The second book in the Letter Series by Kathleen Shoop, The Road Home, is the follow up to The Last Letter. Having not read any of the series prior to The Road Home, I still felt that the novel was a fine place to start and become acquainted with the characters. I do not know how the series began, but I did not feel that I was lacking any story set up or important details about the characters; Shoop filled the book with enough clues and leads to lay the groundwork that may have been missing. The Road Home covers the family life and separation of Jeanie Arthur, her daughter Katherine and her son Tommy. Jeanie’s other children, Yale and James, who are deceased, are also featured. The Arthur family had fallen out of wealth and as a result lost their respective position in society and the family was splintered. This novel tells the story of what happened to the family after the split as they all try to desperately try to not only reunite, but also find themselves, while also staying alive.
The Road Home is split between times; the reader will see the happenings at Jeanie Arthur’s funeral and a few chapters on, be exposed to her innermost feelings as she struggles to regain some semblance of her position and also reclaim her beloved children. The novel is long, over 400 pages and very detailed, but the chapters are clearly divided by year and narrator which gives the reader a chance to erase any confusion about who is speaking or at which part or the novel they are currently in. The chapters devoted to Jeanie and Katherine are the most interesting, Jeanie being sympathetic as the story unfolds and more is revealed about her and Katherine is strong, interesting and powerful in her own right. Katherine is boarding with an awful, cruel family, so her story is full not only of her own personal struggles within, but also real dangers that she must face and eventually escape within the home. Katherine’s story could easily be a great standalone novel. I was bored with Tommy’s story and did not really enjoy his personality and did skim at parts through his narration, eager to get back to the action of Katherine’s peril and Jeanie’s emotional reveals.
The novel is split in between the years of 1891 and also 1905, often interchanging between the two, which does give some pause in order to see exactly where you are in the plot, but also acts as markers for the growth or positions of the characters. Kathleen Shoop highlights every emotion in the story very well and provides a certain level of raw exposure that not only shows vulnerability of each character, but also gives an intimate look into their daily lives, even when they are less than ideal. The Road Home is a reminder of the struggles that families often face, as a whole and also as each member struggles to find their place within the family unit.
Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.wordpress.com.
Review copy was provided by Kathleen Shoop.