This is Home (Atria Books) is the emotional story of Libby, a motherless teenage girl trying to create and define her home along with Quinn, a military wife who feels abandoned and is searching for belonging. The characters are searching for connection and the family they really want is not always an option.
Teenage Libby lives with her father, Bent, who has returned from the military to raise her. Her mother left when she was very young, came back in time to fight and lose her battle with cancer, leaving the father and daughter to face the world without her. Bent’s sisters live in the apartment upstairs and are on hand to take care or Libby when he is at work.
Quinn’s husband, John returned from the military with PTSD and then abruptly goes missing, so, now all alone, she moves into the first-floor apartment of Bent’s house to figure out her life. Bent was John’s platoon leader in Iraq and he feels responsible for helping Quinn out. Initially, Libby is not happy with the intrusion of a stranger in her house and in her life, but she and Quinn, both struggling with abandonment and redefining home, develop a friendship.
Lisa Duffy’s characters are imperfect and believable – they all are in search of something and they also offer comfort, camaraderie, and support to each other, making this a book I didn’t want to end. The author touches on PTSD, pregnancy, drugs and alcohol and coming of age – real-life problems and challenges that are relatable. I enjoyed all the relationships that were forged, the growth each character experienced, and I was rooting for them all! I highly recommend This is Home as well as Lisa Duffy’s first book, The Salt House.
Q & A with Lisa Duffy
Jennifer Blankfein: Do you have experience with PTSD and the military and how much research did you do for this book?
Lisa Duffy: One of the reasons I wanted to write about this subject was my lack of personal experience with the military. When my oldest daughter graduated high school, a number of her classmates joined the military, some in potential combat positions, and it raised so many questions for me. What makes someone choose this as a future? How do the loved ones staying behind feel about it? What sort of sacrifices and challenges arise when someone deploys on a tour and then returns to civilian life? As a writer, this is the material I always want to explore. The things that pique my curiosity. My research started with reading a lot of memoir and fiction. Then watching a lot of documentaries on the subject. I have several friends in the military and they put me in touch with people who were willing to talk about their experience and answer any questions that came up as I wrote the book.
JB: Dogs can certainly bring out the best in people. Why did you decide to include Rooster as a character?
LD: A lot of things that come to life in a book aren’t really decisions. When I started writing the character of Libby, she had a dog. It wasn’t really a conscious decision that I made, more of a feeling that this family would be a family who owned a dog. So…Rooster Cogburn appeared. And he was immediately this big, lazy beast. Maybe because we’ve always had big, lazy labs and they’ve always been such a huge part of our family. Rooster was a lot of fun to write. I miss spending my days with him.
JB: None of the characters had a stable upbringing or current adult family life that felt solid yet they were all in pursuit of normalcy. What is the significance of the title This is Home?
LD: The title comes from a moment at the end of the first chapter when Libby is wishing they could move out of the noisy, crowded triple-decker and back to their old home—the one she’s always known. But she doesn’t bother talking about it with her father. She doesn’t ask him to move back home because she knows that his answer will be that this is home, even though it doesn’t feel like it to her. It’s the beginning of her journey to redefine home, and what it means to her.
JB: What have you read lately that you recommend?
LD: I loved Sandi Ward’s Something Worth Saving, Devin Murphy’s Tiny Americans and Elise Hooper’s Learning To See. All second books that hit shelves this year from authors I met in an online debut group for The Salt House. One of the great things about this author gig is finding new favorite writers. I’m waiting eagerly for the third novels from all of these folks.
JB: What is on your nightstand to be read next?
LD: I’ve been looking forward to diving into Michelle Obama’s memoir. I also have a second draft of a friend’s novel-to-be waiting on my Kindle. And a stack of novels on my bedside table that is growing and growing. I’m not doing a lot of reading right now because I’m close to finishing the first draft of my third novel, and I find that at night, I just want to sit and clear my head. But when I’m done with the draft, I’ll be ready to dig in to other stories.
JB: What are you working on now?
LD: I’m working on my third novel, releasing from Atria next summer, about class, identity and betrayal colliding when a young girl is orphaned in a close-knit island community off the coast of New England.
This is Home is now available.
Lisa Duffy is the author of This is Home and The Salt House, named by Real Simple as a Best Book of the Month upon its June release, as well as one of Bustle’s Best Debut Novels by Women in 2017, a She Reads Book Club selection and Refinery 29’s Best Beach Reads of 2017. Lisa received her MFA in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts. Her short fiction was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and her writing can be found in numerous publications, including Writer’s Digest. She lives in the Boston area with her husband and three children.