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A Long Way Home Hardcover – October 15, 2001

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 5-7-A seventh grader learns to accept the past in this well-intentioned first novel. Much to Riley Griffin's displeasure, his widowed mother has moved them to the small Vermont town where she was raised. Riley struggles to cope with the frequent appearances of her high school beau Sam, an outcast because he refused to fight in Vietnam; becomes friendly with two sisters who are abused by their parents; and researches an ancestor who fought at the Battle of Gettysburg. When Sam takes Riley on a trip to Gettysburg, the boy learns something about his ancestor that helps him understand Sam's actions. Ultimately, he learns that standing up for what one believes is difficult but admirable and that heroism is expressed in many different ways. The plot suffers from attempting to explore too many topics: Civil War, Vietnam War, pacifism, alcoholism, child abuse, shame, prejudice-to name just a few. While the setting is described well, the style of writing is awkward. The narrator's voice is inconsistent, although he is in many ways a typical seventh grader. The violent similes seem to conflict with the frequent Christian symbolism, which likens Sam to Jesus. For books about different manifestations of courage, try Louis Sachar's Holes (Farrar, 1998) or Jerry Spinelli's Wringer (HarperCollins, 1997).

B. Allison Gray, South Country Library, Bellport, NY

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Gr. 4-7. Twelve-year-old Riley Griffin dislikes everything about his new home in Sharon, Vermont: he's not happy in his grandfather's run-down house, no one seems eager to make friends with him, and the small town lacks many of the amenities he's used to. To complicate matters, his widowed mother is spending a lot of time with Sam, a local carpenter and childhood friend, who was dishonorably discharged from the army for refusing to fight in Vietnam. Sam tries to connect with Riley by taking up chess and encouraging Riley's interest in the Civil War, but the youth seems unable to get past what he sees as Sam's cowardice. Finally, during a trip to the battlefield at Gettysburg, Riley learns a secret about one of his own ancestors that helps him understand that sometimes just standing up for one's beliefs is an act of courage. Although set in 1980, this insightful first novel deals with very contemporary themes that are bound to spark great discussion--about patriotism and bravery and about the way an individual's interpretation of those values can be at odds with majority opinion. Kay Weisman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 850L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Clarion Books (October 15, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618120424
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618120420
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 6.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,428,947 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By David L. Eastman on August 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I was so struck by this excellent piece of fiction that I hated for this unique book to come to its impacting close. The book was given to me by a Gold Star mother, that has literally become my mom after her son was killed in a helicopter crash in my unit in 1967. She is now 90 and we correspond very much. How she found this book about Vermont out in California is beyond me, but it was included in her last shipment of articles and artifacts about Gary's life, that she often sends on to me. There is much personal overlap in this book with my life, including my giving helicopter rides over Little Roundtop and hiking the Gettysburg battlefield in late afternoon hours after working there daily as an instructor pilot. I identified with Sam the carpenter/vet very much, as I have worked with wood and built many bluebird houses over the 14 years when I was doing that. I can't kill anything either, and have realized that fact several times over since the month I flew Huey gunships in Vietnam. I quit, and returned to flying "slicks," and continued gaining decorations for other tasks in my aviation unit. Those events are recorded in my book, Outlaws in Vietnam. My buddy Fred Stetson knows the Graffs and I would surely like to. This woman is an uncommon writer, and I look forward to her constructing more excellent novels as she did this one. Her prose is very descriptive and impacting; she knows what she is doing. My family has fought in every war the United States ever had, from the seige of Louisburg to Bunker Hill, on through the Civil War and both World Wars that followed in this past century, as well as Korea. I know the feeling of pausing at old graves, and stood at the "Angle" as Riley did and heard the moans of the dying Confederates as some others have also experienced.Read more ›
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