A Book Dedicated to Staying
Starling House is a book that’s sort of a love letter and sort of a break-up text.
Oct 3, 2023
When I was twenty-four, I moved back home to Kentucky and spent my life savings to put a down payment on an abandoned house. When we signed the deed, the realtor asked, in a horrified whisper: Lord, where will you start?
There was no obvious answer. The roof leaked. The pipes leaked. There were things living in the basement that scuffled and scratched at night. Half the windows were broken, and the first time we turned on the breaker we started a small fire in the attic.
It took us seven years, but we made that place habitable, then comfortable, and then beautiful. We made it feel like home.
And then—plot twist!--we moved away. And it was only then, once I knew I was leaving Kentucky, that I could write Starling House, which is a book about staying.
I put everything I love about my home into this book. John Prine. Ale-8. Honeysuckle and wisteria, hills and caves. Women I don’t know calling me “sugar.” Summers that are a little too hot and stories that go on a little too long.
And I put in everything I hate about my home, too. Coal. Rebel flags. Violent, escalating homophobia. The way people are simultaneously obsessed with the past and determined to erase it; the way people will sometimes stop in the road to talk and block traffic both ways until they’ve caught up. Men I don’t know calling me “sugar.” Welcome mats that only apply to certain kinds of people.
And the result was a book that’s sort of a love letter and sort of a break-up text. It’s the kind of nightmare you don’t want to wake up from; the kind of fairy tale you aren’t sure has a happy ending.
I hope you like it. I hope it feels—for better or worse--like home.