Published by William Morrow
Publication date: July 29th 2014
Alma Terrebonne is doing well as a corporate lawyer in Seattle until she gets the call that her younger sister Vicky is dead. Suddenly, she has to walk away from one of the biggest deals of her career and head back to Montana, the place where her family has lived for generations. The Home Place is both the title of Carrie La Seur’s debut novel and what the Terrebonne family calls their homestead in the wilderness outside Billings. Alma is filled with misgivings as she has had no contact with her sister for years due to her hard partying ways. Instead of sadness she feels only the dread of all the people that will reach and grab at her, at the mess likely left behind, and how difficult it will be to clean it up and get out.
This is what she ran from, what ultimately took Vicky. If she were ever to come back to stay, there would be things she’d have to know—to acknowledge—that are beyond her capacity to survive.
Once she’s back in Billings Alma is quickly confronted with how far her sister’s life had sunk. She’s died in somewhat mysterious circumstances, has left behind an eleven-year-old daughter and turned the family ranch over to a meth manufacturer. With the help of the local police Alma scares off the drug dealer but still has to find a way to bring her fractured family together, solve her sister’s death, and fight off a coal mining company representative who wants the mineral rights to their land. Into this overload of stress, she encounters her high school boyfriend—who she left with no word when she went off to college.
La Seur does a beautiful job evoking the brittle winter grandeur of Montana but the events in The Home Place occur in under a week meaning a lot of territory needs to be covered in a short amount of time. As the opening situation presents itself and the dichotomy between the lives of Alma and Vicky is so clear it seems there will have to be an emotional reckoning on Alma’s part and yet, that moment doesn’t arrive. She realizes that perhaps her Seattle life is not as fulfilling as she thought it was and that she left a lot unsaid when she ran from Billings but the result of these realizations is without emotional depth. Ultimately, Vicky’s death provides greater surprises than Alma’s life.