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A Long Way From Home Hardcover – July 7, 1999


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 364 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers; 1st edition (July 7, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060172789
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060172787
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 6.1 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #504,736 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In Connie Briscoe's third novel, the connotations of home are anything but heartwarming. For an enslaved mother, daughter, and grandmother, Montpelier plantation in Virginia is a living hell--and the proprietor, at least initially, is none other than President James Madison. A Long Way from Home opens during Madison's lifetime, when Susie and her daughter Clara serve the First Couple as house slaves. Yet even this regime seems civilized compared to the havoc unleashed by Madison's brutal stepson. As Clara fends off (and ultimately succumbs to) the sexual advances of one master after another, the author conjures up the entire world of the "peculiar institution."

It is Susie's granddaughter and namesake, Susan, who first leaves Montpelier. Not, of course, voluntarily: she is sold to a family living in Richmond. Chained in the back of a departing wagon, she "clenched her teeth and stared at the sky. How dare the day be so clear, so beautiful, on this, the worst day of her life." But as the Civil War erupts, Susan ponders the possibility of a more joyous liberation. As Briscoe makes clear, the prospect elicited a complex blend of emotions from many slaves--Susan, for example, has been lulled into considering herself a part (if a diminished part) of her white master's family. A Long Way from Home does occasionally fall back on the pat formulas of the television miniseries, and Briscoe doesn't manage to quite ignite Susan's conflicted feelings about bondage and freedom. But Susan's postwar travails do convey the reality that Reconstruction was not only a political process but also a painfully personal one. --Katherine Anderson

From Publishers Weekly

Briscoe (Big Girls Don't Cry) reconstructs her family history in this dense and plot-driven tale. Daughter of a chambermaid and of a driver at a neighboring property, 10-year-old Clara is a house slave at retired president James Madison's Montpelier plantation. When "massa" dies, the rhythm of their lives is disrupted, and Madison's stepson's poor management throws Montpelier into chaos, leading to its inevitable sale to new owners. Soon afterward, Clara gives birth to daughters Ellen and Susan, but will tell them their only that their father is white. They adjust to a series of owners over several years, but the family is fractured when Ellen runs away and Susan is bought as a gift for Lizbeth, the daughter of Mr. Willard, a wealthy Richmond banker and former Montpelier owner who is connected to Susan's past. Off the plantation for the first time, Susan is sometimes mistaken for white in public, giving her a glimpse of the complicated freedom of "passing." She meets and eventually marries Oliver Armistead, a respected free black, amid the rumblings of impending civil war. After the war, the Willards are left in financial ruin, and so agree to let Susan leave Richmond with Oliver. Only then can she answer the mysteries of her paternity and discover the fate of her scattered family. Briscoe's characters, especially Susan, are largely appealing, and the novel's extended chronology is informative. While the book's conclusion is unsurprising, its author's personal exploration of her family's history (Susan is Briscoe's great-great-grandmother) is able historical fiction, although character development is sacrificed to a panoramic view. 150,000 first printing; $350,000 ad/promo; author tour. (Aug.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Fiction:
--Money Can't Buy Love (Grand Central Publishing/Hachette)
--Sisters and Husbands (Grand Central Publishing/Hachette)
--Can't Get Enough (Doubleday)
--PG County (Doubleday)
--A Long Way From Home (HarperCollins)
--Big Girls Don't Cry (HarperCollins)
--Sisters and Lovers (HarperCollins)

Nonfiction:
Jewels: 50 Phenomenal Black Women Over 50

Customer Reviews

I definitely recommend this author if you want your reading to be worthwhile.
D. Gaskin
Only if you have a penchant for stories of history, particularly African American history and moreso, the slave era, can you have an appreciation for this book.
Dianne L. Davidson
It was easy to read, and it completely held my attention from the time I started with the first page and when I finished reading the last page.
Kimberly A. Brown

