The Long Way Home by Rachel Spangler is the first book in her Darlington Romances series. Much like Finding the Grain or Bunny Finds a Friend, this book does a great job of showing how a coming of age may not happen until long after high school.
Raine St. James is broke. Once the darling of the LGBT speaking and publishing circuit, her story of being disowned at 17 for coming out as a lesbian isn’t catching the same interest at 27 that it did in the early years after she ran away from her tiny hometown. On the brink of being evicted from her apartment in Chicago, Raine does the one thing she never thought she would. She accepts a job teaching at Bramble University in Darlington, the town whose bigotry fueled her career for the last decade, where everyone still thinks of her as Rory St. James.
Beth Devoroux loves Darlington. It’s filled with the warm and wonderful people who kept her going when she was in college and her parents were killed in a car accident, and they continue to care for her to this day. Sure, she needs to stay closeted because her girlfriend of 8 years is afraid of what everyone would think, but Darlington is home. Beth’s experience of the town is so different from Rory’s (oops, Raine’s), and yet she’s drawn to befriend the angry woman, even when her girlfriend Kelly objects. With perspectives so different about Darlington, can they truly become friends or even more?
Raine is not an easy person to like—at least not at first. Sure, she’s brilliant, attractive, a compelling speaker. She’s also fueled by anger at how easily she was discarded by her family and paints the whole town with the same brush, expecting discrimination at every corner. It’s only as she becomes friends with Beth, rekindles friendships with a couple of old classmates, and even finally reaches out to her family that she sees that maybe things weren’t as simple as she thought they were. It doesn’t happen easily or quickly, but it’s beautiful to watch as Raine returns to Rory and her jagged edges smooth out.
Now, Beth I loved from beginning to end. She’s brilliant and attractive too, and she’s also warm, kind, and genuine. She goes through her own period of growth as she realizes that maybe the status quo isn’t enough anymore, and I loved seeing her assert herself and make decisions based on her own wants and needs.
Beth’s girlfriend Kelly is also difficult to like, and frankly, I never really ended up warming up to her. Not only is her desperate need to stay in the closet not particularly attractive, even if I get it, I didn’t like how she treated Beth. Kelly has her own book, which only recently came out, so I’m very curious to see how Rachel Spangler manages to make her someone I’ll be able to connect with.
The Writing Style
The Long Way Home is well written, with good pacing that kept the pages turning.
There’s a lot to like about The Long Road Home, between the writing style and the character arcs. One thing worth mentioning is how Rachel Spangler navigated the Raine/Rory naming thing, because that was really interesting and well done. The question of who the character really is, who she was, and what’s real vs what’s a persona is complex and does a great job of interrogating identity as a concept.
The Long Way Home is a great book. I can’t say it’s Rachel Spangler’s best because she’s grown so much as a writer in the years since it came out (seriously, check out Perfect Pairing if you want to see what I mean), but it’s a wonderful book that’s well worth a read.
Excerpt from The Long Way Home by Rachel Spangler
Raine didn’t need the GPS in her Toyota Prius to tell her which exit to take off I-55. She’d learned how to drive on these roads. The four-lane highway had been her way out, her path to freedom, though she’d been heading in the other direction back then. The only time she’d driven toward her hometown in the past ten years had been in her dreams.
Her memories had faded to black and white over time, but they never disappeared. If not for the vivid colors around her now, she could convince herself that what she was seeing was nothing more than a memory. The cornfields still rose in every direction as if attempting to swallow her whole. The August heat was every bit as oppressive as it’d always been. The only sign of life was the occasional truck, tractor, or freight train, all of them old, run-down, and covered in rust, like the people who drove them.
The shrill ring of Raine’s cell phone interrupted her thoughts. She glanced down at the caller ID display and hesitated. If she hadn’t been alone in the car for four hours, she wouldn’t be speaking to her agent, but Raine was an extrovert by nature. She gave in and answered.
“I hate you, Edmond Carpenter.”
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Bits and Bobs
ISBN number: 9781602821781
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Note: I received a free review copy of The Long Way Home by Rachel Spangler. No money was exchanged for this review. I will always review books as honestly as possible and on occasion I refuse to review books.