Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Walk Home

The Walk Home by Rachel Seiffert
Knopf Doubleday: 7/8/2014
eBook, 304 pages
ISBN-13: 9780307908810

Stevie comes from a long line of people who have cut and run. Just like he has.
Only he’s not so sure he was right to go. He’s been to London, taught himself to get by, and now he’s working as a laborer not so far from his childhood home in Glasgow. But Stevie hasn’t told his family—what’s left of them—that he’s back. Not yet.
He’s also not far from his uncle Eric, another one who left—for love this time. Stevie’s toughened himself up against that emotion. And as for his mother, Lindsey . . . well, she ran her whole life. From her father and Ireland, from her husband, and eventually from Stevie, too.
Moving between Stevie’s contemporary Glaswegian life and the story of his parents when they were young, The Walk Home is a powerful novel about the risk of love, and the madness and betrayals that can split a family. Without your past, who are you? Where does it leave you when you go against your family, turn your back on your home; when you defy the world you grew up in? If you cut your ties, will you cut yourself adrift? Yearning to belong exerts a powerful draw, and Stevie knows there are still people waiting for him to walk home.
An extraordinarily deft and humane writer, Rachel Seiffert tells us the truth about love and about hope.

My Thoughts:

The Walk Home by Rachel Seiffert is a highly recommended novel set in Glasgow about conflict, loss, and the nature of what is a home.

Opening in the present day Glasgow with Polish construction foreman Jozef hoping to earn enough money to allow him to go back to Gdansk, Poland, and reunite with his estranged wife, we also meet Glasgow native Stevie, an enigmatic young man, who is now working on the Polish construction crew. The story then goes back in time and we meet Stevie's parents, Graham and Lindsey as well as his grandmother (Graham's mother) Brenda, and learn about the troubles with the family black sheep, her brother Eric.

The Walk Home follows three main narrative threads:  Graham and Lindsey, his uncle Eric, and Polish Jozef. This is a novel of exiles, but also one of family tensions and troubles over the generations. Much of the tension is associated with the historic Irish Troubles as well as a familiar strain of brutality that runs through the family. There are topics that are off limits and never discussed. While all these family members need each other, their personal pain keeps them apart and there is no chance for healing.

The prose in this well written novel is simultaneously graceful, but also sparse and controlled, almost reflecting the dysfunctional  inner life of her characters. Seiffert's use of the Glasgow dialect is both authentic and a monumental struggle (at times) for this American reader. While I'm highly recommending The Walk Home, the time it took for me to fully comprehend the written dialect should be noted

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Knopf Doubleday for review purposes.

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