Long Way from Home

by Frederick Busch

Hardcover, 1993




Houghton Mifflin (1993), Edition: First Edition, 292 pages


"AM I YOUR MOTHER?" The headline screams out to Sarah from the pages of the personal ads. Suddenly seized with an "emergency feeling," she abandons her husband, Barrett, and their six-year-old son, Stephen, to search for her biological mother in rural Pennyslvania. Barrett, convinced through intuition that Sarah has gone to Santa Fe, deposits Stephen with his in-laws and sets off in hot pursuit. From these separate journeys begins a chain of events in which individual memories send a family in desperate search of itself--and the shattering truth that awaits them.... From the author of Closing Arguments.

User reviews

LibraryThing member TimBazzett
I'm still reading my through Fred Busch's entire oeuvre, having read maybe 20 of his books by now, and it hasn't yet become a chore, and I strongly suspect it never will.

I was pleasantly surprised to find Lizzie Bean again in LONG WAY FROM HOME. She's a free spirited independent soul who first
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appeared in ROUNDS (1979), then again in SOMETIMES I LIVE IN THE COUNTRY (1986), and now here. This time she's a mother and a grandmother, as well as a well-loved wife. She rounds out a cast of characters consisting of her (adopted) daughter Sarah, Sarah's husband, Barrett, Lizzie's newspaperman husband Willis, and a crazed "witch" named Gloria Dodge who claims to be Sarah's biological mother and stakes a claim on Sarah's small son Stephen, as her "rightful grandson."

Families and adoption are recurring themes in the fiction of Fred Busch, but they never wear thin. Busch's main interest is always the bond between parents and children, whether adoptive or natural, and he plumbs his subject effectively yet again in this book. The title comes from the old folk lament, "Sometimes I fell like a motherless child ... long way from home." There are elements of Hansel and Gretel, with witches and ovens and stolen children here. There are mysterious potions, gingerbread boys and girls, and there are even sly allusions to sticking pins in dolls. Like the woods in Hansel and Gretel, this story is dark, deep, frightening - and riveting. (There is also some kinky, pseudo S&M scenes here too, a subject Busch's imagination excels at. His CLOSING ARGUMENTS was drenched in it.)

But whether he is channeling Mother Goose or Marquis de Sade, Fred Busch is always - more than anyone else - Fred Busch. Like so many of his early books, LONG WAY FROM HOME will keep you up long past your bedtime, compelled to know what happens next. Great stuff!
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LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
How to describe Long Way From Home? Part dark fairytale, part family drama, part commentary on mothers and adoption? All of the above. Each section of the book is separated by a familiar drawing of Mother Goose, looking quite witchy. It sets a subliminal tone. But, onto the plot: Pennsylvanian
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Sarah has been wanting to reach out to her biological mother for some time. An ad promising a possible reunion prompts her to abandon all common sense as well as her husband and son. Husband, Barrett, convinced he knows where she went, dumps five year old Stephen with his New York in-laws and sets off for the southwest. Meanwhile, biological mom Gloria is cooking up home remedy concoctions and getting ready to kidnap her new-found grandson. Each character is obviously searching for something other than the obvious. Each are on a self destructive path.
My one complaint? You don't really get to know the characters well enough to understand their motives or really care. Except Stephen. Little five year old Stephen is exactly how you would expect a boy with a mentally unstable mother and a neutered father. Only grandmother Lizzie remains a solid, reliable presence in his life.
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