Lorrie Moore — once the luminary of short stories, the illuminating lantern in the twilight fog of the 1990s and 2000s — known and respected for her unforgettable collections like Self-Help, Like Life, Birds of America, and Bark, has often found her novelist talents hidden under the bushel. Unjustly so, I argue, for one need only to observe Anagrams, Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?, and A Gate at the Stairs to recognize her formidable abilities.
In her newest venture, I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home, Moore throws a left jab at our sensibilities, tackling themes that send chills down our collective spines: grief, death, belonging, identity. Her narrative navigates between two worlds separated by centuries, one in 1871, another in 2016, while beautifully stirring the echoes of time, blurring our comprehension of what is real and unreal, past and present, life and death.
Our protagonist, Finn, embarks on a journey like a ship in the storm. With his brother, Max, dying in a New York City hospice, and the memory of his ex-partner Lily’s suicide, life itself seems to unravel like a poorly knit sweater. Guilt and grief gnaw at his soul, leading him down the path of existential dislocation. Amidst the storm, humor becomes his life vest, his only reprieve against life’s cruel jest.
Finn’s story intertwines with the spectral narrative of letters from the Civil War era, written by a woman named Elizabeth. The letters, like relics from a bygone era, offer a glimpse into the patterns of human existence — comforting, elusive, and complex. Our understanding of home, reality, and mortality are thrown into question, wrapped in the shroud of “alternative histories” and conspiracy theories that seek to make sense of our world’s madness.
In this sublime novel, Moore captures the chaotic essence of our times, devoid of any redemption — a harsh reality that resonates with the brutal honesty of our existence. Moore wields her command of language, comedy, and storytelling to deliver a breathtaking narrative, mirroring the chaos of its creation. I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home is a monumental addition to Moore’s repertoire, reasserting her prowess in long-form narrative.
In its essence, Moore’s latest masterpiece reminds us that the chords of love and connection reverberate, cutting through the silence of life’s boundaries, offering readers an experience soaked in profundity.
WORDS: Marc Landas