The Annotated Three Pines – The Long Way Home

From Pg. 8
The homes formed a circle, and in its center was the village green. And in the center of that were the pine trees that soared over the community. Three great spires that inspired the name. Three Pines. These were no ordinary trees. Planted centuries ago, they were a code. A signal to the war- weary.

Louise’s Thoughts:
It’s funny how we pick up ideas, isn’t it? I sat beside an elderly stranger at a social, in a church basement, and she told me the story of the three pines. She had them planted in front of her house. Had been there for more than a hundred years. And that they were a signal to those loyal to the British crown, flooding across the boarded during the War of Independence, that they were safe in Canada. I heard that story years before starting to write, and always loved the symbolism of it. The kindness of the act, the awareness of how weary and confused and frightened those immigrants must’ve been. And then, the unimaginable power of knowing they were safe. Unbeknownst to me, in the church basement over dinner with a stranger, the seeds not just of the village, but the themes of Three Pines were planted.

From Pg. 10
She passed this small mystery every day on her walks with Armand. They walked past the old school house, where Armand had almost been killed. They walked through the woods, where Armand had killed. Each of them very aware of the events. Every day they turned around and returned to the quiet village and the bench above it. And the words carved into it by some unknown hand — Surprised by Joy

Louise’s Thoughts:
The recurring theme of unexpected gifts. Of the kindness and grace of strangers. That someone would know the significance of that phrase not just for Armand, but for the whole village. How very healing it is. It comes, as you might know, from the title of a CS Lewis book. And was Michael’s favourite saying. A recurring theme in our lives together, and beyond. Surprised by Joy. Who’d have thought there could be so much joy? And so many surprises.

From Pg. 39
“There is a balm in Gilead,” she read from the back, “to make the wounded whole—”
“There’s power enough in Heaven / To cure a sin-sick soul.” Armand Gamache finished the phrase. “It’s from an old spiritual.”
Clara stared at the back cover. “Do you believe it, Armand?”
“Yes.” He took the book from her and grasped it so tightly in one hand she half expected words to squeeze out.
“Then what are you struggling with?” When he didn’t answer, she had her answer.

Louise’s Thoughts:
Love, love, love that spiritual. Hope. Healing. And for Armand, at this point in his life, so wounded deep down, there is comfort. THE LONG WAY HOME is one of my personal favourite books, perhaps because it’s very quiet. Inverted even, like the cover. We travel deeper and deeper, into the search for Peter, into Quebec, and into Armand’s pain. But always, always, with awareness, that there is a balm, that can make the wounded whole. I’m often asked about the book Armand is reading and if it’s a real book. It is not. Just something I made up.

From Pg. 74
Myrna found it strangely calming. Her mother’s and grandmother’s comfort smells were cut grass and fresh baking and the subtle scent of line- dried sheets. For Myrna’s generation the smells that calmed were manufactured. Melting asphalt meant summer. VapoRub meant winter, and being cared for. There were Tang and gas fumes and long- gone photocopy ink.

Louise’s Thoughts:
I love writing about scents, and often try to put in references in each book. So powerful, so evocative. The past is immediately made present, with certain aromas. And with that magic come strong feelings. How impressed we are, without even realizing it, until years later we’re walking along a street and catch a scent, and are immediately transported. The Three Pines books are about mysteries, not all of them crimes.

From Pg. 43
Gamache grinned. Each time they used dial-up in Three Pines— the only way to connect since no other signal reached this hidden village— the Chief would remind Jean-Guy that once even dial-up had seemed a miracle. Not a nuisance.

Louise’s Thoughts:
Now, this is something I’ve changed slightly, as technology has improved. It seemed unreasonable that Three Pines would not have better coverage. Though for many years, much longer than the rest of the world it seemed, Michael and I could only connect using dial-up. We lived in the middle of nowhere, in blessed countryside. The sounds of nature only interrupted by the screech of the connection being made. And our swearing. Until, like Gamache with Beauvoir, we had to remind each other that this was still pretty amazing.

Discussion on “The Annotated Three Pines – The Long Way Home

  1. Kim B says:

    Comforting scents: freshly cut grass, hay, clover, especially in the sunshine; petrichor, damp earth…especially clay; evergreen forests; bacon, fresh coffee, baking bread and muffins; dog paws (have no idea why), newsprint, laundry fresh from the dryer, real lemons, peas from the garden, freshly picked Saskatoon berries and raspberries.

