Saturday, October 14, 2017

Book Review: 'The Long Way Home' by Louise Penny

Louise Penny's "The Long Way Home" is her tenth mystery featuring the intelligent and compassionate Armand Gamache. During his career as Chief Inspector of Homicide in the Sûreté du Québec, Gamache witnessed the most horrendous examples of human depravity. Now in his late fifties and retired, he lives with his beloved wife, Reine-Marie, in the picturesque Canadian village of Three Pines. He is trying to alleviate the anxiety that gripped him after being traumatized by events left him physically and emotionally bruised. Armand's young protégé, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, is also on the mend after barely surviving his own terrible ordeal. The novel focuses on Clara Morrow's chagrin over her husband, Peter's, disappearance. Clara and Peter had agreed to talk things over after living apart for a year. However, Peter neither came back nor explained his failure to appear. Therefore, Clara, accompanied by Gamache, Beauvoir, and their close friend, Myrna, embarks on an odyssey to retrace Peter's steps during the previous twelve months.

The characters in "The Long Way Home" ponder and discuss philosophical questions, such as: What differentiates mediocre from outstanding works of art? How does a relationship survive when one partner is showered with more critical acclaim than the other? If someone's ego is torn down, how can he restore his self-esteem? Penny imbues even fleeting glances, small gestures, and seemingly insignificant utterances with great import. Those who prefer action to ideas might find the book's pace too leisurely. However, loyal readers of this series may welcome the opportunity to learn more about the recurring characters' innermost thoughts. Particularly intriguing are Ruth Zardo, the savage, profane, and brilliant poet, and the aforementioned Myrna Landers, a kindhearted, nurturing, and insightful former psychologist who runs her own bookstore in Three Pines. Ruth, Myrna, and Reine-Marie Gamache are extremely observant and skilled at digging up useful information.

Penny's plot is somewhat flawed by a few implausible and melodramatic elements. On the other hand, the author grabs our attention with an explosive and shocking conclusion that demonstrates how easy it is to misjudge people. She points out that even capable and responsible men and women may make fatal errors in judgment; jealousy can kill; and those foolish enough to seek the unattainable often end up bitter, angry, and frustrated. She suggests that a meaningful existence is tied to the love of our family and friends; an appreciation of nature's beauty; helping those in need; and performing tasks that are satisfying and fulfilling. "The Long Way Home" is funny, tragic, bittersweet, and ultimately quite powerful.

Editor's note: This review was written by Eleanor Bukowsky and has been reposted with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right

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