Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Review: The Long Way Home by Louise Penny

It's so hard to write about Armand Gamache stories without giving the plot away, and that is, in my humble opionion, the worst sin a reviewer can commit.  Every time I review a Louise Penny book, I find myself saying things like "It's quintessential Louise" or "Just when I thought she couldn't get better, she does" or other blathery, toady, almost syncophantic  wind-blown compliments that are almost insulting they're so inflated.


I was fortunate enough to get my hands on an ARC earlier this summer, and waited to read it until I'd finished a re-read (this time in audio) of the previous nine books in the series, and lurked along in the on-line discussions.   Quel fun!

So after I'd read The Long Way Home, I put it aside for a couple weeks to let the experience sink in and try to figure out how to explain why these are so special.  At least I can start by sharing what the publisher has given us as a hint:
Happily retired in the village of Three Pines, Armand Gamache, former Chief Inspector of Homicide with the Sûreté du Québec, has found a peace he’d only imagined possible. On warm summer mornings he sits on a bench holding a small book, The Balm in Gilead, in his large hands. “There is a balm in Gilead,” his neighbor Clara Morrow reads from the dust jacket, “to make the wounded whole.”

While Gamache doesn’t talk about his wounds and his balm, Clara tells him about hers. Peter, her artist husband, has failed to come home. Failed to show up as promised on the first anniversary of their separation. She wants Gamache’s help to find him. Having finally found sanctuary, Gamache feels a near revulsion at the thought of leaving Three Pines. “There’s power enough in Heaven,” he finishes the quote as he contemplates the quiet village, “to cure a sin-sick soul.” And then he gets up. And joins her.

Together with his former second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, and Myrna Landers, they journey deeper and deeper into Québec. And deeper and deeper into the soul of Peter Morrow. A man so desperate to recapture his fame as an artist, he would sell that soul. And may have. The journey takes them further and further from Three Pines, to the very mouth of the great St. Lawrence river.  To an area so desolate, so damned, the first mariners called it the land God gave to Cain. And there they discover the terrible damage done by a sin-sick soul.    
All through the series,  I've never liked the character of Peter, so I wasn't sure I was going to have much sympathy for him or the people trying to find him.   When I sang in the choir several years ago, our choir director tried and tried and tried to get us to master the hymn "There is a Balm in Gilead" to the point that I HATED that hymn.  And to put frosting on the proverbial cake, I had a pretty negative recollection of trying to get through Marilynne Robinson's Pulitzer winner Gilead when our book club read it several years ago.

If this current book hadn't been written by Louise Penny, and hadn't been about my all-time favorite mystery personality, I probably wouldn't have wanted to read it.  I wouldn't have wanted to see Armand's well-deserved retirement "ruined".   I wouldn't have wanted to find myself caring whether Peter was found and/or saved.  I just wanted everything to stay in "Three Pines Fairyland".  Fairyland it isn't.  Life it is.  The characters who have become so familiar to us continue to expand, to mature, and draw us into their lives.  Ruth Zardo, another of my favorite characters finally allows a tiny crack in her armor to let us in, so those of us who have loved her all along can at last begin to see why.

In the end, the only thing I can say is that once again, Louise Penny does not disappoint.  She steals our heart, she takes our breath away, she causes us to lose a huge chunk of time since once we embark on this adventure, we neglect everything and everyone else in our lives.  I can't wait for the publication date August 26 because I've already pre-ordered a hard back copy (something I rarely do), and the audio to go with it.  In the meantime, Bob and I are truly looking forward to being able to meet her in person in two days when she comes to Portland for the launch of the paperback of #9 How the Light Gets in.

If you're not yet a fan, and think you don't like mysteries, give these a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Many thanks to Minotaur Publishers for making the ARC available.

Title: The Long Way Home
Author: Louise Penny
Publisher: Minotaur Books (2014), ARC e-galley, 384 pages
Genre: Mystery
Subject: Missing persons
Setting: Quebec and environs, village of Three Pines
Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache
Source: ARC from publisher
Why did I read this book now?  I couldn't wait another minute!!

1 comment:

  1. I am so jealous you've already read this. I am chomping at the bit!


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