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Hailey's Homeless

March 03, 1991

Judith Freeman's review of "Home Free" was so far off the mark that I suspect mine will not be the only voice raised against it.

It is an inanity to contrast every novel that depicts characters who emigrate to California from other parts of the country with the migration of the Joad family in Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath." Not only because nearly everyone in California came from somewhere else and, therefore, this type of backstory is difficult to avoid, even in fiction, when presenting realistic California inhabitants; but also because many of those novels (as is the case with "Home Free") do not deal directly with the migration per se as their major theme . . .

"Is this the answer?" Freeman asks of Kate's (the main character) method of dealing with the question of homelessness. Serious, interpretive novelists, of which Hailey is doubtless one, do not try to teach a lesson, or try to answer all of the questions that may arise from her or his subject; rather, the serious fiction writer tries to provide an experience, an insight into the human existence. This Hailey has done.

Hailey does not suggest that Kate's solution is "the answer"; she merely presents it as Kate's answer. Hailey does not infer that one should not offer one's home to alcoholics or bums, if one so desires; she simply shows us that these are not the people to whom Kate chose to offer hers. This is, after all, fiction. One of the virtues of "Home Free" (and I suggest that Freeman might have delineated some of them) seems to be the fact that it is an attempt not to solve the problem of homelessness in America but simply to depict with care and insight how one woman deals with it. . . .

MAGGIE ROTH, SUN VALLEY

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