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. Faye Binsfeld says:

    I was fascinated to learn that the location of memory and smell are physically close to each other in the brain. No wonder smells bring us memories so vividly!
    This book prompted a wonderful weekend trip to Ottawa and its museums. Thomson and the Group of 7. Amazing.

  2. Bettie Westphall says:

    Since I posted before reading all, I need to say I found this book the hardest to read as another said. I think it was having each of the travelers in such a different setting, together in a different way. It highlighted the individuality of each.
    Another post reminded me to tell you ,my kindred spirits,that I bought a small beautiful blank book, in which I write special passages from the books. Re reading is my favorite form of meditation!

  3. Peggy Dalberto says:

    I cried the first time I read this book. I have re-read it, and still cry. Peter was crippled by his parents’ own imperfections, so how could he manage to carve an adult life out of those remains?
    Sometimes the weak in a here have to be sacrificed for the greater good. I feel that for Clara to move forward it had to be solo.
    As for scents bring ing back memories, I spent 20 years working in my pottery studio, looking out at the world as the seasons moved. The scent of falling white pine needles, creating a golden carpet everywhere with the smell of warmth and sunshine contained within still makes me smile.

  4. Ann Zeigler says:

    Love CS Lewis’ Surprised by Joy. It is so important to keep our eyes, ears, noses, and hearts open to the joys within each day. God provides many …….. as I grow older, I try to find those joys daily. So many blessing surround us and we often miss them as the “stuff” of our world seeks to take over.

  5. Dena says:

    “She had them planted in front of her house. Had been there for more than a hundred years.”
    Louise- or someone-how old was this woman who told you the story? She planted trees & they’d been there for more than 100 years! She must have been at least 125 when you met her.

  6. Victoria Gates says:

    When I first read “A Long Way Home” I was stunned by the ending. A kind of knife to the heart. However, now I see how essential every step has been in the evolution of Three Pines and in the unyielding growth of its inhabitants. In this case, Clara especially needed breathing room, solitude for her unique genius, and enough pain to force her to lay bare her soul in her art. I can only imagine the courage it took for Louise to write that particular end. You can never be sure where the chips will fall.
    I sometimes feel that I’m just holding my breath or treading water until Armand comes strolling back into my life.
    Incredible writing, Louise. Thank you.

  7. Carye Williams says:

    I always felt such sadness in Peter. It started with the way his awful family belittled him, but I think he felt terribly ashamed of his inability to love Clara as unconditionally and abundantly as she loved him. We all have a Peter somewhere in our lives, and we end up feeling angry, sad, and sorry for them. I guess I’m saying that he was a really believable character.

  8. Ann Pedley says:

    I love the phrase Surprised byJoy, it gives hope that the feeling is out there just waiting for us to have it come into our hearts. I was recently reading about a letter by CS Lewis where he talks about Joy. Here is a couple of excerpts from it that all you readers may find fascinating:

    A letter from CS Lewis which was discovered inside a secondhand book sees the author writing of how “real joy … jumps under ones ribs and tickles down one’s back and makes one forget meals and keeps one (delightedly) sleepless o’ nights”.

    Believed to be previously unpublished, the letter to a “Mrs Ellis” was written by Lewis on 19 August 1945, and sees the author unpicking the concept of joy.
    Joy, he would write in his memoir, later, “must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again … I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and Pleasure often is.”

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