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Posted November 27, 2002
                        
'Somewhere,' a place for us to ponder
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By LYNNE PERRI, USA TODAY, Nov.  27, 2002

''Hold fast what I give you,'' Suzanne Freeman's grandmother used to say. And in that one phrase lies the essence of the gift that is A Certain Somewhere.

What the author's grandmother gave her were buttons. What she held onto was the memory of warm Tennessee nights on a porch swing, waiting for the buttons to be dropped into her hands for a game.

Freeman shares that joyous sense of place; hers is one of 30 essays reflecting on the notion of place as an integral part of who we are. That place might be a house or a whole town. It might be an impoverished community with an inexplicable pride, a college building no one wanted, a makeshift baseball diamond above a marsh.

Whether it's Haiti, Paris or Point Clear, Ala., these writers now have the wisdom of years away to describe places they will never forget, or places they have discovered for themselves as adults that have made them whole. The writing is as clear and graceful as the places themselves.

These exquisite essays were collected from a series titled ''Place,'' published in Preservation magazine and edited by Robert Wilson, former book editor at USA TODAY. Novelists, essayists, reporters, literary critics and poets transport you through their childhoods or early retirements or restorations undertaken as young adults. These are tiny memoirs, lovingly told.

Ann Beattie explains Key West, a place ''about lying low but also about being noticed.'' Edward Hoagland describes the wildlife around his two-story frame house in northeastern Vermont so vividly that it is hard not to hear the wood frogs and sparrows. Kate Lehrer writes of McKinney, on the north Texas prairie, where she marched down the street to the courthouse in a freshly starched pinafore -- and repressive heat. Malcolm Jones watches from above the splendor of Grand Central Terminal. Somewhere's writers touch on places public and private, on dreams that made them want to leave and on dreams that have brought them back. These are stories to be relished one at a time or across the span of an afternoon.A Certain

Somewhere Edited by Robert Wilson Random House, 304 pp., $24.95

Copyright 2002 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co.      

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