    Like so many others, I appreciate how you deal with dark and light in your characters. They struggle. They fall. They develop cracks which can cause them to disintegrate, or can create resilience. Your work, as much as any psychological and self help authors’, has served as a touchstone in dealing with challenges that life has thrown my way. There is goodness and light in the world. We all can learn to accept what is and to stay true, with cracks, but unbroken. Thank you.

  2. Susan G says:

    The smells reference triggered a memory. Vanilla in my great aunt’s kitchen as she made tea cakes… Food memories and the freedom to know I could get away with a lot more in her safe haven.

  3. Elizabeth Viens Rini says:

    For me the best part was Clara walking Peter home. So beautiful and calming. Cried all the way through it

  4. Ilene says:

    This book inspired my own journey. Inspired by the story and characters wending their way downriver, my husband and I took the CTMA ferry from Montreal to Les Isles de la Madeleine. So many memories, of sights, sounds, tastes, and smells.

  5. Suzanne says:

    This book follows my favorite one, “How the Light Gets In.” As Stated, it was a hard book to read. I could never reread it. I have never been able to forgive one of the characters for doing what she did, and this has tainted the way I feel about her in subsequent books.

  6. Marty says:

    The Long Way Home was the first Louise Penny book I read. I immediately fell in love with all the characters and went back and read them all in order. Looking forward to the new book! Thanks for sharing with us your writing process.

  7. Michelle Penland says:

    I have no problem with your characters ongoing internal conflicts with both faith and organized religion. It apparently reflects the cultural milieu. When we were on a tour of Quebec City, the tour guide told us that many of the old churches had been turned into apartments, art galleries, etc., because many people had become very disenchanted with the Church. He didn’t give a reason, but the books just reflect this change.

  8. Pam says:

    I also love that scents remind me of something, someone or sometime in my life. I once followed a man in a store because he smelled like my late father’s aftershave, happy he never noticed :-). My favourite smell is when I walk in our woods under the 2000+ pine trees we planted 40 yrs ago, hence our e-mail address. Thank you for all your books, such a pleasure to read.

  9. Lois Anne Johnson says:

    I’ve read all these books. Somehow, I felt I’d been the first to discover Three Pines. After having read two of the annotated series and read through the posts from other readers, I am delighted to find a very large community of us.
    After I’ve read the next book in the series. I will begin rereading them.

  10. Diane Hines says:

    So far, this is my favorite book. I have read it three times. Obviously I know the story, how the events will unfold, how the story will end. What I often don’t know beyond the narrative is what gems of wisdom will come forward with each reading. The ones which weren’t visible to me in the last reading, the ones I wasn’t yet ready to see or hear. I always have a notebook with me when I am searching in this way for what I need in the moment. And I have always been rewarded with new insights and understandings each time I take this journey. It really is quite a remarkable personal experience for which I am always grateful and amazed. Surprised by joy.

  11. Françoise L. Upton says:

    When I read your books the scents remind me of growing up in St-Jean sur Richelieu. The fresh mowed lawns. My mom and sister hanging sheets to dry outside even in winter. After living in California for 41 years I still miss these feelings!

  12. Jan Robbins says:

    I have read every book and have anxiously anticipated each new story. And part of that included the battle fought by you and Michael. I was so afraid that after you list someone you loved so much you would stop writing. Thank you for staying with us. We love you

  13. LisaNicholson says:

    Those three pines. We need them now don’t we for our poor immigrants? Oh I wish I had a place like 3Pines…..

  14. Karen I Ford says:

    Smells are so evocative. There is a certain smell of hamburgers cooking on the grill that reminds me of Savages, a restaurant near the Welland Canal locks, that comes through many years to my childhood, The smell of alfalfa that makes me homesick for the country, But smells can also bring unhappy memories.
    This book was also a difficult read because my heart hurt for Gasmache and Clara. I had come to detest Peter for his treatment of Clara and really could not see the outcome. As always, Louise keeps us on our toes in every book.

  15. Patricia Klein says:

    In every book Gamache looks deep into himself. He does a lot of inner work it seems to me. I don’t see him as a religious person but spiritual. Striving for inner peace, understanding your self, helps him to do his work with compassion and empathy even for the murderers! Louise’s insite into his character as well as the others is just remarkable.
    Thank you Louise for this great writing.

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