Friday, January 8, 2016

The Walk Home by Rachel Seiffert

Graham and Lindsey meet in Northern Ireland.  Lindsey lives there, sixteen and discontent with her life living with her father who ignores her.  Graham is there with an Orange March band where he plays the drum.  It is a Protestant custom meant to show the Protestant strength in Ireland to the Catholics, although Graham is not political, he just likes playing the drum and the uniforms.

Six weeks later, when Graham has returned to Glasgow, Lindsey shows up on his mom's doorstep, pregnant.  The two get married and in due course, Stevie is born.  Lindsey is fiercely independent and determined to get her little family ahead.  This is the world of working poor, where everyone lives in government housing and the jobs are cleaning houses, driving taxis and construction.  Lindsey wants her family to do better and for Stevie to have a better life.

But things go awry when Graham goes back to the life in the band.  Lindsey's discontent with her father was rooted in his activities with the Catholic IRA and the constant tension and fighting that politics meant there.  Although Graham doesn't see his actions as political, she can't stand to be reminded of that time.  The constant fighting breaks up the family and sets Stevie astray.  He runs away and is lost to the family.

The story is told in two parts.  The first part is the story of Lindsey and Graham, starting when they meet and moving forward.  The second part is Stevie's story when he returns to Glasgow after several years on his own.  As the two stories move towards each other in time, the reader is drawn into contemplation about whether the family can also move back together and be reconciled.

Rachel Seiffer is considered one of the best current novelists.  Her first novel, The Dark Room, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.  Her second, Afterwards, was longlisted for the Orange Prize, and a collection of short stories, Field Study, received an award from PEN International.  This novel, her third, was longlisted for the Bailey's Women's Prize for Literature, formerly the Orange Prize.  This book is recommended for those interested in Irish history and those interested in how families can support each other and how easily they can be torn apart.

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