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Home Before Dark Hardcover – April 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Jessie Ryder, the heroine of this latest novel from romance veteran Wiggs (Halfway to Heaven), returns to her Texas hometown after 16 years to visit Lila, the daughter she gave up for adoption to her older sister, Luz. Her eyesight is deteriorating rapidly from a rare disease, and soon she will no longer be able to continue her successful work as a photojournalist. She now wants to tell Lila the truth about her parentage, but Luz balks at the idea. Luz has chosen a starkly different lifestyle, making a home for her husband Ian, three boys and Lila, who's now a rebellious, out-of-control teenager. Both sisters are envious of the other's choices, and free-spirited Jessie's sudden arrival turns Luz's world-not as stable as it seems on the surface-upside down. As long-buried family secrets come to the surface, Luz and Ian's marriage threatens to unravel. Meanwhile, Jessie's wanderlust is held in check when she falls in love with Dusty Matlock, a local widowed pilot with a two-year-old. The novel sets up provocative family tensions, but these are resolved too easily. Wiggs's tendency to overwrite ("a wave of devastating love and protectiveness rolled over him with crushing strength") and lackluster humor ("Jeez, you're turning into a drama queen," Lila says to Jessie, who quips, "I've been wanting a change of careers") may further disappoint readers. Some of the scenes are finely drawn, however, especially those set at Beacon for the Blind, a facility for training those without eyesight to live independently.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

In this fairly typical romance novel, we meet free-spirited Jessie Ryder, a beautiful, independent, strong-willed woman who has traveled the world working as a photojournalist and living life on her own terms. This beautiful firebrand has a tormented secret, however, and it has haunted her for the past 16 years: she gave her baby daughter, Lila, away. Now faced with a devastating illness that is causing her to lose her eyesight, she follows her doctor's advice to see the most important people in her life before her eyesight fades for good. As a result, she soon attempts a reconciliation with Lila and her adoptive mother, Jessie's sister Luz. Returning to her Texas hometown, she decides she wants to tell Lila, who has grown up under the assumption that Jessie is her aunt, the truth. This confession soon jeopardizes the solid marriage of Luz and her husband (who happens to be the child's biological father) as well as the relationship between Luz and Jessie. In addition, Jessie becomes involved in a complicated tango with a young father who has just lost his wife. Everything is neatly resolved by the story's end. Heavy publicity will result in high library demand. Kathleen Hughes
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Mira; First Edition edition (April 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1551666731
  • ISBN-13: 978-1551666730
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,029,191 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Susan Wiggs's life is all about family, friends...and fiction. She's been featured in the national media, including NPR's Talk of the Nation, and is a popular speaker locally and nationally.

From the very start, her writings have illuminated the everyday dramas of ordinary people. At the age of eight, she self-published her first novel, entitled "A Book About Some Bad Kids."

Today, she is an international best-selling, award-winning author, with millions of copies of her books in print in numerous countries. Her recent novel, Marrying Daisy Bellamy, took the #1 spot on the New York Times Bestseller List, and The Lakeshore Chronicles have won readers' hearts around the globe. Her books celebrate the power of love, the timeless bonds of family and the fascinating nuances of human nature.

She lives with her husband and family at the water's edge on an island in the Pacific Northwest, where she divides her time between sleeping and waking.

Customer Reviews

This was a very moving story.
Okie Girl
She is great at tapping into human emotions and the complexity of relationships - man/woman, adult/child, female to female and more.
I put off reading the book for a while but when I finally started it I was immediately engrossed.
Helen Hancox

