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The Road Home Hardcover – October 1, 1998


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 446 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; 1st edition (October 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871137240
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871137241
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #915,087 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

With his 1988 novel, Dalva, Jim Harrison commenced an epic of the American Midwest--or more specifically, the Nebraska sandhills. In The Road Home his eponymous heroine returns in search of the son she abandoned 30 years before, only to find herself more deeply enmeshed than ever in the coils of the family romance. (Quite literally, by the way: the father of Dalva's son was her half-brother.) Now, a decade later, Harrison continues her story in The Road Home. Ranging over an entire century, this second installment encompasses both Dalva's ancestry and her valedictory impulses in the face of death, circa 1987.

As he did in the earlier book, the author passes the narrative baton from one character to another. There are five highly individual voices at work, including not only Dalva's own but that of her grandfather, mother, and son. This makes for a dense, Rashomon-like structure, in which events are revisited by one generation after another and truth is a relative thing--in every sense of the word. Harrison leavens this spiraling saga with splendid passages about everything from the Lakota Sioux to bird hunting, from the complexities of art to the simplicities of the wandering life: "There's a sweet, vaguely scary feeling in disappearance," notes Dalva's son, Nelse. And as always, the author can convey both the surprising beauty of a landscape and an almost suffocating sense of its abundance. "It is neither more nor less endurable in May," says Dalva of the lilac-encircled family cemetery, "when it is enshrouded by the heavy-scented purple and white flowers, a smell that on warm evenings is so dense as to be almost visible.... The sound of the crickets arrived one by one until they were a chorus, and if you walked down the gravel road toward the Niobrara the frogs from the lower, marshy areas were so loud as to be barely endurable." --Bob Brandeis

From Publishers Weekly

A decade after the stunning Dalva, Harrison returns to the Northridge family of Nebraska in a saga that spans three generations of stoic loss, intermittent happiness and a healing proximity to the natural world. Tough old patriarch John Northridge narrates the first and strongest section, an apologia for the life he has led, first as a youth between two cultures (he is the son of a white father and a Lakota Sioux mother), then as a sensitive art student and, for most of his life, as a formidable rancher and cattle farmer, husband, father and grandfather. Northridge's life has paralleled the development of the Great Plains, and his intimate connection with the land humanizes his often cruel behavior to his wife, who left him, and his surviving son, Paul (his favorite son, Dalva's father, was killed in the Korean war). Other narrators are nomadic Nelse, the son Dalva gave up for adoption when she was 15, who finds her when he is 30; Naomi, Dalva's mother; Paul; and the still headstrong Dalva herself. As one expects of Harrison, the characters all share an instinctive love for the their native landscape and for the horses, dogs and birds that evoke their most treasured memories. With an unforced lucidity, the novel explores the tension between the Native American and white cultures, the effects of art and poetry on one's conception of existence and the very purpose of existence viewed from "the grace of the divinely ordinary" life. Two miscalculations flaw the novel. One is the sameness of the narrative voice, with all the characters, male and female, speaking in the same indistinguishable Midwestern cadences. The other is that, in attempting to reflect the quality of Nebraskan life, Harrison lets his characters describe their mundane experiences in meticulous but often pedestrian detail. While he thus stitches a fabric of impressive strength and depth, the narrative sometimes becomes tedious. Yet readers who let themselves be captured by the novel's breadth?from the late 1800s to 1987?and the memorable depictions of stalwart people striving to understand their destinies, will be rewarded by a deep and nourishing story.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

I wished the book could go on forever, so I read slowly towards the end.
femannine
Very few writers take the time to bestow characters in nature as Harrison does; and the reader is thankful for his time taking.
Yasmin H. McEwen
'The Road Home' and 'Dalva' are Mr. Harrison's definitive works of prose.
Donald Young

