Home Girl (by Judith Matloff) is the second book I’ve read from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program (such an awesome program! free books! mailed to your house! before they are even in stores or libraries!), and we did not get off to a good start. I found the author’s description of the horrors she’s seen as a foreign correspondent and the corollaries she drew to her new West Harlem neighborhood annoying. Yes, we get it. You are a brave and adventurous gentrifrier who moved into a bad neighborhood. Good for you.
That said, once the author moved into the new house and began to describe the activities in the neighborhood, rather than just speculating, the book became much more engaging to me, and I found myself liking the book more and more. The cast of characters in the neighborhood are interesting, as are the ways she deals with the drug dealers on her block.
Matloff is a journalist by trade, and she reports events, even those that affect her directly, with some degree of detachment. She’ll say when an event scared her, for example, but that’s about it. The book moves on with little follow-up or reflection. Matloff seems to only scratch the surface of her emotions and problems (including the drug trade outside her door) seem to simply resolve on their own over time, both of which I think make the book a little weaker.
As a new homeowner, I was excited to read this book. And comparing my experience with Matloff’s made me feel much better about the work that needs to be done on our own house, so that’s a positive! I really wished that the book had had some photographs of the house – before and after, and since this is just an advanced proof, the published book might have that. In the meantime, if you read the book and are really curious, you can go to the author’s website – http://www.judithmatloff.com/. There aren’t many pictures, especially of the house, but there are a few of her neighbors.
Overall, I’d say this book was just average. I’m not sad I read it, and by the end I was enjoying it, but I wouldn’t pay money for it. Of course, I rarely pay money for books, so perhaps that’s not saying much. Definitely not on my must-read list though.