Lingan’s book is not a polemic and it’s not a gimmick ... He often conjures the place and its people with novelistic detail, saying a lot with a lyrical little ... You end Homeplace thinking that every American town could use a book like this one written about it; every town could afford to be this lovingly but critically seen. Like many of the best country songs, the book is sentimental in a way that makes you wonder why sentiment is such a dirty word.
Lingan’s first book provides much more than the appealing subtitle suggests ... Lingan’s literary flourishes will please readers curious about country culture ... Lingan is an astute observer of the social problems and cultural changes he encounters, and he writes about them without bias or preachiness. Fans of country music will enjoy Lingan’s portrait of a place and insights into a rapidly disappearing culture.
[Lingan] finds dignity and even heroism in the lives of those in its orbit and reminds us, on every page, that the times are always a-changing, though often not for the better ... he is at his most passionate when depicting the 'constant collision' between the past and modernity and between the powerful and those who are displaced by economic and cultural shifts ... Mr. Lingan’s rollicking descriptions of honky-tonk nights are so booze-soaked that a reader might wonder about the safety of driving after reading such passages.
Through patient reporting and descriptive story-telling, author Lingan also untangles the history of [Winchester, Virginia] ... Lingan turns Winchester into a character itself, mapping out the town’s history and development, and sharing details about the neighborhoods, hotels and restaurants, circling back to the importance of real estate again and again ... Through the particulars, Lingan sheds a light on different ideas of what it means to be an American.
Lingan’s prose is empathetic and evocative, clearly written by a close listener ... If his New Journalist sensibility sometimes leads him to insert himself into the narrative unexpectedly, he tends to justify his presence ... Even as an outsider, [Lingan] is able to both identify and describe country music with sympathy but without illusions. Homeplace does something that is almost never done in writing about music: it considers not just the songs and the singers, but the listeners too. People didn’t just write, sing, and play country music; they lived, loved, drank, and died to it. This book is about them.
Homeplace tells the story of Winchester's present moment through its current crop of residents, using the famous figures of its past to provide the history that has shaped it to this point. Lingan uses his own travels, in town and throughout the surrounding area, as a narrative frame. Like JudySue Huyett-Kempf, the tour guide who leads Lingan through the Patsy Cline Historic House and Museum, and later on around the rest of Winchester, Lingan freely inserts himself into his story. It's this overarching account of an outsider discovering the wonders and mysteries of an out-of-the-way American town that keeps the pages turning ... By searching with an open heart, and writing with a frank honesty, Lingan manages an impossible feat: to make Homeplace an antidote to the divisive anger of today's America and to the unrealistic nostalgia that our current despairs inspire.
Lingan’s engrossing and fast-paced book tells a mesmerizing tale of the characters that put Winchester, Va., on the map ... Lingan’s charming book tells of a mountain town’s adapting to change in fast-moving times.