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First Look Club: Jody reviews Lorna Mott Comes Home by Diane Johnson

First Look Club: Jody reviews Lorna Mott Comes Home by Diane Johnson

LORNA MOTT COMES HOME

By Diane Johnson

Publication date: May 11, 2021

Reviewed by Jody Uy


Lorna Mott is coming home. She’s decided to set aside her second husband and their 18 years in France to return to the familiar skyline of San Francisco. She plans to rekindle her career as an art lecturer and meet up with her children (and grandchildren). On the plane ride home, she feels confident things will go well with all her plans laid out. But a lot has changed since she was gone and many of the Mott lives are plagued with problems—money, properties, divorce, pregnancy, among others. The novel follows the stories of Lorna Mott as she tries to find her footing back on home ground and the stories of her family as they attempt to disentangle the messy state of their affairs.

Prime time programming

One of the things that immediately stood out to me about the novel was that it wasn’t just about Lorna Mott. We’re slowly introduced to each of the Motts as Lorna re-encounters them while settling back in San Francisco. The story shifts and moves along with each of the Mott family members until their collective entanglements take center stage. This focus on the different family members and their joint hullaballoo reminded me a lot of our own Filipino telenovelas and Korean dramas (minus the high-stakes kidnappings and dramatic confrontation scenes). 

I personally enjoyed seeing how the different characters (even the ones with seemingly very small neighborly roles) moved the plot along and were related to each other in surprising and interesting ways (very Chekhov’s gun approved). Each character was distinct and dynamic—there was the indifferent and fragile princess granddaughter, the cherubic playboy second husband, the stinky rich but missing in action son—their stories and voices really brought the entire novel to life for me. I also loved how the different parts wove in and out of these various character perspectives so seamlessly. Reading through the chapters felt like watching different episodes of a long-running family series where you were thoroughly invested in the various main and side character arcs.

This is America?

The novel focuses very heavily on American realities, sketching a caricature of the young and old, as well as those on home soil and abroad. As a reader, you’re able to think in the shoes of Lorna, her ex-husbands, her children, and grandchildren, and walk throughout San Francisco alongside them as they bump into each other and board the bus back home. The different portions written in the perspectives of Lorna’s family members provide an interesting cross-section of American life as they each struggle with a turbulent economy and fickle but nonetheless precious human relationships.

As the novel is so America-centric, I’d also like to throw out a small warning that there were a couple of instances where non-Western cultures were described as “exotic” in different parts of the book. Whether this was a deliberate move by the author in shaping the characters in the novel or a subconscious one is anyone’s guess, but I wanted to put it out there in case that was something that would potentially irk you (as it honestly did me).

Possible cultural red flags aside, I do believe that Lorna Mott Comes Home is a book filled with life (and strife!). Its characters are real and memorable—both funny and tragic in their dealings with hardship and each other. If you’re into family entanglements reminiscent of prime time series, you might want to consider giving this book a shot.


Jody is discovering everyday the greatest bits about reading and learning that fuel our thinking. When she’s not drowning in readings for class, she drowns herself in music, books, and the wonders of the Internet. You can find her on Instagram @ohfishness.
[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fully Booked. Then again, we love our authors anyway.]



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