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They Almost Always Come Home Paperback – May 1, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
In Ruchti's debut faith-based novel, Libby and Greg's marriage is sputtering in the wake of their daughter's death. Libby's thinking about leaving—until she's faced with the prospect of becoming a widow when Greg fails to return from a solo trip to the Canadian wilderness. As Libby, her best friend Jen, and father-in-law Frank go after Greg to bring him back or learn his fate, Libby also learns about herself, family, and faith. It's a great premise, and Ruchti has enough energy to make the suspense last for just about the whole book, even as she unpacks the marriage troubles in the background and the character interplay among the searchers in the foreground. A lot of readers will like Libby, who is flawed enough to be humble and teachable; a few might find her brittle and defensive wit (rocks with bad toupees of lichen) a little much. Libby's friend Jen, however, is improbably saintly. Crisp dialogue propels the story forward unobtrusively. Ruchti shows imagination and promise. (May)
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From the Back Cover
When Libby's husband Greg fails to return from a solo canoe trip to the Canadian wilderness, the authorities write off his disappearance as an unhappy husband's escape from an empty marriage and unrewarding career. But was it? With the help of her father-in-law and her best friend, Libby plunges into the wilderness to search for her husband and the remnants of her flagging faith.
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In that regard, I found it tedious in spots and felt its ending was weak, but it was still good enough to rate four stars--as compared to other freebies (which this briefly was). I might even pay a buck or two for it, but ten dollars, NO WAY; it is significantly over-priced.
After twenty years of marriage, tragedy strikes Greg and Libby Holden. Faced with incredible pain and grief, their marriage and relationship begins to crumble. Now, a few years later, Libby is ready to leave Greg. Greg takes off on one of his many camping trips, but this time he doesn't come home. Libby is faced with many questions. Did Greg leave her before she had a chance to leave him? Had he made a clean break from their remains of a marriage? Or, did something horrible happen to him?
While the police are doing all they can, Libby joins her friend Jen and Greg's dad Frank on a journey up north to travel the exact trip Greg would have taken in hopes of finding him. While the trip is interesting, even more important is the journey Libby takes as a person. She'd been ready to leave Greg, blaming him for their daughter's death and also blaming him for not grieving the way he should have. But, on the trip, Libby learns the truth about herself, about Greg, and about the nature of grief and forgiveness.
Objectively, this is a great novel. Great story, great voice, wonderful message, satisfying conclusion. Subjectively, I thought the novel dragged a bit as Libby carried on an internal dialogue. If you think about it, nothing much really happens. Husband doesn't come home, Libby goes to look for him. That takes up a vast majority of the book, so what remains is Libby's personal journey, which at times moved a little slow for me. Also, I don't really think the author convinced the reader of the wisdom of Libby, Jen and Frank looking for Greg on their own. I guess they had an idea where he might be, but I really just had to assume that.
Overall, I was immediately impressed with Ruchti's writing, and then the story won me over as well. Libby and Greg are strong Christians struggling with grief and the spiritual message is strong throughout the novel, but not overly preachy.
But come time for his return, he doesn't arrive home. Days pass and Libby begins to contemplate a funeral. After doing the paperwork involved in reporting him actually missing, Greg's dad Frank decides he's going after his son, knowing the general route he likes to trek. Jenika, Libby's neighbor and best friend, helps Libby search Greg's office for any clues that might make his absence somehow understandable, discovering a small journal Libby didn't know he had. Libby fears Greg has beaten her to the punch of deserting their marriage, something she's been seriously contemplating. She's more angry - and even vaguely relieved - than fearful when he fails to come home.
This is the scenario that takes us through Libby's first person journey of insisting on accompanying her father-in-law to search for her husband. That her best friend also insists on joining her and Frank with the blessing of her husband gives Libby the comfort she needs to undertake something neither of the ladies are even remotely qualified to attempt.
Cynthia Ruchti's debut novel They Almost Always Come Home manages to deliver a distinctive voice in a heroine who's difficult to root for because of her cynical bitterness. She hasn't quite abandoned God, but she's set Him aside to wallow in her pain. Without creating the goody-two-shoes cheery caricature of a Christian, Cynthia manages to endow Jen with inimitable compassion and a heart after God that exudes His strength when both of them realize the intense demands of this somewhat hopeless journey.
I can't imagine the intensity of pain involved in losing a child (though I know what it feels like just to consider it), and I know the statistics are generally poor for couples who've lost a child staying together. Between guilt and blame many don't survive the tragedy. That doesn't make it any easier to embrace a character who's chosen to indulge the pain and condemn her husband in a passive aggressive way while failing to reason that a man and a father might have to grieve differently and suffer through blaming himself. However, Cynthia somehow manages to inject just enough low-level charisma in Libby as she battles through surviving the physical wildnerness of their trip and the utter wildnerness of her soul.
About two-thirds of the way through the novel, Cynthia switches to capture Greg's venture in third person, his reasoning and personal pain, his desire for change of all significant kinds. It's clear he's a good man who's suffered every bit as deeply as his wife, and we can't help but wonder how this is all gonna end for this couple.
And that's for you to find out because if you want to read a novel that takes a good hard look at two people who've suffered loss and can't cope, They Almost Always Come Home is a well-written and unique approach to what seems to be a common storyline of late. These characters live on the page, drawing the reader into their psyches, exposing their hard and soft spots, their weaknesses and faith, their sheer pain and loss of hope. Secondary characters are well-developed and draw us to them. The undercurrent of Christianity is solid and organic and is contrasted to religion in subtle ways that deliver gut-level reality checks as the four characters surge deeper into the their own wildnerness experiences. Very good first novel.
[I would agree with the reviewer about the Kindle formatting. Technically difficult to read. However, the story and voice of the author make it a worthwhile purchase in hard copy.]
Most recent customer reviews
Took to long getting to the climax I thought.
A great mystery that keeps you in suspense throughout the story.Read more