Monday, August 25, 2014

The Long Way Home by Louise Penny

First Sentence:  As Clara Morrow approached, she wondered if he’d repeat the same small gesture he’d done every morning.     
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has retired and moved, with his wife Reine-Marie, to the village of Three Pines.  There he is seeking peace and recovery from recent events.  However, he can’t ignore the plea from one of his neighbors and friends.  Clara and her husband Peter decided to separate for one year.  That year has now passed, but Peter has neither returned nor contacted Clara.  The search for Peter sends Gamache, his former second-in-command, Jean-Guy, and other residents, to Montreal and into isolated regions of Quebec.
From the very first, we are as intrigued by the actions of one of the characters as are other characters in the story.  We, too, want an explanation.  At the same time, we are brought into the beauty and seeming tranquility of the Village of Three Pines…”The village had the rhythm, the cadence, of a piece of music.  Perhaps that’s what Henri heard. The music of Three Pines.  It was like a hum, a hymn, a comforting ritual.”           
The reader learns of the characters through their personalities, rather than their backstories. It is particularly clear how close are Gamache and Reine-Marie, and how solid is their marriage. 
One of the many wonderful things about Penny’s writing is that she makes you stop and think, even when it’s a simple phrase easily passed over; ”Surprised by joy.”  There are so many small truths in Penny’s writing; lines and passages that make you stop, think and read again and again.  They don’t interrupt the flow of the story, but enhance it and cause one to savour it.  Yet only Penny could so effectively use a German Shepherd as a vehicle to convey loss and healing.  She puts emotions into words.  And then, she throws you a plot twist.
Penny’s descriptions are so evocative, one can not only envision the scene, place or object, but you yearn to physically be there.  She takes you places you’ve never been and of which you’ve never heard.  This is a story that makes you want to travel; to see and experience places for yourself.  But, at the very least, you find yourself running to the internet.
The characters are wonderful.  They are people you want to know; what to have as friends and neighbors.  You find yourself both wanting to know these people and, in some cases, wanting to be them.  The dialogue is so well done, with an easy, natural flow and, occasionally, delightful humour.
Ms. Penny is an intelligent author who includes poetry, literature, art, mythology and psychology into the story, yet she doesn’t, in any way, write above her readers or seek to demean them.

To say “The Long Way Home” is an excellent book is almost an understatement.  The book certainly has all the elements of a mystery are there, including a plot which is unusual in its structure, but it is also so much more than that that.  It is a journey that keeps drawing us down the road.

If you've not read any of the books in this series, please do start at the beginning with "Still Life."  It is hard for me to restrain myself when talking about the quality of Ms. Penny's writing.  She is an author whose work will stand the test of time.

THE LONG WAY HOME (Trad Mys-Armand Gamache-Canada-Contemp) – Ex
Penny, Louise – 10th in series
Minotaur Books, 2014

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