July 10, 2005
By Diane White
Unraveling marriages, inspired designs
Diane Hammond's "Homesick Creek" follows two troubled marriages and an enduring friendship through some exceptionally difficult midlife straits, and does so with sensitivity and intelligence. Given the material, this could be a three-hankie job, but the story never turns maudlin, thanks to Hammond's clean prose, pitch-perfect dialogue, and keen eye for social detail. "Homesick Creek" is a worthy successor to her sure-footed first novel, "Going to Bend." Actually, it's even better.
Hammond returns to Hubbard, Ore., the same down-at-the-heels seaside resort town that was the setting for "Going to Bend." Bunny and Anita, best friends since high school, are just past 40, still living in Hammond [sic], where they grew up. Bunny has been a waitress at the Anchor Grill for 21 years. Her husband, Hack, "a born salesman," works at a car dealership in nearby Sawyer. He's successful enough to provide Bunny with the material things she craves, but Bunny isn't happy because she suspects he's unfaithful. Hack guards secrets from Bunny, old wounds that help to explain his erratic behavior.
Anita is married to Bob, her high school sweetheart, who spends most of his paycheck on beer and periodic "mystery trips." Anita and Bob rent a rundown house, its yard littered with broken cars that Bob hauls home and never fixes. Despite their poverty, and Bob's drinking, Anita and Bob love each other. She trusts him completely, but Bob has another life, a dangerous life Anita can't begin to imagine. The story moves back and forth in time as characters reveal their histories and recall pivotal moments. Human fallibility runs through this novel, a presence on every page. Hammond also has created a vibrant assortment of secondary characters and meshed them deftly into the plot. "Homesick Creek" is an honest, finely nuanced, emotionally rich novel.