August 5, 2011

Homeward by Melody Carlson

Homeward is the story of 37 year old Meg Lancaster, who braves a 20 year estrangement to return to her family's cranberry farm in the wake of a break-up. She intends to stay for only a few days, but as old wounds begin to heal and it becomes clear she is needed to bring the farm back to its former levels of production she finds herself extending her stay. All is not sunshine and rainbows, as she continues to bump heads with her mother and finds that the farm is threatened by far more than weeds. Meg must travel a bumpy road to find her way to the forgiveness she needs to find peace in her life. And, naturally, love.

This is a story that anyone can relate to. We may not always emancipate ourselves entirely from our families, but I'm sure many of us are sorely tempted. We also make judgments about what we witness of our family members' behavior without realizing the motivations behind that behavior. And we may not all have acres of weeds to deal with literally, but we do metaphorically. The message I took away from this book -and the reason for the higher rating- is that we need to realize that we aren't always aware of what motivates others, and if we can be more careful not to make assumptions about people based on their outward reactions we can live much more peaceful lives.

As I said in my review for River Song, Melody Carlson is an excellent writer in that her warmth and simplicity draw the reader into the story like an heirloom quilt on a cold night. That is her strength. There were times in Homeward that I felt like Carlson must have spent a lot of time planning her next vacation while writing this book. The images she describes are just like the photographs in travel magazines. A woman in a silk dress alone on a beach at sunset, her shoes dangling from her hand. A teenage girl steering a boat, her lively determined eyes on the horizon. A young girl in a wheelbarrow holding a wilting bouquet of flowers. Very picturesque, a little too perfect, but this is escapism at its finest.

This story is rather formulaic, but formula can often be comforting. It certainly sells. I've been reading a lot of this genre lately, mainly because my mom has an insatiable appetite for it and keeps bringing me heaps of paperbacks. I think this type of material is best suited to the sort of reader that reads only occasionally, maybe a chapter or two a day, and really needs encouragement in their life. For more voracious readers it can get old quickly. Right now I'm longing to sink my teeth into the new Ann Patchett book, I feel like I've been living on the literary soup and salad special.

I received a copy of this book for the purpose of review.

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