Benny’s life has always been different. Benny’s mom, Nola, is tired of living in small-town Missouri, and longs to be back in New Orleans. Benny’s dad, Calvin, grew up in Dennis Acres and could never imagine leaving it, and his “collectibles,” behind. In Homesick, the new novel by Kate Klise, these conflicting emotions become too much. After Benny’s dad loses his store, he has to move his entire inventory home. Furious, Benny’s mom demands that Calvin throw something—anything—away. When Calvin refuses, Benny’s mom walks out the door, leaving Benny and his dad behind.

Benny’s dad has always like to collect things—“irredeemables” from the repairman in town, electronic equipment that he believes will be part of a computer network that connects the entire country (Homesick takes place in 1983, before the Internet was widely used, or even known), and anything else he can find. After Nola leaves, though, Calvin begins to “collect” everything—used pizza boxes, truckloads from the dump and enough spare parts to actually build a working motorcycle. It fills the house that Benny and his dad live in, and then spills out onto the porch, and into the yard.

This mess would be bad enough under normal circumstances, but when Dennis Acres accidentally wins the title of “America’s Most Charming Small Town,” everyone realizes that Calvin’s mess needs to be cleaned up. Everyone that is, except for Calvin. Benny enlists the help of a number of memorable characters to devise a way to clean up and clear out his house. However, there is another force that no one sees coming that will change everything.

Homesick is a unique novel that offers both hilarious situations and heartwarming moments. There is a relatively small cast of characters, but each is presented carefully as having both flaws and redeemable characteristics. Klise, who lives in the Missouri Ozarks and has written several award-winning books for children, creates a community that invites you into its inner workings, and makes it easy to feel as if you know everyone in town. Her latest novel holds broad appeal for anyone who likes a good story and great characters. One warning, though: the ending will really blow you away!

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