Melody Warnick was not loving where she lived. After moving to Blacksburg, Virginia, Warnick looked around with dismay. The trees were menacing. She knew no one. She had young children. She was tempted to stay in and binge-watch Netflix. But she decided to try to make herself fall in love with Blacksburg. This Is Where You Belong reveals the steps in her journey, which will be relevant to many of us. As Warnick points out, Americans are, and have been for some time, “geographically restless.”
Warnick establishes that she has “low place-attachment” through an inventory, which she includes for readers. To raise her depressingly low score, she devises and attempts various “Love Where You Live” experiments. What follows are 12 chapters about ways to dial up place affection: walking, eating local, buying local, getting to know neighbors. She traces the research that indicates why these activities are meaningful and often supplements her research by interviewing a place-making expert. Warnick knows how to make her interview subjects sparkle and brings together the various elements of the book with finesse. Back in Blacksburg, her experiments have her doing all manner of tasks, from delivering muffins to organizing a sidewalk chalk festival.
The biggest pleasure of the book, though, is the way Warnick’s search will help readers reflect on their own locales. As someone who was already “deeply attached” to my place (according to the quiz), one might think I found little to take away. On the contrary, I gained fresh insight about why my hometown favorites—from food to friends to public places—make me more measurably connected to my city. I also found a handful of bright ideas to get to know it better. As far as experiments go, that’s a satisfying result.