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Keith Moore on July 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
There is no writer in the world that can write like Harrison. Look, I have read every book by Faulkner, Hemingway, Larry Brown, Rick Bass, and Cormac McCarthy; some three times.And not one story has the poetry, humanity, sex, Spirituality,and reality ,mixed with humor and philosophy of Jim Harrison at his best. I know this is saying a great deal. But the thing is, I've got to tell it like it is. Of course many will disagree. Read this story, "The Road Home", then read "Dalva", then read "The Road Home" again. The read "Light in August" and "Joe, "Winter", and "The Crossing". And then read "A Woman Lit By Fireflies". Then you write a review.
Enjoy.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By vortexreader on November 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
I was completely surprised by the quality of this novel. I expected something along the lines of the only other work I have read by Jim Harrison,'Legend of the Falls'. While 'The Road Home' has some cross references to that earlier, slighter work, it is a substantially greater novel. The characters are so well defined they feel like relatives, people you have known for a lifetime. Harrison manages to evoke so much compassion for his characters that they are truly three dimensional, sometimes threatening to jump right off the page. Harrison's description of the American West is convincing and detailed (and fascinating to a reader like myself from another country). I recommend this work without reservation...as a reader of Harrison you can rest assured you are in the hands of an author who knows his craft, know his characters and story and knows how not to disappoint his readers.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By David Gustafson (Davidgust@aol.com) on November 29, 1998
Format: Hardcover
After waiting for so many years for the next Harrison and worrying that he was through, now comes this gem. The Road Home is so dense and rich, with such fine descriptive language from this poet, I found myself rereading passage after passage. Harrison so beautifully and intimately describes the natural world that it is palpable. And, ah, the human heart, with both its humming body heat and its capacity for selflessness! Harrison knows it and can tell it like no other, with the possible exception of Andre Dubus. One must believe Harrison has lived it. Paul's kiss bestowed on his dying father, and Nelse's appearance from the side of the road to kiss his mother good-bye one more time, are simple and understated acts that go straight to the heart and the tear ducts. Dalva's expanding and redundant list of favorite things in her dwindling life leaves one wishing for such insight and grace in one's own life at the end.
Nature writing, a wealth of historical, ethnic, and cultural observations, and the aethetic of the graphic arts enrich this novel. But what keeps the pages turning are the insights into the human condition and the mature recognition of the subjective. The technique of using five narrators to parcel out the same family history keeps the reader hurrying along to find the next narrator's take on a given event, and it made this reader crave renditions from other characters. Oh, to spend some time in Lundquist's mind! One who is prone to assuming that the world and its living components can be understood and summarized through observation and the application of taxonomies, as Nelse and Paul are wont to do, will perhaps feel less assured about that after seeing, for instance, old man Northridge from his angle and several others.
Read more ›
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jill M. Eichner on September 2, 2002
Format: Paperback
After discussing this book with several other literature-lovers, I've found that you either really love this book or you're so-so on it. Women love it more than men, which surprised me, but then, I'm a woman and really loved it and don't see how you can't. But I also love nature, which is BIG in Harrison, and psychological depth, and romance, and family ties, and it's all there.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 22, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The basic narrative trajectory of the novel centers on Nelse, the patriarch's great grandson who was expelled from the family (given up for adoption at birth), and his slow journey back into the fold. The reader is soon caught up in the story, because the writing is graceful-simultaneously spare, penetrating, and rich-and because, at least initially, the central characters are three dimensional and unusually engaging. Harrison's use of the first-person point of view is important: there is very little dialogue, and at its best the book is more a celebration of human thought than human action. What keeps the pages turning are the periodic flashes of wisdom and grace that add depth to the characters while at the same time illuminating some hidden corner of creation. The first part of the novel is peppered with originally observed moments, and there are occasional luminous glimpses into the universal joy and sadness of human existence. All in all, it makes for a rewarding read. There is much to be admired in this novel. Harrison's portrayal of man as inextricably part of nature is vigorous, nuanced, and deeply felt; his life-affirming exploration of human consciousness is ambitious and often plausible, as exemplified by the successfully self-narrated deaths of two sanguine first-person storytellers. However, about half way through the novel, Nelse passes the narrative baton over to his grandmother, Naomi, and the story slumps. The character of Naomi is chatty: flat and undeveloped, only a sketch, really. Without anything firm about Naomi to sink his teeth into, Harrison even resorts to rank cliché, as when Naomi describes her daughter Dalva as personifying the lyrics of the country song, "Don't Fence Me In.Read more ›
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