Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Long Way Home by Rachel Spangler

Publisher:                   Bold Strokes Books

Rory St. James grew up in a small Midwestern town where being gay was totally unacceptable.  When she came out as a teenager, she was disowned by her family, so she fled the town, changed her name to Raine and eventually began a successful career as a writer and speaker about gay issues.  Her hallmark has been making fun of her hometown.  Years have passed though and Raine has become dated.  Younger, more relevant voices have appeared and no one is interested in hiring Raine anymore.  She's broke and evicted from her apartment.  The only job her agent can get her is teaching at Bramble University in her hometown.  That's the last place and the only place Raine can go.

Beth Devoroux grew up in the same town, but her experience was very different.  She is the "town's child," embraced and loved by everyone after her parents died.  No one knows that Beth is in a deeply closeted relationship or that she got Raine the job.  Beth received all of the support that Raine never felt, but it is Beth's life that is about to be turned upside down by Raine's influence.

What makes this book more than just a regular romance is the way Spangler has it deal with each woman's experience with the town.  Reality is what a person perceives it to be, but if people look through separate prisms, the views are very different.  Beth sees a town of kind, nurturing people, for the most part.  Raine sees only negative experiences, led by her family.  As time passes in the book however, both of their perceptions begin to change.  Beth begins to realize how restricted her life has been, through her own actions and those of others.  The biggest change comes in Raine who comes to realize that there were good times earlier in her life.  Now that she's older and more experienced, she sees the events differently than when she was young.

The Long Way Home does not mean home in the sense of the town.  Both Raine and Beth have to come home to themselves.  They have grown and matured and now that maturity affects their relationships with the past, the people in the town and each other.  These aren't static characters.  They expand in potential as the reader works through the story.  The romance is there, but the better story is about how the "clarity" of childhood may be nothing more than a misunderstanding. 

Rachel Spangler has created a strong romance, but she also has a book that explores a deeper topic.  The reader can have two experiences for the price of one.

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