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 www.louisepenny.com
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.