Perfectly Miserable by Sarah Payne Stuart
One of my favorite memoir themes is the pursuit of the American Dream, finding that little slice of heaven in the author’s version of Utopia. Whether it’s living in a New York City brownstone, pig farming in the Midwest, or longing for the simple life of the Deep South, Americans are a restless bunch.
Like most teenagers, Stuart couldn’t wait to flee the quaint, yet stifling, town of Concord, Massachusetts. Desperate to bury the memories of growing up in a dysfunctional family, she swore she couldn’t move far away enough.
Fast forward a decade later and guess who is suddenly pining away for her hometown? Surprising even herself, Stuart makes the rash decision to return to her roots.
Back on her home turf but moving into no less than three different houses, it reads like a modern day Goldilocks trying to find the right chair. But at the core of Stuart’s story is the dichotomy of her wanting to fit in with her former environment and the familiar disdain for what she abandoned in the first place.
Throughout the book the author compares her dream of finding domestic bliss with other famous New England authors such as Emerson and Hawthorne. She has a particular fondness for Louisa May Alcott and makes several parallels between Louisa’s family and her own while admitting her unabashed obsession of the ever famous Little Women.
As an avid memoir reader I enjoyed following Stuart’s quest for the perfect homestead.
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