Homesick...is a coming-of-age story that includes all the 'firsts' readers might expect from a narrative about identity formation: first loss, first love, first foray toward independence. It’s a complex portrait of a young Oklahoma woman’s development of a rich and exacting interior life. It’s also a visual love letter to family, language and self-understanding, and the myriad ways in which these realms overlap and complicate one another. Like the writers W. G. Sebald and Teju Cole, who use images to supplement and contextualize ideas, Croft introduces each of her short chapters—some are only a single paragraph—with dreamlike snapshots taken by her or her mother of streets, buildings, birthday parties and everyday moments, to mysterious and engaging effect ... Homesick is the story of a singular consciousness, a strikingly personal account of a deeply troubled young girl’s efforts to absorb disaster—and to persevere—buoyed by her passion for language, its infinite permutations and enigmas ... Every page of this stunning and surprising book turns words around and around, deepening their mystery and making the reader understand that, like a photograph that (somewhat falsely) freezes a moment in time, learning to speak means discovering that words carry both truth and lies.
... boundary-pushing, or boundary-expanding ... Croft writes much of Homesick in this flat, precocious-child tone, using short, present-tense sentences to great effect. For balance, however, she weaves in her own photographs, each captioned with a brief, distinctly adult musing on the main narrative ... Croft moves gently, though not lightly, through this time in Amy's life. She balances depression and self-harm with growing artistic self-discovery ... As Croft's prose becomes more descriptive and complex, the photographs she includes move toward childhood, featuring images of her sister post-surgery ... Croft's photos, mixed in with her text, create continuity between memoirist and protagonist, despite their differing names. Her musings on language and occasional inclusion of Cyrillic script serve the same purpose. They make Homesick into a translator's Bildungsroman, one in which art is first a beacon, then a home.
To live with homesickness is to live in the beautifully bruising space of separation created by the rapture of experience. Star translator Jennifer Croft occupies this space masterfully ... Fittingly then, given its themes, Homesick is, in its broadest interpretation, the story of a word. Over the course of the memoir, Croft recasts the term just as all words are ever recast: through life experiences. She holds the word’s history, its traditional meaning of missing and melancholy and pain, and adds cafés crèmes and trains and planes and surgeries and love affairs and all the other stuff of life. Best of all, she reminds us that each word, like each life, is ever being written, and that the generative space she opens is available to all. Change is life, and Homesick is an exercise in conscious, delicate, joyful change.