Placemaker, A Review

published: 

Placemaker by Christie Purifoy

There’s a corner in our bedroom, where the bookshelves curve, that usually piles dirty laundry, an extra blanket (or two), and sometimes there’s a warm, safe cat hidden underneath all that mess.

One early morning, the sun spilled into the bedroom and fell right on top of that corner. The light, soft and warm, rippled over that space. And I had a thought. I’d like to read there.

So, I placed our old chair (old but not like cool, vintage old) in that welcoming corner of our bedroom. I tossed a blanket, because New England demands blankets no matter the season, as do reading nooks. And I added a pillow for the sake of comfort and a reminder of home.

See, my mother recently, for our birthday (yes, we share a birthday, and it is so special), sent me a pillow that shouts my inner reading monologue “Just One More Chapter.”

I fluffed the pillow, cleaned up the dirty clothes, and read. In this space, I’ve only devoured two books so far, Placemaker by Christie Purifoy and The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (I’ll tell you more about her and this remarkable story in another post).

I’m pretty sure Placemaker inspired me to answer the call of that morning sunshine spilling into that space and welcoming me there. This tremendous tale of a woman cultivating places of comfort, beauty, and peace in seasons of waiting, seasons of newness, seasons of tragedy was a book I didn’t know I needed to read.

My friend, Deanna, sent me this treasure, this gift in response to listening to my ramblings of love affairs with trees, especially those great oaks along St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans.

Deanna sent this book for other reasons, too. We’ve had healing conversations about kids and lack of them. We’ve talked about moving across the country and feeling a bit displaced. We’ve talked about my home state, Texas, and those Fredericksburg peaches. And Placemaker echoed those conversations with direction to peace.

Now, you don’t need to love plants or gardening or great oaks to enjoy this book. In fact, I think you’ll want to plant a little something after reading it.

I recommend this read for anyone who has recently or is just about to jump into something new and contemplating how to create a space of comfort that invites you in, gently.

Placemaker by Christie Purifoy on top of a bed of branches picked from my backyard in late spring New England.

Christie Purifoy chronicles her practices in placemaking beginning with her childhood home in Texas then quickly to Virginia, then up to Chicago, to Florida, and leading her to her current home in Pennsylvania.

Purifoy’s time spent in Florida echoed my own mistrust of the season of waiting, that expectancy for what’s next and longing for what was. But then she does this remarkable thing, directs me, encourages me as she writes, “The gift of the wilderness is that this is the place we go simply to receive. This is the place we go to listen. In the wilderness, we are given the opportunity to lay down the burden of our desire to make and remake so that when some other place invites our participation and our creative efforts, we are ready to offer those things with humility.” (page 63)

I pause, even now, soaking up the wisdom and the comfort of those words as I currently wade through the waiting, through the wilderness. Compassion is near. And perhaps if I simply pause and listen, compassion and humility are for the taking, the accepting.

So I asked myself, how can my little reading nook create a welcoming space not just for me but for Bryan, too? And even the cat--after all, I did take Ned’s safe hiding spot away.

As I take note of what’s missing in Bryan’s mornings, I realize he doesn’t have a space to prepare himself for the day. He begins each morning on his bike, clearing out the cobwebs from 7 hours of sleep (or less, but it ought to be more), and spinning those wheels, thinking out the day, those projects and things.

So, I left his workout clothes folded on that chair the night before. Yes, it was as simple as that, moving the chair to that space where the bookshelves curve and sun sprinkles in. Bryan’s clothes were one of the first things he saw in the morning. I’m not sure how much of a difference it made in his morning or day, but I hope he feels comforted, cared for in those little things.


This is less of a book review and more of how this book has renewed encouragement and action in this season of waiting for me and my family, which is a testament to this beautiful book. I hope it will encourage you.

Love and gratitude,
~JH