Welcome Back: 9 Great Books About Returning to the Childhood Home
There’s a famous saying: You can’t go home again. Which is confusing, because there is another famous saying: Home is where the heart is. (Does that mean you leave your heart at home? I hope someone keeps it dusted and takes it out for fresh air once in a while.) I guess what it means, if I have this straight, is that once you leave a place it immediately changes for you, so it’s not the same when you go back. But also, home is wherever you are, so you never really leave it? It’s all very confusing. Which might explain why books about returning to the childhood home are so popular. Because it can be done!
You know the story: The main character, after many years away, must return to their hometown because of an illness or death in their family, or because they’ve been at war and now they’re back, or maybe they’ve gotten a divorce and need familial support while they get back on their feet — the reasons go on and on. The point is that there are a ton of great books about a person returning to where they grew up.
But there are a different genres of these stories: Someone returns to the haunted house to face down a demon. The main character returns home and finds the nerdy kid next door is now a dreamboat. A detective is assigned a murder investigation in the town where they grew up. Whatever the reasoning, whatever the genre, returning to the childhood home stories are always compelling and full of drama and secrets. So please sit back and enjoy these nine great books about returning to the childhood home. Because you might not be able to go home again, but you can read about other people doing it all you want.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
When the Vignes twin sisters ran away from their small southern town, no one knew if they’d be seen again. Now, years later, one sister has returned to live with her daughter. While abroad, because of the twins’ light skin color, Stella discovered they could pass for white. She still lives away from her twin, Desiree, and is married to a white man who doesn’t know her background. Meanwhile, Desiree and her daughter, Jude, face prejudice and rumors in the twins’ hometown because of Jude’s dark skin. This is a powerful book about sisters and race.
The Turner House by Angela Flournoy
After the death of the patriarch of the Turner family dies, his ailing widow can no longer live alone in the big house on Detroit’s East Side. The Turner children gather together for the first time in years to decide what is to be done about their childhood home, now only worth a tenth of what it originally was worth. Flournoy takes readers through 50 years of events under the roof — some of them otherworldly.
The Dry by Jane Harper
After decades away, Federal Agent Aaron Falk arrives in his hometown for the funeral of his childhood best friend. Falk was driven out of town as a suspect in a death when he was a teenager, but a note arrives demanding he attend the funeral. Falk discovers that not only have people not forgotten — or forgiven — what happened all those years ago, but his friend’s mother now wants him to investigate his friend’s death.
Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
Ruth thinks that returning to her parents’ home after a bad breakup will give her a fresh start. But like they say, you can’t go home again, and Ruth discovers things are not how they seemed. Ruth’s father, a brilliant history professor, is losing his memory and it’s more than Ruth’s mother can handle. Ruth suddenly finds herself the grownup in the house. This is a sweet, sad comedic drama that plucks at the heart strings while tickling your funny bone.
When the Reckoning Comes by LaTanya McQueen
This is an excellent, scary book involving the erasure of U.S. history. Mira grew up poor with her two best friends in a small southern town, where she witnessed a horrifying event on an abandoned plantation. As soon as she could, Mira fled town. Now, many years later, Mira’s former best friend invites her to her wedding out of the blue. Mira is surprised to hear from Celine, and more surprised to learn the wedding is being held on the now-renovated plantation. Despite reservations, Mira attends, where she learns the past is never that far away from you.
Bonfire by Krysten Ritter
Abby Williams was more than happy to put her terrible small-town life in the rearview mirror as soon as she graduated. Now, ten years later, her job as an environmental lawyer brings her back to her childhood home and all the things she wanted to escape. While some things are changed, Abby discovers that some of the things she thought she knew as a child aren’t what she thought — and that knowledge may kill her.
What Could Be Saved by Liese O’Halloran Schwarz
This book has two sort of homecomings. In the 1970s, the Prestons were an American family living in Bangkok for the father’s job when their son, Philip, disappears. Forty years later, Laura Preston is a famous reclusive artist and her sister, Bea, takes care of their elderly mother. Then Laura gets news that Philip is alive and without a second thought, Laura hops on a plane and returns to her childhood home. It’s a powerful experience, but not as overwhelming as it will be to bring Philip back to their mother.
This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
When Judd Foxman’s father dies, it reunites all the Foxman children together under one roof again. But it’s not just a somber occasion — the reunion will bring up old hurts and grudges and shine lights on the present-day problems all the Foxmans are having. This is a funny, biting story of family and forgiveness.
The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig
Nate Graves had a terrible childhood growing up with his father. But when his father dies and leaves him the family home, Nate sees it as a great opportunity. Nate and his wife Maddie have a son, Oliver, who is being bullied in school. To get Oliver away from city life, they decide to move into his father’s home to get Oliver away from city life. But the place comes with ghosts of all kinds, real and imaginary, and the legend of a serial killer who promised to return to their neighborhood right before he was executed. You can go home again — but holy cats, it might be scary.
Bonus recommendation: Mark down Memphis by Tara Stringfellow on your TBR right now. It’s a remarkable story about returning to the childhood home, and it’s going to be one of the big books of 2022.