Welcome Home, Stranger by Kate Christensen
12/5/23; 224 pages
Welcome Home, Stranger by Kate Christensen is a recommended family drama.
Rachel Callowy, an environmental journalist in Washington, DC, and self-professed “middle-aged childless recently orphaned menopausal workaholic,” is going home to Maine after the death of her mother. Lucie was a very difficult mother, to put it mildly, and Rachel was estranged from her for the last ten years. Her wealthy sister Celeste was left to care for Lucie through cancer treatments. Celeste is upset and angry at Rachel and this presents itself as a lot of passive-aggressive behavior.
While Rachel is already handling living with an ex-husband and his boyfriend in their condo, and a boss who wants to fire her, now she has a pile of other problems. A longtime friend/lover, David, lives next door to Celeste with his new wife, but he still wants Rachel. She inherited her mother's house which needs work. Celeste has issues of her own she is dealing with, an alcoholic husband, distant teens, and loads of resentment.
Characters are portrayed as realistic individuals. Rachel is fully
realized and complex as is Celeste. Lucie is examined and exposed as an
especially flawed character. A novel only handling the complicated and
unhealthy parenting of Lucie and the effects on her daughters would be a
heavy enough focus for a short narrative.
Welcome Home, Stranger is a beautifully written novel about
the complications of family, grief, growing older, and reexamining your
past. However, it also covers so many emotionally laden topics in so few
pages that nothing seems to reach any satisfying resolution, which is
unfortunate. Just a few of Rachel's problems would be enough to cover in
one abbreviated novel. The other option would be to extend the
narrative and fully cover all the issues.