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A Way from Home: A Novel Hardcover – June 7, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
The dry wit and clever plotting that distinguished Clark's debut, The Hills at Home, are applied with a heavy hand in this new comedy of manners, whose three parts fail to mesh. In 1992, Alden Lowe, his wife, Becky, and their teenage daughter, Julie, take up residence in an ancient castle in Prague. Alden is in charge of the finance ministry, while Becky attempts to launch fledgling entrepreneurs. The tone is high farce, as we watch Alden being ineffectual; Becky moping after an erstwhile lover, William; Julie seeking to bed her father's aide; and everybody else vying to become capitalists. By the time Becky decamps to join William in Khadafy's Libya, the reader has little empathy for any of the self-absorbed characters who have been blundering around Prague. The narrative takes hold, however, in a flashback to the lovers' triangle two decades earlier, before Becky married Alden. This is the heart of the novel, and it's tender, funny and touching, especially since Alden's grandparents are the eccentric WASP Hills readers met in the first book. But the final third of the novel, with Becky and William dreamily ensconced in an ancient villa is flat, notable mainly for its local color and political references. Clark's talent for satire shines only at intervals.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
It's 1992, and the Czechs are waking up to consumer culture. Alden and Becky Lowe, whom we first met in Clark's Hills at Home (2002), move with their teenage daughter to Prague, Alden to work at the Ministry of Finance and Becky to give support to women launching their own businesses. At work and at home (a decrepit castle), they are surrounded by a richly comic cast of characters emerging from "beneath the thumb of a shabby little regime." But just as the reader is settling in for a long, tart comedy of manners, Becky drives off to join William, the man she has loved for years, who now occupies an old Roman villa in Libya. There are really two books here, one a razor-sharp take on capitalism and marriage and the other a meandering stroll through Becky and William's affair. Clark's wit, her sense of place, and her affectionately drawn characters make for a novel that is highly rewarding in parts, if not as a whole. Mary Ellen Quinn
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Alden is a mixture of fierceness and loyal Americanism. He often gives his staff boring lectures of the wrongs in their country, and what they must do make it right. Becky, on the other hand is becoming disaffected with her marriage and in particular with Alden. After a party welcoming relatives to Prague and to the castle they now live in, Becky decides to make a drastic move.
Becky leaves Alden and her children, and she begins a journey to Libya to find her true love William. After many trials and tribulations, she finds William and they live together in an old restored villa. She finds the writings of another young woman who has followed her path, and we begin to wonder if this story will continue as is or will change to match the glories of the past.
Alden, meanwhile is berefit , and he cannot continue. He works from the castle and eventually his entire staff move in with him to keep the Ministry going. Alden is beside himself- he has lost his love and he knows not why. Soon, Becky writes to her children to let them know she is well and safe. The letters find their way to Alden who is stupified, what has gone wrong? His sister, Ginger comes to visit and to try and straighten out these problems. What she finds is a mess and attempts to correct much of it. She is not successful, and what we find is that Becky has made her new life; and Alden is living in the past. Not a good way to end their marriage, nor a great way to end this book. Much of this book is well written and highlighted, but then it slows and dwindles, and there is no real message nor real ending. A disappointment. The stories within are fascinating but not brought to fruition. prisrob
Because I really LOVE the first and third books of this trilogy, I am telling myself that this departure from brilliance may really just be the only way to handle two totally self-absorbed people like Alden and Becky--though why it took Becky so long to realize doormats are never appreciated, I don't know--and a creepy freak like William, who is truly scarey. The breakdown of the marriage was a breakdown in communication, and a refusal to address it.
To me, the moral of the story is, foolish women just keep repeating the cycle of being drawn towards icky men. (Though in book three, I liked Alden, despite his vague self-absorption. He beats weird William, at any rate!) One has the impression that a man like Alden would try to change, if warned sincerely, and enough. One has the impression William would stalk Becky forever, (heavily armed!) if she ever changed her mind!