Homeplace, by John Lingan, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 272 pages, $20.20
The story of Homeplace, by John Lingan, is rooted in the Troubadour, the honky-tonk bar on McCoy’s out-of-the-way mountain property near Winchester, Virginia, and its owner, Jim McCoy, a local legend and key player in the origin story of Winchester native, Patsy Cline.
Nostalgia is a strong currency in Winchester, “where people still talk about George Washington like he just ran out to grab a beer.” But if Washington’s face still graces the Winchester dollar, the portrait on its hundred is Patsy Cline.
The book branches out from McCoy, Patsy and the Troubadour to explore the tension between the “from-heres” and the “come-heres”: the folks who grew up local and are suffering through the evolution of small town life, and those who emigrated from places as foreign as New York and Washington, D.C., who are making changes in order to preserve the small town life, including an entertaining description of the International Water Tasting festival in nearby Berkeley Springs.
These asides give the book the feel of a collection of essays stitched together rather than a single, cohesive work, but it does not lessen the impact. It is the literary expansion of a late night conversation amongst friends at a local honky-tonk — allowed to take tangents where the discussion leads, and while perhaps not where you thought the story was going, all connected in that time or place and ultimately strengthening the common theme.
Homeplace is paean to small towns and good people just trying to get by. The story of Winchester is the story of the Troubadour, and the story of the Troubadour is the story in every song sung there on a Saturday night: “Honky-tonk country is the sound of rural-rooted people taking their first difficult, stumbling steps toward the city, and it is not often the music of triumph.”
No matter where you live, Homeplace will make you want to grab a beer on the porch with a neighbor and reminisce about the good ol’ days.