Gilbert Morris’s The Homeplace takes place over several years in the lives of the Freeman family and focuses particularly on Lanie Freeman, the eldest child. The Freemans go through a series of crises: their mother dies, their father is arrested for a fight he didn’t start, and a bitter businessman continually tries to take their property.
The novel is divided into 32 chapters and five parts, titled “The Venture,” “The Accident,” “The Miracle,” “The Revenge,” and “The Woman.” Unfortunately, not one of these sections is actually as interesting as the names imply it will be. Despite being set at the start of the Great Depression rather than the height of the pioneer days, Morris’s historical fiction reads like watered-down Laura Ingalls Wilder, complete with general store, sibling rivalry, and a grizzled-but-loving Pa.
Morris’ greatest strength is also his greatest weakness. His version of Fairhope, Arkansas is a place where things are simple, everyone knows everyone else’s name, and practically everybody goes to church. It makes for a nice place to visit briefly, but it’s too much of a cliché to want to stay for 327 pages, much less an entire series of books. There are also too many characters running across those pages, of which the heroine is certainly one of the least interesting. Also, giving characters names like Mr. Sixkiller, places names like The Dew Drop Inn, and forming phrases like “the snowy white blanket of snow” is unforgivable. Cliché on top of cliché?
The high points of this book take the form of poems written by Lanie. Unfortunately, while the author excels in this poetry, he often suffers in prose. Whereas Gilbert Morris offers a few good stories about prayer, faith, and miracles, the overall journey is long, tedious, and often predictable. There’s a slim chance fans of the genre may enjoy The Homeplace, but general readers won’t endure its slow pace and pedantic writing. -- Sean M. Cogan, Christian Book Previews.com
Lanie took out her journal and dated it April 12, 1928. She started the habit of writing down everything that happened to her when she was no more than eight years old, and now she had six journals completely full. She thought about the prize at school, almost prayed to win, but somehow she could not. “God,” she finally said, “I’ll do my best, and if you’ll help me, that’s all I ask.
”Fourteen-year-old Lanie Belle Freeman of Fairhope, Arkansas, has high hopes for her future. Happy on the five-acre family homeplace, she dreams of going to college and becoming a writer. And with her father launching a new business and her mother expecting the fifth baby, the bright days of an early Southern spring seem to herald expansive new beginnings for the Freeman family.
But her mother isn’t as strong as she should be, and it’s going to take time for the business to pay back the mortgage. When unexpected tragedy strikes, it is left to Lanie to keep the family together and hold on to their home. In a world shaken by the Great Depression, it is faith in God and love in a tightly knit family that will help Lanie and her siblings overcome the odds and create a future that promises the fulfillment of love.
The Homeplace offers a warmhearted and inspiring saga of a courageous young woman who holds her family together through the Depression era.