Stephanie Kallos’s Sing Them Home was published in 2009 by Atlantic Monthly Press. The novel is set in Emlyn Springs near Lincoln, Nebraska. Emlyn Springs is a typical small town in America; its growing number of empty businesses serve as a reminder of the loss of youth in the community. The former prosperity of Main Street with its merchants and shop owners has gone.
The story begins with three grown children who gather for their father’s funeral after he has been killed by lightning. The three children also lost their mother twenty-five years prior. Their mother, Hope Jones, lived in Nebraska and disappeared in a 1978 tornado and her body was never found. The story is well-known in their community.
The three children are Larken, Galean, and Bonnie. Larken is an art history professor who is overweight and has a fear of flying. She lives in Lincoln and works at the University of Nebraska. After her mother’s death, Larken displayed a promiscuity to cope with her grief. She now turns to food to fill the void left by her mother’s death. Galean also lives in Lincoln where he is a weatherman for a television station. Galean also focuses on physical means to mask the pain of his mother’s death. He is a body builder and pursues casual relationships with women. None of the women he dates compare to a high school sweetheart he had long ago in Emlyn Springs. Bonnie is the youngest and lives in Emlyn Springs working various jobs. After the 1978 tornado, the community learned that Bonnie was also carried off into the storm’s winds. She gained the nickname “Flying Girl” because she floated into the air on her bicycle and ended up gently in the branches of a tree. Their unresolved grief over their mother's death is tapped with the death of their father.
The novel moves well between the past and the present with passages from Hope’s diary when she was a young wife and mother. These chapters are woven throughout the narrative. Reviewers note Kallos’s talent for capturing the cultural nuances and unique characters of small-town life. She patiently reveals the failings of her characters as they seek clarity and resolution in the space of unresolved grief.