One day, Jesse Donaldson wakes up in Portland, Oregon, and asks his wife to uproot their life together and move to his native Kentucky. As he searches for the reason behind this sudden urge, Donaldson examines both the place where he was born and the life he’s building.
The result is a hybrid—part memoir, part meditation on nostalgia, part catalog of Kentucky history and myth. Organized according to Kentucky geography, with one passage for each of the commonwealth’s 120 counties, On Homesickness examines whether we can ever return to the places we’ve called home.
The stories we tell ourselves crumble if we pick at them. Who howls for me? Pull the thread and the narrative unravels, and whatever was once true becomes little more than conjecture. Along the border there is a small triangle of Kentucky that juts down into Tennessee for no apparent reason; there are no rivers or valleys to make a boundary. Just fields and hills. No one knows precisely why this happened but there are conflicting stories. Kentuckians like to believe that one of their own fought for that piece of land; Tennesseans like to believe the entire border except this triangle chose to be part of their state. And while you have to remember people from Tennessee are full of shit, neither story can be verified. The truth is that I’ve turned my back on Kentucky time and again; the myth is that somehow the land wants me back, which is hubris, of course, and ignorance. A place can’t love me. Not like you.