Title: The Long Way Home
Author: Robin Pilcher
Release Date: March 30, 2010
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
When eleven-year-old Claire Barclay’s mother remarries, they move to Scotland in order to live in her stepfather’s large house, called Craich. Claire adores her stepfather, Leo, though his children have made her feel less than welcome. She finds a friend in Jonas, a local boy and they become inseparable until, one day when Claire is seventeen, Jonas stops speaking to her without any explanation. Devastated, Claire leaves Scotland. Years later, she is called back home because of Leo’s health and is forced to face the ghosts of her past.
If you’re even the slightest bit interested in The Long Way Home, I have one very important suggestion for you: do not, under any circumstances, read the dust jacket cover or the publisher summary. I was irked to discover that the summary gave away something that occurred almost 3/4 of the way through the book and this spoiled parts of it for me.
I’ve never read anything about Robin Pilcher but I’ve heard good things so I was eager to get started on The Long Way Home. However, the book wasn’t what I expected. From the description and the book’s cover, I expected a mysterious, almost gothic read, but that wasn’t what I got at all. Instead, this book is a light, quick read. It’s enjoyable, as the reader gets to know Claire and comes to understand her. We see her through the years, and though the time jumping can be frustrating, it’s useful to see her at different stages in her life. It really emphasizes how important Leo is to her.
The Long Way Home remains on the surface from beginning to end, which is really a shame. Pilcher doesn’t really delve into the depths of any of the characters. This keeps the book on the “light reading” level, when it could have been a lot more. Additionally, many of the secondary characters (with the exception of Leo) were flat and cliché. Claire’s step-siblings, in particular, reminded me of cartoons – the fantastically evil stepsister and brother who only want to make her life miserable. There is no depth or dimension to their characters; they exist to be mean and to make Claire’s life difficult. The lengths they go to and plans they make towards the end of the book only reinforce this stereotype.
While I enjoyed The Long Way Home for what it was, I can’t help but feel that it had a lot of unrealized potential. Everything was so much on the surface that it was disappointing. It was a light read when it could have been a thoughtful, provoking one. Still, if you’re looking for something light and easy, you should definitely consider this book. Claire is an endearing character, and Pilcher did keep me hooked until the very end with the mystery of Jonas and his plans.