Saturday, November 19, 2011

Book Review: Home Street Home: The Virginia Beach Chronicles

Home Street Home, The Virginia Beach Chronicles, by Georgia Saunders takes an in depth look at homeless life. While this book is fiction, many of the stories are based on real observations by the author, which makes the novel even more compelling.

The author’s main character is Ella, a woman in her sixties who very unexpectedly found herself homeless after years of taking care of her family. There are also several side stories, all involving interesting people who deal with being homeless on a daily basis. All of the side stories connect back to Ella through people she has met on the street, except one: the story of a young hardworking family on the brink of homelessness. I love how the author includes this additional story to show how quickly things can change for a family. There are many characters in this novel, and I admittedly had difficulty keeping track of them all. It wasn’t until after I was done reading the story that I realized they were all necessary to show the sheer enormity of the problem.

Home Street Home is truly thought provoking and insightful. Ella could be anyone: your next-door neighbor, the person in line behind you at the grocery store, or even yourself. Georgia Saunders does a fine job of both story telling and educating readers on a growing problem in our own backyards.


It is my pleasure to introduce you to the author, Georgia Saunders.

Georgia, Could you share a bit about yourself?

"Sure. I was homeless for over three years in Virginia Beach. Before that, the only writing I’d done was in my personal journals, though I’ve always been an avid reader of good literature. After I became homeless, I found I could endure being cramped up in a small room with up to 100 feisty and sometimes drunk people, if I concentrated on trying to accurately describe interpersonal dynamics I was experiencing or observing. It was really just an escape at first. Not satisfied with my work, I began to check books from the library about how to write better, and revisit works by favorite authors such as Steinbeck , London, Twain and Dickens to name just a few, to inform my own scribbling. Everything was hand-written in a notebook at first and was completely for my own education, amusement and sanity.

During most of my homeless experience, I was living in a car, then a van and I was in and out of hotels with my then boyfriend. He had some issues with substance abuse, but tried to keep me off the street most of the time by working at construction jobs. They were usually short-term projects, anyway, but it didn’t help that he would binge and lay out of work every so often. I was also working part-time, cashiering, but that was really just enough for gas and car expenses. It’s difficult to pay the large deposit on top of the first month’s rent, and the rental properties in this area are tightly controlled by credit rating. When I became homeless, I wasn’t able to keep up with credit card payments, so I was like that short guy in the Hannibal Lecter mask picking his ears on the commercial. Even when we had money, we couldn’t get housing except in hotels. It was a really unstable situation for me and I often despaired there was just no way out.

Get a better boyfriend, you say? Most of the men in the streets were about the same or worse – and so many were about finding a woman to make their lives easier. I don’t play that, nor do I play musical chairs, so sticking to the devil I knew seemed the relatively best choice. Looking for a relationship outside of the community while homeless is not a good idea. As soon as a housed date knows your situation, you lose value and become more vulnerable to the power games that are played on the dating scene. When you are in a vulnerable survival situation, you can’t afford to take those risks.

To read more of this interview and read about Georgia Saunders and her incredibly journey, visit her at

Georgia's books are available at

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