cover image Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

April Smith. Knopf, $26.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-101-87421-9

Smith’s terrific new novel opens with a brutal 1985 attack on a family in a small South Dakota town, then flashes back to 1950 when the husband (a WWII pilot) and his wife first left New York City with their two small children for a new life in Rapid City, Iowa. Cal and Betsy Kusek, invited west by a fellow veteran and sponsored by his parents, appreciate the hospitality, but the virulent fear of communism—just being a Democrat raises suspicion—among the locals shocks them. Although he’s an attorney, Cal builds a ranch while Betsy helps the local doctor as a visiting nurse. She worries, though, that her flirtation with the Communist Party will hinder Cal’s burgeoning political career. Smith illuminates the force of McCarthyism-generated fear in the Midwest and effectively personalizes it through the persecution the Kusak family endures for their liberal beliefs. The author also skillfully ties together the two time periods, avoiding melodrama. Agent: Molly Friedrich, Friedrich Literary Agency. (Jan.)