Monday, August 25, 2014

The Long Way Home by Louise Penny

Every year I have a difficult time reviewing Louise Penny's new book. How do I comment on a beautifully written, moving book without giving anything away? It's as difficult to review a Chief Inspector Gamache novel as it is to read it. There is no other book I read during the year that I read every word while shutting out the world. Penny's words are perfect in The Long Way Home. She gathers readers into the world of Three Pines, welcomes us as friends, and then, in this case, sets us on a journey into a strange inexplicable world. This time, it's the world of a soul.

While Reine-Marie Gamache is enjoying retirement in Three Pines, Armand is appreciating the village as a sanctuary, a place he's loathe to leave. But, when Clara Morrow asks for help, he can't say no. He himself had been saved by love. How can he deny anyone else that opportunity? For Peter Morrow hadn't come home on the one-year-anniversary of his expulsion from his house, his marriage, the village. And, Clara had waited as long as she could. She wanted to know why Peter didn't come home. First, they track Peter's movements, but when it becomes important to ask questions in person, a small band of friends set out into the world searching for a lost soul.

While they all admit Peter had lost his way, and had no substance to his art, it was Jean-Guy Beauvoir who understood. "A part of him understood Peter Morrow. The part Beauvoir admitted to very few. The fearful part. The empty part. The selfish part. The insecure part. The cowardly part of Jean-Guy Beauvoir understood Peter Morrow." And, Jean-Guy could understand why Peter ran from himself. So, he signed on for the search, thinking he would follow the man he always had, Armand Gamache. But, in this case, Gamache turned the lead over to Clara. She led with her heart. Myrna, Jean-Guy, and Gamache followed in the quest for a lost man.

Penny takes readers and her characters deeper into a world she has explored before. I found myself looking up mysterious places in Scotland, and Canadian artists who painted the wilderness. Because it's art that leads the explorers deeper and deeper into two wildernesses, that of Canada, and that of the soul. And, as always, it's poetry, even that of a poet considered mad, Ruth, that provides hints to the direction a soul can take.

Once again, Louise Penny has used art and poetry to illustrate home, loneliness, love and fear. The small band of friends travels into the Canadian wilderness, the place the explorer Cartier called "the land God gave to Cain", what Gamache calls "A coast so forbidding, so hostile it was fit only for the damned". But, sometimes, a journey is essential, as illustrated in the book Gamache uses for balance, searching for his own home, The Balm in Gilead. The title is based on an old spiritual, "There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole. There's power enough in Heaven/To cure a sin-sick soul." And, once again, we're privileged to travel with men who understand those lines, Armand Gamache, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, and Peter Morrow. Louise Penny, in her own inimitable style, takes readers on an unforgettable journey.

Louise Penny's website is

The Long Way Home by Louise Penny. Minotaur Books. 2014. ISBN 9781250022066 (hardcover), 373p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


Mason Canyon said...

Beautifully said, Lesa. This, like all of Penny's books, is hard to review because you want to say so much about it but can't otherwise you will give away the experience a reader (or listener in my case) must have for themselves. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one looking up places from the story. It's a wonderful story. I couldn't image where Penny would take Gamache after the last book, now I know that no matter where it is, it's going to be a mesmerizing, breath-taking journey.

Harvee Lau - Book Dilettante said...

I do so want to read this one after enjoying the others that came before.

Lesa said...

Thank you so much, Mason. I never want to be one of those reviewers who spoils the experience for someone. I did. I looked up paintings and places. Seeing those paintings just made it mean more. She is always going to make it impossible to put the book down.

Lesa said...

It's due out tomorrow, Harvee Lau. I hope you enjoy it!

Joe Barone said...

I've looked forward to seeing where Gamache and the gang are going to go from here.

Kaye Barley said...

Perfect, Lesa. just. perfect.

TFJ said...

What a beautiful review, Lesa, and, yes, I'll add my thanks for not revealing any spoilers. I'm headed for surgery at the end of this week and look forward to re-connecting with Three Pines during my recovery.


Lesa said...

Thank you to everyone who read the book, and said the review was perfect, and didn't give anything away. And, to those of you getting ready to read it - ENJOY!

Irene McKenna said...

What a lovely review! You did a great job of describing what makes this series stand out. I'm glad you liked the book as much as I did.

Lesa said...

Thank you, Irene. I did love the book, and I love the series, too.

Anonymous said...

I felt disappointment upon reading this book. It follows on the heels of perhaps Louise Panny's most complex mystery, How the Light Gets In. I loved the familiar characters but felt like I had been battered and bruised by the repetition and predictability of The Long way Home.

Rocket Man said...

Matthew 17
[15] Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.
[16] And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.
[17] Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.
[18] And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.

Revelation 17
[15] And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.
[16] And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.



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