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Devin Bent on November 22, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I could not put this novel down. I just read from begining to end without stopping. I was fascinated. What really impressed was the research behind the novel. The novel fits in well with what is known about those times.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Michele McCoy on January 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I normally do not have an interest in books of this era, however, a close friend suggested I try it. I just completed this work and it was excellent. It was totally different from Ms. Briscoe's other works, which I read. I am a native of Virginia and I found the historical information to be spellbounding. The characters were believable and they received my compassion and yes, sometimes anger at their actions. I thought she went from generation to generation smoothly without alot of cumbersome, insignificant information added. I was overjoyed at the end, especially to discover the author's relationship to the characters. I recommend this book to all fans of Connie Briscoe. You will be in for a treat.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By "misslove" on March 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I hate reading time pieces, and I hate books whose subject remotely deals with slavery, but I loved "A Long Way From Home." The idea of weaving a story from the perspective of a young girl, and from the female ancestory line was very creative and inventive. I read the book in five hours. I was captivated by the ingenious way that Connie told her story. BRAVO! Don't let the subject matter deter you from reading this novel..it's the method of writing that will interest you.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 20, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Hi Connie,
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading all three of your novels, but "A Long Way From Home" touched me in a particular way. At first I wasn't sure how well I would be able to relate, obviously being so far removed from that time, but just after the first paragraph, I felt I could identify with Clara in so many ways. While reading, I felt very close to Susie, Clara, and Susan, almost like I was back there with them as they endured the pain and suffering of slavery and weathered the "storm" of the Civil War, which eventually resulted in freedom for Susan and Ellen. Of that I was glad. Thank you so much for blessing all of us with the story of your ancestry and may God continue to give you these wonderful ideas for novels.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Yasmin Coleman on July 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Set in the foothills of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, A Long Way from Home is a multigenerational story of slavery, freedom, and the indestructible bond of love and family, witnessed through the lives of three memorable African-American women: Susie, her daughter Clara, and her granddaughter, Susan.
A Long Way From Home by Connie Briscoe while fictional is based on Briscoe's female ancestors who were house slaves at Montpelier, the plantation of Dolly and James Madison. Because the book details the lives of women who were house slaves vs. Field slaves one is provided a different perspective on an often overlooked group of people who did exist...and it appears had different ideas about slavery and freedom. Which to me is not farfetched or any different from what many of us experience today. Even though we can leave...we often stay in situations such as relationships, jobs, etc. because of the security they provide. We're often times afraid of the unknown and as such seek comfort and a false sense of relief from that which we know. Additionally, A Long Way From Home showed that subtle divisions existed among country slaves and city slaves, American-born blacks and African-born blacks. So while people of color were slaves not all of them acted the same or even thought the same.
A Long Way From Home graphically recreates the life of slaves and owners and is a poignant, and powerful story told from a different perspective. Once I started reading it, I was able to finish the book in one setting as the story was well-written, the characters were believable, and the storyline provided a stirring account of the everyday lives of slaves before and after the Civil War. The only disappointment was the ending ...I wonder if a sequel is forthcoming?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I thought the book to be an excellent and uplifting read. I was a little disappointed with "Big Girls Don't Cry." That particular book was definately not one of her best pieces of work. "A Long Ways From Home" reminded me of a Black version of "Gone With The Wind", only this time from a slaves perspective. Not many black authors write from a historical perspective. Connie Briscoe paid tribute to her ancestors by detailing the harshness and brutatily that slaves often endured. A key point that was referenced in the book was the differences in mentality between the house slaves and the field hands. The lighter skinned house slaves were preferred over the darker skinned field hands. House slaves often emulated their white masters as thinking themselves superior simply because of their skin color. The author mentioned at the end of the book that part of the story was fact and fiction. She had to put herself in her great-great-great aunt and grandmother's position and write based on how they must've felt growing up in those turbulent and rough times. I enojoyed this book immensley, and I look forward to reading more of Ms. Briscoe's work.
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