"Frederick Busch's previous best seller, Closing Arguments, was hailed as one of the most powerful novels of the year. Long Way from Home takes up where Closing Arguments left off. Relentless in its psychological and narrative drive, it is a profoundly contemporary novel about marriage, family, adoption, divorce - and the terrible nightmare of a child left in jeopardy." "After Sarah abandons her family to search for her biological mother, her husband deposits their son with his in-laws and embarks on a self-destructive trip across the country to recover his wife. Sarah, heading in a different direction, locates her natural mother, an itinerant nurse and dispenser of herbal remedies named Gloria, who evinces a pronounced interest in "her" grandson. Alarmed, Sarah returns home - but not before Gloria has kidnapped the emotionally distraught boy. Sarah and her adoptive mother, Lizzie, must then set out in a desperate attempt to regain the child." "Frederick Busch's compelling novel is the tale of a family under siege, the account of the accumulating results of one desperate act taken by a wife/daughter/mother, and the story of a child at the mercy of his own disintegrating family. It triumphantly demonstrates that Frederick Busch is at the top of his craft."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved
I was pleasantly surprised to find Lizzie Bean again in LONG WAY FROM HOME. She's a free spirited independent soul who first 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!
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.