The book "A Place to Call Home" is, in some small part, the author's biography - not a recording of individual episodes or events, but of emotions and thoughts at various stages in life. It is about the search to belong, to fit into a world that can be confusing. Most people experience such feelings at some stage in their life, but some feel more than others do.
This, then, is the book of the consummate outsider in American society. It is about growing up in the lower working class - the unskilled factory laborers' world - under the old auspices of the American Dream in a world that seems to deny the existence of, or the opportunity for, such a dream. It expresses that anger and frustration, the observations, and the occasional joys of someone who grew up in the working class but had an eye that tried looking past that horizon of old brick buildings and housing developments. It is not that one can't overcome the obstacles which society places in the way; it is about the emotional toil that is extracted in such efforts.
Each chapter is a mockery of the classical "Seven Ages of Man" writings. Each section vaguely deals with periods in life such as childhood, schooling, the search for religion, the working years, family, and so on. Poems written at those specific times are intermixed with poems looking back from later times to contrast the changing moods and visions of life. The core poems in this book follow the crests and valleys of emotional development in the author's life, but slowly and ultimately build to a crescendo of primal scream outrage and anger, followed by the calmer acceptance and resignation that come with middle age. The poems are predominantly from the years 1985-1997, with a few poems coming from earlier eras or more recent ones.
The book is about contrasts so prevalent in America: the promises of the Camelot years and the realities of America at the end of the 20th Century; about wanting to believe in equality when everything is so unequal. The work is a documentation of a struggle to climb from anonymity and despair, if just to achieve something slightly better than what one's grandfather had. It is, lastly, about trying to find a place where one can be content and accept the terms of life.