The Long Way Home by Karen McQuestion

June 2, 2013

Plot summary (from the publisher): Four women bound by chance take the trip of a lifetime in Karen McQuestion’s fifth novel The Long Way Home. For Wisconsinites Marnie, Laverne and Rita, life isn’t working out so well. Each is biding time, waiting for something better, something to transport them out of what their lives have recently become. And then there’s Jazzy: bubbly, positive, and happy even though she hears voices of the departed. Brought together by a chance meeting, the women decide to join Marnie on a road trip from Wisconsin to Las Vegas where she intends to reunite with Troy, the boy she raised as her own — and who she’s been separated from since her boyfriend’s death. Little do they know that as the road trip unfolds, so will their lives — in directions they never anticipated. Humorous, heartwarming, and bittersweet, the journey has something special in store for each woman.

Warning: Spoilers below!

Liked:

  • Marnie and Jazzy were likable, well-developed characters. I had a strong sense of their personalities throughout the book and I enjoyed the story best whenever one of them was the focus of the narrative.
  • The concept of having four women who barely know each other suddenly take a road trip together was an interesting one for me. It’s something that I would never do IRL, and I wondered how the characters would cope with the various problems that were bound to crop up. Many of their issues with each other seemed realistic, like where to eat, how much to spend for a hotel, whether or not to stop the car and browse at a Ski Shop, bookstore, etc. This made the book very readable.
  • I liked the “joke” Jazzy’s grandmother played on her at the end: giving her a glimpse of a surprise party that wasn’t actually going to happen just to obscure the real surprise. That was unexpected and humorous.

Disliked:

  • I thought Laverne was extraneous to the story. She didn’t really connect with anyone deeply (until maybe the end when she and Marnie seemed to be genuine friends) and she definitely felt shoehorned into the action — which, to be fair, the characters did openly acknowledge. Still, the acknowledgement didn’t do anything to make the character or her presence interesting.
  • Come to think of it, Rita didn’t bring much to the table, either. She admittedly had bigger stakes than Laverne, but her motivation seemed too flimsy for my taste. Also, I didn’t like that the climactic scene with Davis on the airplane occurred without her there. After all she’d been through, she deserved to be there!
  • Marnie got a little annoying with all her whining about having to be with Troy RIGHT NOW. It’s not as though he was dying; he just had a temperature of 101 degrees while at summer camp. What was the big rush? Plus, he was 14 years old, not 5. I can’t imagine a 14-year-old moaning and whining about wanting to see his stepmom so bad. That just didn’t ring true at all.
  • The ending was a bit too pat, with everyone getting exactly what they wanted. Plus, I had a hard time believing that Marnie, a public school teacher in Wisconsin, had enough cash in her savings account to pay for a nice house in a nice neighborhood. That sort of took me out of the story as I pondered how she could have saved so much in such a short time (she was only 35!!).

Rating:

I thought The Long Way Home was an average book. Some elements of the story and some of the characters were well-written and intriguing, but a lot of things weren’t. The plot felt uneven, but the pacing was quick enough that the story never truly got bogged down anywhere. Although I didn’t love this book, I’d be open to trying other things from the author. I give this one 3 stars out of 5.

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