Carrie La Seur makes her remarkable debut with The Home Place, a mesmerizing, emotionally evocative, and atmospheric literary novel in the vein of The House Girl and A Land More Kind Than Home, in which a successful lawyer is pulled back into her troubled family’s life in rural Montana in the wake of her sister’s death.
The only Terrebonne who made it out, Alma thought she was done with Montana, with its bleak winters and stifling ways. But an unexpected call from the local police takes the successful lawyer back to her provincial hometown and pulls her into the family trouble she thought she’d left far behind: Her lying, party-loving sister, Vicky, is dead. Alma is told that a very drunk Vicky had wandered away from a party and died of exposure after a night in the brutal cold. But when Alma returns home to bury Vicky and see to her orphaned niece, she discovers that the death may not have been an accident.
The Home Place is a story of secrets that will not lie still, human bonds that will not break, and crippling memories that will not be silenced. It is a story of rural towns and runaways, of tensions corporate and racial, of childhood trauma and adolescent betrayal, and of the guilt that even forgiveness cannot ease. Most of all, this is a story of the place we carry in us always: home.
Carrie practices energy and environmental law on behalf of farmers, ranchers, and Native Americans, and does a little writing, from an office in Billings, Montana. Her ancestors homesteaded in Montana in 1864 and survived every sort of calamity and absurdity, so the publishing industry seems pretty tame to her by comparison.
Carrie’s improbable but apparently nonfiction résumé includes a degree in English and French from Bryn Mawr College, a Rhodes Scholarship, a doctorate in modern languages from Oxford University, and a Yale law degree. She has always been a writer. “The writing comes easily,” she says. “It’s what I’m always doing in the background, whatever else is going on. It’s like my resting pulse rate to be scribbling what’s happening in my head. If I didn’t, I’d be wandering the streets talking to myself. Sometimes I do that anyway.”
In 2006, Carrie founded the legal nonprofit Plains Justice, which provides public interest energy and environmental legal services in the northern plains states. Carrie and Plains Justice have played a key role in halting several new coal plants, enacting clean energy reforms, and launching the Keystone XL pipeline campaign. “I’m still involved in Plains Justice, but I went back to private practice in 2012. Running a nonprofit takes a unique blend of selflessness and enough raging narcissism to think you really can change the world. The burnout rate is similar to that of telemarketers.”
A licensed private pilot and committed introvert, Carrie hikes, skis, and fishes the Montana wilderness with her family in her spare time. Her work has appeared in such diverse media as Grist, Harvard Law and Policy Review, The Huffington Post, Mother Jones, and Salon.
“Carrie La Seur’s debut is a gripping story of family, love and murder. Set against an indelibly drawn Montana landscape, The Home Place explores the intangible ways we are both defined by and in opposition to the people and places we call home.”Tara Conklin
“La Seur makes a very assured debut. Her characters are rich and believable; the plot is perfectly paced with mystery and romance enough to keep the reader hooked. And it’s all played against a beautifully drawn Montana backdrop.”Booklist
“Powerfully evocative and page-turning.”Rosamund Lupton
“The Home Place is one of the year’s strongest debuts.”Associated Press Staff
“It is always a treat when a talented writer chooses to write about her home, particularly when she does so with authority, clarity and imagination...The Home Place gives readers a stunning but frank look at what it means to be from Billings, Montana.”BookPage
“A love story of the land and its people...captivating.”Charleston Post & Courier
“Once this novel is cracked open it’ll pull you in and dare you to come up for air....The Home Place is a lot of things: a mystery, a crime drama, a family saga, and - most importantly - a very, very good book.”No Source
“Once this novel is cracked open it’ll pull you in and dare you to come up for air...THE HOME PLACE is a lot of things: a mystery, a crime drama, a family saga, and - most importantly - a very, very good book.”Wiley Cash
Billings, MT, is Alma Terrebonne's hometown. A corporate lawyer, she lives in Seattle and rarely talks to what is left of her family. She harbors survivor guilt after walking away unharmed from a car accident that killed her parents right before she left for college. When Alma's younger sister Vicky, a waitress, single mom, and drug user, is found battered to death one icy winter morning, Alma returns to Billings. Taking her niece, Brittany, under her wing, she plans to move into the old homestead her grandparents had built out in the country. But first the police must roust a methamphetamine dealer from the house. Slowly the desperate details of Vicky's life are revealed, and Alma begins to put together the terrible web of events that led to her sister's death. VERDICT Under "a big sky full of a million stars," the hard, cold realities of the Terrebonne family loom large. Alma, emotionally shut down for years, must find new strengths to face escalating horrors. Walloping in suspense, drama, rage, and remorse, this debut is an accomplished literary novel of the new West. [See Prepub Alert, 2/10/14].—Keddy Ann Outlaw, Houston
A busy Washington lawyer returns home to sort out the details of her sister’s shadowy life and suspicious death.When Alma Terrebonne receives word that her younger sister has died, she flies back to her hometown of Billings, Montana, and ends up shouldering more responsibility than she anticipated. There are no easy explanations for what happened. Vicky left her 11-year-old daughter, Brittany, in the early hours of the morning, and her frozen body was found hours later. The police find some physical evidence suggesting it may have been murder. Alma’s investigation reaffirms what's known around town: Vicky was a drug user who hung out with lowlifes and owed money to everyone; her own dysfunctional family, from her older brother to the aunt and uncle who raised her following the deaths of her parents, wasn’t immune. She even approached her grandmother about signing over mining rights to the family’s homestead to a seedy land agent, a man who threatens Alma when confronted. A part of the family for generations, the home place was built by her great-grandfather and represents to Alma comfort and memories of simpler and happier times. After law enforcement officers remove a drug dealer and remnants of a meth lab from the premises without taking standard safety precautions, Alma—apparently unconcerned about possible toxic contaminants—moves in with her traumatized niece. She plans to stay only a few days before turning Brittany over to her aunt and uncle’s care and returning to her job in Washington, but she becomes increasingly aware that her niece’s well-being is in her hands. During the course of their stay, she reignites a friendship with her high school sweetheart, Chance, and rediscovers long-dormant emotions. She also learns the lengths people will go to safeguard themselves and others.In her sympathetic if somewhat uneven debut, La Seur entices readers with impeccable prose imbued with a blend of romance, nostalgia and suspense. There are plenty of enjoyable red herrings and tarnished characters, but some of the details lack credibility.