cover image This Must Be the Place

This Must Be the Place

Kate Racculia, . . Holt, $25 (350pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-9230-1

Racculia's irresistibly charming debut is an artful mix of genres: oddball domestic (set in a boardinghouse, characters named Desdemona and Oneida), coming-of-age (high school loves and teen angst) and literary women's fiction (love, loss, and friendship). Sixteen years ago, Amy Henderson ran away from home to become a special effects creator in Hollywood. After she is killed in an on-set accident, her widower, Arthur, finds a box of memorabilia and sets off to her hometown to understand her past. He moves into a boardinghouse run by Amy's childhood best friend, Mona, and her teenage daughter, Oneida. Initially, Mona acts as Arthur's emotional nurse, but as they realize they hold answers for each other about Amy, their bond grows deeper. Oneida, meanwhile, gets involved with a local bad boy. The third act is nearly done in by an overly foreshadowed secret, but Racculia smartly keeps the focus on Oneida, Arthur, and Mona's reactions to the revelation (rather than the reveal itself). 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. (July)