A Place in the World
Finding the Meaning of Home
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A lyrical and evocative collection of personal stories from the author of Under the Tuscan Sun, in which the queen of wanderlust reflects on the comforts of home.
Longlisted for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award • Veranda Book Club Pick • “A soulful meditation on ‘what home means, how it hooks the past and pushes into the future’ . . . spellbinding.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Though Frances Mayes is known for her travels, she has always sought a sense of home wherever she goes. In this poetic testament to the power of place in our lives, Mayes reflects on the idea of home, from the earliest imprint of four walls to the startling discoveries of feeling the strange ease of homes abroad, friends’ homes, and even momentary homes that spark desires for other lives. Her musings are all the more poignant after so many have spent their long pandemic months at home. From her travels across Italy—Tuscany, of course, but also Venice and Capri—to the American South, France, and Mexico, Mayes examines the connective tissue among them through the homes she’s inhabited.
A Place in the World explores Mayes’s passion and obsessions with houses and the things that inhabit them—old books, rich food, beloved friends, transportive art. The indelible marks each refuge has left on her and how each home influenced the next serve as the foundations of its chapters.
Written in Mayes’s signature intimate style, A Place in the World captures the adventure of moving on while seeking comfort in the cornerstone closest to all of us—home.
Novelist Mayes (See You in the Piazza) delivers a soulful meditation on "what home means, how it hooks the past and pushes into the future" in her spellbinding latest. She examines the question through an evocative tour of her homes: there's Chatwood, with its demanding yet rewarding rose garden in Hillsborough, N.C. ("As much as you own an old house and garden," she ruefully muses, "it owns you"); Bramasole, the Tuscan villa in Cortona, Italy, immortalized in her hit 1996 memoir Under the Tuscan Sun; and her childhood Georgia home, a place that conjures memories of her mother's cooking (the mouthwatering recipes for which are sprinkled throughout). Elsewhere, temporary dwellings induce reflections on life changes: cooking lessons at Simone Beck's "honey-colored house" in Provence, for example, inspired Mayes to enroll in graduate school and begin a career as a teacher and writer. As she meanders through her memories, poignant takes on transience and mortality mingle with tributes to the people who bring her homes their vitality: friends, family, and Italian neighbors who drop off gifts of fresh ricotta, wine, eggs, zinnias, and tomatoes. "For my part," Mayes writes, "these gifts give me a chance to feel at home in the world." This rich testament to the pleasures of wanderlust and permanence is a gift as well.