The photograph on the cover is what initially drew me in; it was those familiar beautiful buildings on Fifth that loom over the treetops, being observed from a spot in Central Park where I too have stood and looked up in awe. When I opened the book to the index and saw that the essays inside were dedicated to a different location in New York, it was a given that I was taking it home; my love for the Empire City and the glowing reviews I’d read made me keen on flying through this Memoir and have my breath taken away.
Spoiler alert: Places I Stopped on the Way Home is not a series of love letters to New York.
Meg Fee is a remarkable storyteller; she stitches together a collection of short essays that read like pages ripped from her diary with raw unfiltered emotion that chronicle a woman trying to cultivate self-love. She lets the world deep dive into her anxieties and unhappiness, and her fretful search for ‘home’ in both people and a city that seemingly swallowed her whole.
Pieced together, these snapshots of her life articulate what it’s like to be a cisgender straight woman in your twenties, as well as a product of cultural environment: men who just aren’t right, eating disorders and insecurities, dreams that prove to be out of reach, friends who don’t grow with you, and blooming bonds with those that do.
Each one of these memories she recalls is inextricably linked to a place in The Big Apple; from falling in love at Juilliard, to riding the D train to the job that was never good, bed bugs and a trying roommate in Greenwich Village, and an unexpected feeling of community in her Harlem dwelling.
While my notebook contains scribbled down quotes of her gorgeously expressed thoughts, I still find myself at odds with some of her choices and apparent desperation. If you were to unbind the book and read one of her essays in isolation her outlook on life would seem self-indulgent; as a whole they were repetitive and solely focused on her own self-fulfillment and looks.
Rather than view Fee as someone I can align myself with, as I expected I would being that I am a woman in my twenties, I found myself wondering where her friends and family were during this season of life and wishing she had been able to get past herself enough to truly appreciate life and the world around her – or reach out and get the help she needed.
Her profound gift of being able to translate her thoughts so beautifully onto paper made this book easy to ingest – but I came away from it with my breath still intact, my thoughts clouded with a palpable disappointment. This book didn’t leave me feeling like I hoped it would; it didn’t elevate any line of thinking or offer any deeper meaning. I dove head first into this book expecting to relate much more than I did, and maybe that is where my disappointment comes in.
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Reviewed by: Christy (Contributor)