For many of us, home is where the heart is. A safe environment and the epitome of ‘homely.’ But, for Janine Mikosza it was more complicated than that. In her memoir, Homesickness, she explores the many childhood homes she lived in before turning eighteen.
Mikosza has previously published essays and short stories. She brings some of this style to the vignettes in this book. She looks at a total of fourteen homes and some of the chapters are quite fragmented – just as one’s memory can be. She uses the plot device of placing herself at the heart of the story using the nickname, Jin, and an unnamed interviewer who prompts most of her memories.
There are some moments where this set-up works better than others. For instance, when she is considering the psychology of trauma and that the act of remembering should be cathartic, this suits the two-player set up. But, there are other points where things get overcrowded and it is as though the interviewer acts as a wall between Jin and her readers. It can mean there is a barrier to what should be quite private, intimate moments.
In this book we learn that Jin is a talented visual artist. Included here are drawings (mostly floor plans) from her memories of the various houses. This serves as a great reminder of the fallibility of memory. It is also interesting to see how these differ from reality as she revisits each one in turn.
There are many layers to this work. Some readers will engage with the dark memories, where she describes the unspeakable. Others may find it traumatic to read about the gaslighting and other acts she endured. Others still may find it a common experience as they too have lived through broken trust at an especially vulnerable time.
Homesickness may appeal to readers who enjoyed The Trauma Cleaner, as it looks at some past harrowing incidents through the lens of adulthood memory. Homesickness is a memoir that looks a identity and loss. It tells a private story through one very distinctive voice. Homesickness ultimately deifies both genre and your expectations of memoir.