On the Road With A. M. Homes

The literary icon holds court at the East Hampton Library’s annual Authors Night.

By Regina Weinreich

Reading A. M. Homes’ latest book, The Unfolding, you’d think she can tell the future. “I’m riveted by American history,” she says, in a recent conversation from her car. On the road from her East Hampton “tiny cabin” to Washington, D.C., to celebrate her mother’s 97th birthday, the much-lauded novelist details the fiction that will most likely be on her table at Authors Night. “In The Unfolding, I was writing about how we became who we are, and how we seem shocked by it.” She puts on a voice: “‘Oh no, how did this happen?’ All you have to do is look at our political evolution from the Eisenhower era. It’s not a mystery.”

The Unfolding takes place between election night 2008 and Barack Obama’s inauguration in January 2009, roughly six weeks involving two stories: a family coming together, dealing with their secrets, and where we are now, politically. “A group of men are not happy when John McCain loses,” Homes says. “They set about to reclaim their vision of America, their version of democracy, and it’s scary.

“I had the idea long before Trump was even on the horizon,” she continues. “My editor said, ‘Well, you don’t write science fiction.’ And I said, ‘I think there’s something happening out there.’ I wanted to talk about how Obama’s presidency unleashed racism and sexism that has come to define the country in the years after. Ideas about January 6 [2021] come to play. Weirdly, I wrote a story, though set in 2008, that has come to define the last election.”

Homes’ passion for history includes the “enormous depth of the Hamptons.” In the mid-1980s, she lived in “The Barn” near South Essex Street in Montauk, repurposed by playwright Edward Albee as a foundation for artists and writers. A great inspiration and kind support, he gave her confidence when she started out. And, “Edward and I shared this weird detail: We were both adopted in D.C.”

In community with like-minded friends, she discussed creativity with Lou Reed at Louse Point, and collaborated with Eric Fischl on a book about beaches. “What you read about the Hamptons is dominated by wealth and real estate,” Homes says. “The reason the artists, writers and millionaires come is the richness of land itself. I go to Main Beach in the morning. I can watch whales eating breakfast. They open their mouths and fish go in, while I’m eating two eggs on a roll.”

Looking forward to Authors Night, she notes how special it is when people get together to talk about books. She remembers getting Dr. Ruth Westheimer to sign a book, and chef Mark Strausman autographing his cookbook while she signed a book for his ex-wife. “You see the regulars. Bob Caro—he’s a legend, and then the occasional movie stars.”

Private dinners follow, “a great way to eat with people you may not know,” she says. “One year I did it with The Mistress’s Daughter, my memoir about being adopted. Many older people who had adopted wanted to ask about things they never asked their own children. That’s a special kind of conversation that you don’t get to have with strangers.”

Now, “I am writing about an AI talking tree who is a therapist,” Homes says. With so many shrinks and psychiatric patients populating her books, Homes must know the territory. “Yes, I’ve been in therapy since fourth grade and I like to think I’m making progress. Come by and say hello at Authors Night.”

East Hampton Library’s 19th annual fundraiser Authors Night is held on August 12 at 5PM at Herrick Park, East Hampton Village. Tickets $150, authors reception only; $400, dinner, includes entry to book signing reception. authorsnight.org