Isabel Huggan’s Belonging: Home Away From Home is a memoir of her life as experienced through the various places she has lived. Huggan shares stories about living abroad in the south of France, the Philippines, Kenya and Tasmania, while also recalling memories from her childhood in Canada.
The chapters float about, unhitched to a particular chronological pattern, forming a series of reflections on the meaning of home. Throughout the book, Huggan, shares her thoughts on writing, and how different locales (and the “artifacts” she discovers) influence her craft. For Huggan, the “fossils” she collects from a particular place serve as “emotional furnishings” in unfamiliar landscapes, and help to spark memories and feed her nostalgia as she writes. As she struggles to find a groove with her writing in a new place, she shares: “It seems imperative, if one is going to write deeply about a place, to acknowledge the past and to illuminate the many ways it attaches itself to the present.”
The quest to define home and create a sense of belonging in this world is a recurring theme in travel literature and writings. I enjoyed Huggan’s unique approach, which ended with three of her own fictional short stories. Her book is a travel memoir, but a journal on the writing process as well. I’ve written some additional thoughts about my favorite chapter of the book here, at my personal blog. You can learn more about Isabel Huggan here.