Summary and book reviews of This Must Be the Place by Kate Racculia

This Must Be the Place

A Novel

by Kate Racculia

This Must Be the Place
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jul 2010, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2011, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jennifer G Wilder

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About this Book

Book Summary

A sudden death, a never-mailed postcard, and a long-buried secret set the stage for a luminous and heart-breakingly 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.

Sixteen Years Before

Amy considered the postcard: a boardwalk scene. Throngs of people wandering in the sun. Sparkling blue ocean to the right, cheery awnings on the shops. She sniffed. The man beside her on the bus stank of tuna fish and cigarette smoke.

This must be what it feels like to die, she thought.

She was sore all over, sore and too tired to be scared. She suspected this was what it would feel like to die: to give up everything that came before, to just—cut it off. Tear it out. She wasn't religious. Her parents died before they had a chance to impart much wisdom on the nature of immortal souls, and her grandfather, when she first went to live with him, told her he was allergic to church. But she suspected there was something beyond what she knew. Beyond what she could touch and smell. She suspected there was a sort of transition period, where you had a chance to say good-bye to your old self and your old life, and this was hers, on this Greyhound, her sandaled feet ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  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 that’s 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 – it’s pointed out several times that both Mona’s 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. ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The tone is funny and generous – youthful and hip without the trendy bite. Kate Racculia has put together an interesting mix of themes. Meditations on family, identity, romance, and creativity swirl around a compelling set of relationships, many of which come about by proximity rather than by design.   (Reviewed by Jennifer G Wilder).

Full Review Members Only (654 words).

Media Reviews

O, The Oprah Magzine - Karen Holt

This often witty debut, with its cast of appealing characters, is a smart exploration of love, friendship, and the secrets we keep, even from ourselves.

People Magazine

This enchanting debut is part romance, part mystery—with a touch of coming-of-age tale thrown in…All three [characters] are confronted with larger issues of love and duty and learn that the essential question is not "How did I get here?" but "Where am I going?" Racculia's whimsical details and flawed yet immensely likable characters make Place a magical journey. 4 Stars

Publishers Weekly

With its happy ending and rich trove of Gen-X references and humor, this is a thoroughly enjoyable first novel, both accessibly absurd and quite touching.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. [An] accomplished and compelling debut novel. Intelligent, warm-hearted and tough-minded - Racculia is a talent to watch.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Boston-based Racculia has packed enough emotion, personality, and deft writing into her debut novel to power this small town. We are fascinated by Arthur's quest and eager to uncover the secrets everyone is hoarding. By book's end, readers will know they have unearthed a treasure. Highly recommended for discerning readers.

Author Blurb Margot Livesey, author of The House on Fortune Street
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.

Author Blurb Beth Kephart, author of Undercover and A Slant of Sun
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.

Author Blurb Elizabeth Berg, author of The Last Time I Saw You
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.

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Beyond the Book

Ray Harryhausen

Harryhausen, the cat at the center of This Must Be the Place, is a living totem of his owner's patron saint, the real-life animator Ray Harryhausen.  Ray Harryhausen was a pioneer in the field of animation, and the inspiration behind Racculia's Amy, who builds her life around the surreal art of making model monsters for the movies.

Racculia writes on her blog of discovering Harryhausen's work in the form of his last major film: "The Clash of the Titans, Harryhausen's 1981 epic ode to Greek mythology and Harry Hamlin's magnificent perm, were on HBO approximately eight bajillion times in the mid-80s, and all eight bajillion of those times, I was there to watch it."  Oh, the heady early days of cable.  Racculia ...

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