Make Your Home Among Strangers, Jennine Capó Crucet

Have I told you that I love it in books when characters mishear each other? It’s one of my favorite things because it happens in life all the time and in books almost never. Here is a misheard conversation from somewhere in the middle of Make Your Home Among Strangers:

I was just about to hang up on him when he asked, So you hear yet?
–Omar, I told you I’ve been here, but I’m leaving.
–No, I mean the thing at school. The investigation thing. What happened?
–Oh that.

Misunderstanding is central to this book about a first-generation college student attending a prestigious liberal arts university. These are not, by and large, the small misunderstandings of the homonym variety, nor are they the sort of plot-twist misunderstandings that mark a Shakespearean tragedy or your garden-variety romance novel. Make Your Home Among Strangers is about the mutual noncomprehension of two spheres: the low-income Cuban neighborhoods of Miami that made Lizet, and the lily-white liberal world of academia to which she travels.

Make Your Home among Strangers

Lizet belongs to both of these worlds (and sometimes, she feels, to neither), but she can’t translate them to each other. And in any case they are not interested, because they think they already know. Each simply lacks the context that would make it possible for them to understand the other, and Lizet is caught between the two.

Make Your Home Among Strangers is so well-observed it hurts. It does, actually, hurt. Rawlings College requires constant small betrayals of Hialeah Lakes, where Lizet grew up, and returning to Miami requires comparable betrayals of Rawlings. It’s painful to read, because even as you can see that Lizet is making her decisions for the wrong reasons (and possibly making the wrong decisions altogether), you can’t get a clear view of what the right decisions and the right reasons would be.

It’s just a really, really good book, y’all. A debut novel about the way people speak past each other. I’ll be keeping an eye out for Crucet’s future work. Cause damn.

  • This sounds brilliant, I love books that set the protagonist in this sort of setting – it highlights so much about society today.

    • Yes, definitely does! And it’s an awfully well-written book. I’m excited to see what this author does next.

  • I love miscommunication stuff too. Connie Willis is especially brilliant at that.

    • Miscommunication stuff can go either way for me, but just like — people misHEARing each other in minor ways that are promptly corrected. I don’t know.

  • Stefanie@SoManyBooks

    I love it when characters mishear each other too especially when it is well done which is hard for fiction because as a reader I know it is completely contrived. Sounds like a really well done book.

  • I mishear stuff ALL the time because, well, I have hearing loss, so to see it reflected in fiction would just about make my day. I will have to check this one out.

  • Alley

    “she can’t translate them to each other. And in any case they are not interested, because they think they already know.” this right here really makes me want to read this

  • I’m so, so excited to get back to this book. I had to return it (curse you other person with a hold), but it’s definitely back on the list.

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