I was not planning to read No Place Like Home while moving across the country. But like so much else in life, as playwright and author Brooke Berman explores in her memoir, sometimes things don’t always go according to plan.
Berman is looking for that place where she fits into the world – a situation so many other young women face in their twenties. For Berman, she is sure the answer is New York City. Raised in Michigan by a single mother who ingrained in her that Manhattan is the epicenter of all things important, Berman leaves the Midwest for Columbia University at age 18 and never looks back.
What follows is a series of cramped apartments, vegan roommates, and a series of boyfriends – one of whom swears he’s “this close to Enlightenment.” Segmented into sections by the various addresses she kept on the island of Manhattan and beyond, No Place Like Home explores what it’s like to face the actualities of trying to realize your dreams.
Berman’s best moments are those personal ones that she makes universal – when you can relate to how ridiculous her situation is or how overtly crazy she is acting. During a particularly tough stretch, she finds solace in going to St. John’s each morning to weep in its garden, and admits, “I know, it’s dramatic, but it helps.” She puts a story behind the cliched term of “starving artist” – and shows us how much of our growing up actually occurs after the age of 20– until we can come to the point where we can say, “I know where I need to be, doing the work I need to do, and finally after years of living this way, I know it’s going to be okay.”
While at times the cynical reader will roll her eyes at Berman’s fancy for the New Age, the author seems aware of this, stating at one point, “I am a massive pain.” Despite the spiritual healers and macrobiotics, No Place Like Home will make you smile and shake your head as you remember where you’ve been and what might lie ahead – whether it’s turning thrifted clothes into “Salvation Armani” or finally buying a bed after ten years of moving a futon mattress between apartments.
Oh, and did I mention that Rainn Wilson makes an appearance?
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