thrown away for a modern band aid. A truly wonderful story.

Wright doesn’t write a trashy or simplistic novel, but a story illustrating how people deal with change by either turning to faith or despair, people or images. Wright writes with passion and she understands the human condition mingled with hope and faith.

I highly recommend this book if you’re interested in looking at your own soul and asking yourself, “How would I react if I was put in this situation?” A trite or easy answer will not work, and instead, Wright puts a mirror up for the reader to see into her own psyche and soul when faced with trials. I give this five out of five stars.


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