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful story of sisters separated by life's deepest issues, and how they find their way back to one another. Not just each other, but the other people in their lives. Older sister Luz rediscovers the magic in her longterm marriage. Younger Jessie is facing a life-changing problem just at the moment she learns to fall in love. It all sounds pretty schmaltzy but trust me, it's not. The sisters are hip, funny, sad and altogether human. You'll never forget them, and the lessons they learn along the way.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Sheri Melnick on April 26, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Many a historical romance author has tried to make the crossover to contemporary fiction. In rare instances, authors excel equally in both genres, and Susan Wiggs is one of those rare exceptions. With her latest novel, she explores the bond between sisters Jessie Ryder and Luz Ryder Benning.
After almost sixteen years traveling the globe on photojournalism assignments, Jessie is back to see her beloved sister Luz, three nephews, and fifteen-year-old niece Lila, who is actually the baby Luz and husband Ian adopted from Jess who took off years ago. Through the pain of separation and untold secrets, the sisters try to fit into each other's lives again, as Luz and Ian must decide whether to tell rebellious Lila the truth of her birth. And even Jessie has some secrets regarding Lila's conception. Amidst this very realistic glimpse into one family's drama is the surprising romance Jessie finds with local pilot and widower Dusty Matlock, who has a tragic story of his own.
Expertly drawn characters set against the beautiful Texas landscape are the life force of this compelling novel. Not only is the reader entranced by the unearthing of past secrets, but present-day secrets come to light in this thought provoking read with a unique and believable view of one family's ability to stay together despite personal trauma and tragedy.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Marcy Casterline O'Rourke on October 21, 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I feel almost guilty reviewing Susan Wigg's "Home Before Dark" because I like her writing so much, her evocative descriptions of place, in this case Texas Hill Country, and her characters are very real and delightful, as is the dialogue. It's just the plot and the theme or through-line were, for me, obvious, trite, unbelievable, and simplistic. By Chapter Three, it was all so programmatic, as if morality and justice were simple equations that could be added up to create "fairness".

First we have the ambitious, selfish, talented, sort of bad girl photographer sister, who slept with the guy who eventually made a good husband for her good beyond belief sister, and got pregnant by him, and left the child for her good sister and her ex-husband to raise. And the photographer sister goes off to New Zealand without telling her sister that the child is her husband's or I mean that her husband is her ex-lover who fathered the child she leaves behind for them to raise. Get it? I mean, really, I know people have secrets, but this is ridiculous. This sort of thing may happen on Oprah or Dr. Phil, but those people are on those shows because they have huge problems. Fact is stranger than fiction, and it's allowed to be, because it's fact and you can't dispute it. But fiction, unless it's fantasy, has to be a little closer to normal, in my book, anyway.

Anyway, the selfish but talented sister is going blind, just so she doesn't get off scot free after committing the the sin of dumping her premature baby of her illicit affair with her sister's soon to be husband, on her poor sister, who is also talented, but gives it all up for family. But never fear, the soon to be blind photographer comes home to help and finds the man of her dreams before she loses her sight. Whew!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on April 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
After living for the past fifteen years in New Zealand and photographing much of the world, Jessie Ryder returns to her hometown of Edenville, Texas near Austin. Jessie suffers from a debilitating illness that will leave her blind, so she needs to see her biological daughter Lila one last time. Years ago Jessie became pregnant after making love to Ian Benning, who later met, fell in love with, and married her sister Luc. Jessie hid the father's identity from everyone and her newly married sister and husband adopted Lila and loved her as their own.
Jessie wants Ian and Luc to tell Lila the truth about whom is her biological mother. As the trio struggles with what is best for Lila, the teen engages in hill hopping which leads to the death of another passenger. Meanwhile, Jessie falls in love with widower neighbor Dusty Matlock and his little girl. However, Jessie does not trust relationships so as she loses her sight she flees, but not before the Bennings tell Lila the truth.
HOME BEFORE DARK is an engaging relationship novel that contains a delightful extended cast. Much of the tale focuses on Jessie, yet readers also learn about the other key characters. Although why Jessie felt that Lila had to know the truth is never fully explained, the audience will savor this warm modern day family drama.
Harriet Klausner
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Home Before Dark is a romantic story about the difficult choices we face in life and about family reconciliation. Filled with love, joy, and heartache, this is a book that simply cannot be put down.
When faced with impending blindness, Jessie Ryder returns home to her family to get to know the daughter she gave up to her sister. 16 years earlier her sister left college early to adopt Jessie's child, marry and raise a family, giving Jessie the opportunity to fulfill her dream of becoming a photojournalist and traveling all over the world. Each, however, longs for the life of the other-Jessie envious of the secure family life her sister has had while Luz pines for the seemingly exotic and exciting life Jessie has led. Secrets abound, and a tragic accident makes this book a real heartwarming page-turner.
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