Brought to you by OBS reviewer Daniele
“We Walker women were born screaming into this world, the beginning of a lifelong quest to find what would quiet us. But whatever drove us away was never stronger than the pull of what brought us back….”
When Vivien Walker left her home in the Mississippi Delta, she swore never to go back, as generations of the women in her family had. But in the spring, nine years to the day since she’d left, that’s exactly what happens—Vivien returns, fleeing from a broken marriage and her lost dreams for children.
What she hopes to find is solace with “Bootsie,” her dear grandmother who raised her, a Walker woman with a knack for making everything all right. But instead she finds that her grandmother has died and that her estranged mother is drifting further away from her memories. Now Vivien is forced into the unexpected role of caretaker, challenging her personal quest to find the girl she herself once was.
But for Vivien things change in ways she cannot imagine when a violent storm reveals the remains of a long-dead woman buried near the Walker home, not far from the cypress swamp that is soon to give up its ghosts. Vivien knows there is now only one way to rediscover herself—by uncovering the secrets of her family and breaking the cycle of loss that has haunted them for generations. (Amazon)
I found A Long Time Gone to be quite an enjoyable read. It recounts the story of four generations of one Mississippi family, women who seem to have a legacy of leaving those they love. Told from three different points of view, all in the first person, it weaves several story lines together. The novel encompasses several genres, including chick lit, mystery, romance, and historical fiction. Themes include loss, rising above adversity, the heartache of abandonment, how secrets change everything, anger, not feeling one is good enough or worthy, and unconditional love. However, the story is ultimately about forgiveness.
Vivien Walker’s life is a mess. Her marriage has disintegrated, she has suffered a miscarriage and is not allowed to see her step-daughter, and she has a bit of an addiction problem. She decides to seek refuge at home in Mississippi with her grandmother, Bootsie, because she has no other place to go. But, arriving home she finds Bootsie has died, her absentee mother has herself come home and is suffering from dementia, her brother is running the family farm, her childhood friend still holds a torch for her, and a woman’s skeleton has been unearthed in the backyard. Shortly thereafter, her step-daughter, Chloe, calls requesting Vivien retrieve her from the airport – she has run away from home. Vivien throws herself into taking care of Bootsie’s garden and doing research in hopes of discovering the identity of the woman in the yard. Though difficult to warm to at first, I grew to like Vivien and care about her tale.
Carol Lynne’s, Vivien’s mother, account is told through a series of diary entries. Frankly, I found her hard to like, though I felt sorry for her declining health. Her choice to leave home as a teen and get caught up in the drug filled, free love lifestyle seemed to cause so much heartache, both to herself and her mother and children. I can see how Vivien found it hard to forgive her.
My favorite thread involved Adelaide Walker, Bootsie’s mother, and told a tale of young love, the innocence of youth, bootlegging, and the Klan. Adelaide was so genuine and sweet, her story so ultimately heartbreaking, that she was a character I found easy to love. I would also really enjoy sitting down with Mathilda one afternoon to hear her memories of yesteryear.
Ms. White has a lyrical, flowing writing style, full of imagery. For example,
“(I) remembered how I’d regarded the long furrows of the fields like the arms of my ancestors reaching out to embrace me. But as I got older, I began to regard them as the arms that wanted to hold me down.” p. 183
“We are all separate boats on this river of years, never expecting to see the boat before or behind us except when the current of time unexpectedly pushes up together, touching but never altering our course. We are born to fight the bends and curves of our own rivers, pushing back that which will not give, understanding where we are meant to be only when we let go and let the river take us back to the place where we began.” P.417
Her writing is detailed and meant to be savored, making this not the quickest reads but well worth the time. I would recommend A Long Time Gone to lovers of the South, multi-generational sagas, and fans of Kate Morton.