Where the Heart Is

“Becoming Home” celebrates five generations of a Scituate family
under one roof.

Written by Jennifer H. McInerney
Photography by Jack Foley

Author Kirsten Hunt Kowalski, a self-proclaimed “Navy brat,” moved 10 times during her childhood before her family finally settled in Scituate. As Kowalski details in her debut novel of historical fiction “Becoming Home,” the antique farmhouse they moved into on North Hill in Scituate grew and evolved along with five generations of her family, beginning with her grandparents. 

Although certain portions of the story are fictionalized, the characters are based on real people and many of the scenes were derived from actual events that transpired within the walls of the family home over the years. As Kowalski discovered anecdotes and researched the facts of her family’s longtime home, she decided to breathe life into the hand-built 1847 structure that sits atop a giant fieldstone rock foundation. Adding an omniscient dimension to the narrative, Kowalski made the house itself a central character of the story, giving it a distinct voice and point of view, sharing memories, observations and reflections of its role in the family’s collective history.

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“The house is pivotal to our family’s history, so it made sense to personify the house and give it its own voice,” she says. 

In the story, four grown siblings are struggling with how to dispense of the 200-year-old house that they’ve inherited following the death of their mother. In reality, however, Kowalski’s parents are still alive and the siblings have not had to confront the difficult dilemma of whether to sell the home to strangers or share the burden of maintaining an aging house. 

“The idea for the book came along when my parents began talking about their future plans for the house and the decisions that would need to be made in the event of their deaths,” Kowalski recalls. “It wasn’t something we really wanted to think about yet, but I became interested in the house and telling the stories of all of the people who had lived in it.”

Kowalski, who is a lawyer and photographer in Vero Beach, Florida, enjoys writing in her spare time and spent four years working on her novel. Though she resides out of state, she returned to the family home to draw inspiration. “I stayed in what is called ‘the pink bedroom’ in the book. I was having trouble writing the ending, and I would sit in that room and lay my hands on the walls, feeling the presence of my ancestors and seeking guidance.”

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