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The Road Home Paperback – October 1, 1999
This month's Book With Buzz: "Stranger in the House" by Shari Lapena
In this neighborhood, danger lies close to home. A thriller packed full of secrets and a twisty story that never stops - from the bestselling author of "The Couple Next Door." See more
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
This is the first novel I've read of his; until this I've been on a binge of his novellas (a form he excels in). To be honest it took a while to hook me. I found that I had to bring something to the book. It wasn't a super-easy read. But once I let go the words poured over and into me, and I became immersed in a full world. Dalva's family history s just part of this world, as Harrison brings to life the flora and fauna as well as the history of the Sand HIlls itself. The Road Home is a terrific book, though Harrison flirts with boring the readers. I, for one, have little interest in birds, and Harrison dedicates a lot of passages to bird watching, which, frankly, had my eyelids drooping from time to time. Same goes for his somewhat exhaustive references of painters and illustrators. It reminded me of just how much I don't know, but should.
Another quibble I have with this book is the same I have with most all of his writing. Harrison's protagonists are almost always well-to-do, if not straight-up wealthy. With the exception of Brown Dog, I can' think of a single main character (of what I've read so far) who isn't moneyed. I have nothing against writing about affluent people per se, but with Harrison's deep understanding of the American soul and psyche, I'd like to see him breathe life into some working class characters. It's harder for me to identify with flat out rich folks.
This book is a continuation of the story of Dalva, with the additional voices of her grandfather and her son. As funny and poignant as Dalva, and Harrison once again demonstrates his skill with very different narrative styles for each of the characters' first-person thoughts and writings.
A great book, to be slowly read ( mind, things happen, there is no "boring element in it " ) and enoyed, like a fine cup of coffe or a special cigar.
Great, great book! Sublime novel. A Master in penmanship, Mr Harrison.