An involving tale of shame, secrets and acceptance. 4/5 stars.
Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.
It is 1987 and a small Irish community is preparing for a wedding. The day before the ceremony a group of young friends, including bride and groom, drive out to the beach. There is an accident. Three survive, but three are killed.
The lives of the families are shattered and the rifts between them are felt throughout the small town. Connor is one of the survivors. But staying among the angry and the mourning is almost as hard as living with the shame of having been the driver. He leaves the only place he knows for another life, taking his secrets with him. Travelling first to Liverpool, then London, he makes a home – of sorts – for himself in New York. The city provides shelter and possibility for the displaced, somewhere Connor can forget his past and forge a new life.
But the secrets, the unspoken longings and regrets that have come to haunt those left behind will not be silenced. And before long, Connor will have to confront his past.
As in his first two books, the action in Home Stretch mostly revolves around a small community in Ireland. However this time Norton has been more ambitious as the characters’ stories grow to span over 30 years and 2 continents.
I have to admit I got a bit lost in the first two chapters as all the main characters are introduced in a sequence of short scenes as the initial tragedy unfolds. This is highly effective in building up the horror of the event, but not very helpful in giving you your bearings as a reader.
But stick with it because it doesn’t take long for everything to fall into place (including who’s who) as we start to spend longer chunks of time with individual characters. I didn’t feel lost again, even though the story hops between different character viewpoints and locations and skips big chunks of time.
The story is incredibly involving. I was soon gripped and wanted to know how things turned out for Connor and his sister, who suffer the consequences of the fateful day in 1987 for decades afterwards.
I did see the final “twist” coming a million miles off, but it’s still shocking stuff. And, without giving anything away, I had to conclude that Norton is a far more generous person that I am as I think I’d have dropped the villain of the piece off a fictional cliff!
I won’t say more as spoilers would detract from your enjoyment of the book. And, although this is a story about the harm that secrets can do and there is darkness and sorrow at the centre of the narrative, overall it’s an uplifting tale about social progress and an encouragement to live without fear of what others may think, to be yourself and be happy.