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Review: The Long Road Home by Fiona McCallum

on April 21, 2020

The Long Road Home 
Fiona McCallum
Harlequin AUS
2020, 412p
Uncorrected proof copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

You can’t find where you truly belong until you discover who you really are…

Alice Hamilton is enjoying her new life in Ballarat with the freedom to explore her future now she’s stepped away from the constraints of her upbringing. She’s learnt the hard way that knowledge is power, and is looking forward to her legal studies, then making a difference as a lawyer with heart.

But whilst Alice’s life is looking up, back in Hope Springs the world of her former husband Rick Peterson is unravelling. After a chance meeting a few months earlier, Rick and Alice have reconnected. And it’s fortunate they have, because Rick is about to need Alice’s friendship like he’s never needed it before.

Rick has always felt a bit lost – as a farmer, he could never admit he didn’t feel the deep connection to the land that the only son and third generation farmer should. And now he’s suddenly being forced to come to terms with just why his heart isn’t in it and what’s behind his fractured relationships. Has his whole life been a lie – and if so, where did that lie begin?

I quite enjoyed the novel prior to this one – I connected a lot with Alice’s lack of direction, her getting to almost 30 and not knowing what she wanted to do with her life. I said in my review that I felt like that book was set up for a follow up and here it is. Alice is living and working in Ballarat. She’s been accepted to do law and she’s excited about her future. But there are still things hanging over her head, such as the settlement from ex-partner David and her relationship with her mother and sister.

After enjoying the previous book I was disappointed with this one. I thought Alice had turned a corner, had accepted certain things about the reality of her relationship with her mother and sister but the first part of this book was a never-ending cycle of Alice crying about something, making a resolution not to let it bother her anymore and then crying about it yet again. I can’t remember how many times she cries in the first part of the book, but it’s quite a lot. And it’s about things that she’s already resolved to let go of, or to move on from. She keeps having this hope about things and it’s honestly completely and utterly futile. She understands that her mother is a narcissist and that she’s probably never going to connect with her and if she hasn’t figured out that zero contact is for the best by now, she might honestly never figure it out. I found Alice quite tedious in the early part of the book and there was very little about her goals in life actually moving forward. She seems to start studying on her own at one point “dipping in and out of textbooks instead of reading one cover to cover (which bores her)” and honestly, who reads a textbook from cover to cover anyway. She’s created a good support network for herself in Ballarat, with her friend Lauren, Lauren’s boyfriend Brett (who Alice was at university with), Lauren’s parents, Ashley that she works with and Ashley’s parents. And then there’s Blair. Alice, you have all the tools to be happy. Use them.

Then inexplicably, the book switches halfway through to the story of Alice’s ex-husband Rick, whom she married when she was quite young. They divorced and then she fled Hope Springs and moved to Melbourne, where she met David, the partner she leaves in the first book. Rick and Alice had reconnected in the first book (as friends) at the funeral of someone who meant a lot to Alice and they continue on that friendship here. Rick discovers something about himself and he decides to immediately bolt to Ballarat because he seems to have a connection there and it also allows him to visit Alice. From there, Rick’s life takes many unexpected turns and the lack of plausibility of this was enormous for me, unfortunately.

I don’t know why I read 1.5 books on Alice, just to have her relegated to a background character for the second half of this book. Some of Alice’s complications actually resolve off page here, during Rick’s portion of the story, which didn’t work for me. To be honest, I didn’t really care for Rick’s story to be shoehorned into this book and I found large parts of it ridiculous. The ease at which he discovers everything that he needs to know, the smoothing away of the difficulties of fleeing his only home for a strange city with nothing but his clothes and car. He slides right into Alice’s friendship group, which is fine. The two of them had build a decent friendship and he had turned to her for support, plus I think the friendship group is rather nice, but then there’s a lightning fast romance that was very uninspiring as well. They interacted maybe two or three times on a very superficial level, there was no build or even them getting to know each other in a meaningful way. It felt very rushed, and this book is 400p but I think trying to pack Rick’s entire story into the second half of a book about Alice, was probably a mistake. It could’ve been done in a better way – if the author wanted to tell Rick’s story then she probably should have devoted an entire book to it and then drew it out so that it felt like more of a journey, rather than a rush to a new town and getting all the answers in five minutes. There could’ve actually been a story there, I think, with a bit more preparation and planning and some time taken to really explore more of the aspects of it. There was a lot that for me, felt very unfinished, such as Rick’s relationships with Danni and Matilda.

I didn’t enjoy the format of this, the way that the story was told. I wanted a better resolution with Alice and although I wouldn’t have minded Rick popping up, I’m not really sure telling his story in the second half of this book, was an effective way to do it. It would’ve been better to use his arrival in Ballarat as a launching pad for his own book. Because everything in the second part of the book felt incredibly rushed and was basically reader whiplash.

5/10

Book #71 of 2020

The Long Road Home is book #24 of The Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2020


3 responses to “Review: The Long Road Home by Fiona McCallum

  1. Lily Malone says:

    It’s a good fair review as always Bree, although you didn’t enjoy the book. I haven’t read Fiona McCallum and I know she is enormously popular. I think my feeling is that her stories will be too slow for me. I remember seeing reviews about a button jar book, (don’t think that’s the title) but those reviews at the time also gave me a sense the story would be too slow for me.

    • Thank you Lily….I was surprised by this one because I did enjoy the first one. However you are right, her stories are quite slowly and methodically told, which is definitely not for everyone. I’m not sure the button jar series needed to be 3 books either, there was a lot of just….stuff in there, padding it out for me.

  2. Marg says:

    So this wouldn’t be the place to start with Fiona McCallum then!

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