Author: Paula Saunders
Published: August 7, 2018
FLW Rating: 4/5
The Distance Home is a somber tale – a foreboding story of both how small our lives are and the role of family in shaping those lives. While simultaneously told in the present and the past, this is a book that I couldn’t put down, even though, surprisingly, it wasn’t riddled with excitement. In this case the suspense was held by dark undertones that kept me pulled in and curious about how the story would get from the simple life at the start, to the darker times later on.
The Distance Home is the story of a family of four living in South Dakota in the 1960s. The timing and location don’t play a huge role in the story except to say that the lifestyle is basic – there is agriculture, there is school, and there is dance class. But the small world the family lives in is where each member of them will come in to themselves – for better or worse.
To set the scene, I want to share one passage with you – this occurs in the first few pages. “What comes together falls apart. Parties are planned, celebrated, then disperse and dissolve as though they were no more than dreams; seasons come and go like magic tricks, flowers blooming then fading, snowbanks swelling then melting away. How could it be different for families? There’s coming together and moving apart, being young and growing old, being here and being gone.”
There are passages such as this throughout the book that foreshadow the life of each member of the family, and there are also more concrete passages that let you know where the family members will be in 10, 20, even 40 years after the majority of the book is written. To me this is the strength and the might of this book. While the story is told primarily through the childhood of Rene and Leo, up until both have left the house, these sections show you that so many of the emotions felt in the small moments of the narrative are both lasting and fleeting. Some actions will have direct correlations to the future, while others are futile and tell only the story of what is happening in that particular moment in time. It’s an interesting way to view relationships, both with others and with oneself.
If I had to give a downside, it would proabably be that the sadness I felt from this book was unexpected. The cover is a beautiful bright white, with flora and fauna, and a child running, I hardly expected to experience such a serious and poignant story. The story is one that requires the reader the think to enjoy it – although not to read it. Typically with a story this strong and artistic, I find the writing to be muddled and hard to read. I found the writing in this book incredibly readable, but found myself often thinking and reflecting that if the reader weren’t willing to step back every once in a while and think, this story could fall in to the category of sad or even dull.
Overall, I found this book to be a stunning debut novel and a beautifully crafted story, and the themes I experienced will certainly stay with me for a long time. This book is out today, so definitely check it out!
[Thank you to Random House for the free review copy. All opinions are my own.]