The Long Way Home, Chapters 11-20

The Long Way Home is the #1 bestselling book in North America and it is all because of you! We can’t thank you enough!

Now on to chapters 11-20. Thoughts?

Paul Hochman

Discussion on “The Long Way Home, Chapters 11-20

  1. Barbara H. Johnson says:

    OK Folks. Wow, 237 postings on the first 10 chapters. But nothing here yet? This site has been open since very early. Thanks, Paul. I didn’t want to post first as I am not at home. OK, I hope I have lots to read when I get home.

  2. Linda Maday says:

    Are we seeing the beginnings of a new Peter?

    To me it was almost like listening to an unreliable engine start on a cold morning. He sputters and stops and sputters some more.

    Constable Stuart and Doug solving the mystery of Peter’s painting of the Cosmos while getting pissed in a bar made me long for Louise to create a spinoff based in Scotland.

    Take the time to look up the gardens mentioned. They look wonderful!

    • Cathryne Spencer says:

      Oh yes! I finally looked yesterday. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Like Jane Neal’s art, it’s so powerfully engaging, unexpected and hidden away. I wanted to put myself there. What a perfect choice of a sight to rock Peter’s view of the world and art. It’s part of nature, but in a different way than Peter has looked at it. Looking at pieces of nature bigger than life rather than microscopically, do you think?

      • Linda Maday says:

        And yet in some ways so like Peter! Straight lines and geometric shapes except with a little local magic thrown in!

        • Cathryne Spencer says:

          Great point. I didn’t think of that and it’s important.

        • KB says:

          It makes sense that Peter would gravitate toward the straight lines and geometric shapes – at least while he was in transition. He would find comfort in the familiarity of the technical aspect of the subject. That might give him the security he needed to experiment with colour and light.

    • Julie says:

      A new Peter… how delightful! I think we are – I think we can begin to assume that Peter has been on a journey of self-discovery and he’s so different from where he was a year ago when Clara sent him away. The paintings are a hint of it. Can our buttoned-up, straight-laced Peter have produced these “dog’s breakfast” paintings? Somewhere (I am hoping that this has been covered in these 10 chapters), Clara recognizes something akin to her early attempts. They’re messy, they’re not good, but they have feeling! Once the Garden of Cosmic Contemplation has been seen, the first paintings show that Peter “gets it” – finally! He’s not good at it yet, but he’s a technically expert painter, it shouldn’t take long to really take some strides in this art form. Is he finally, a real artist? I think so. I’m so pleased for him at this point. I wonder what else he has learned along the way?

      Just before he left, he told Clara that he was jealous of her ability to really feel things. This is where he started from – he wanted to “learn” how to do that. I think he has, at least to some degree, figured this out. Maybe, just maybe, Peter can be at peace with himself. Then he can begin to like, and love, other people. I almost shouted “hallelujah” when I realized this.

      • Linda Maday says:

        I loved that Clara considered the pictures to be “the mullioned windows” through which she could see what Peter was becoming.

        • Linda Maday says:

          It was also interesting that Clara felt pangs of jealousy, fearing that if Peter could evoke feelings with his dogs breakfast paintings, in the end he might be better than she.

          • Julie says:

            Linda – yes! I think we can start to see that if even Clara can have these feelings, they are maybe more “normal” than we have been thinking. I know that Clara would be able to overcome those feelings, while Peter couldn’t. But I think most artists (whether painters, actors, musicians, whatever) have a deep insecurity at their base. All a part of the picture, and maybe helps a little to understand Ruth, too. She puts her soul into her poetry, and then puts it out there for everyone to see. And maybe, she hits with the barbs and insults before anyone can do that to her. It may, in part, be a defense mechanism.

        • Pam says:

          That word picture resonated with me as well! Reading Louise Penny is like mining – you find jewels like this along the way.

          • Jan Cain says:

            Yes, Pam! I love the idea of her writing as word jewels! Louise Penny’s books just carry me along like I’m there with Armand and the rest.

      • KB says:

        You said it! Peter has clearly come a long way. He is willing to allow emotion in….starting to fill the emptiness at his core. It looks like he needed solitude to have the strength to do this – away from his mother and family who tore him down obviously and incessantly and created the fear that had to be walled up. Away from his previous works and clients where he had (limited) acclaim for producing technically pleasing works. And away from Clara and Three Pines where he had found his walls were not impermeable – his fear could be (and was) stirred by Clara’s acclaim. (Kind of like compliments directed to her took a poke at his insecurity and fear along the way.) So, is Peter better off on his own? Has he healed enough that the fear is no longer his core? Or does he still need to be alone in order to be who he was meant to be?

    • Millie says:

      Too funny, those Scottish fellows. I’d be happy if half the village goes on vacation to see ‘Speculation and Gamache and J-G happen to be available to help Constable Stewart in an ‘unofficial capacity’. And Ruth has to go! Can you imagine the banter between those two?

      • Linda Maday says:

        Is it difficult to take live poultry overseas? We mustn’t leave Rosa behind!

        • Millie says:

          Linda, thanks for the chuckle! How I needed one. Fell and found out today I’ve been soldering on with several cracked ribs. Oh well, good excuse to just sit and reread 11-20! I can’t imagine taking Rosa would being harder than taking a dog or cat on a plane… They make special allowances for helper animals – Rosa should qualify! ;-)

  3. Linda Maday says:


    We discussed Peter in the previous comments but I wanted to to remind us what Louise and his friends had to say in these chapters.

    (Beginning with Ruth). “He has too high an opinion of himself. Loves himself too much. . .Who here hasn’t wanted to kill him at least once? And we’re his friends.”

    “They protested perhaps a shade too passionately . . . He could be so smug, so self satisfied, so entitled, and yet so oblivious.

    But he could also be loyal, and funny, and generous. And kind.”

    • Cathryne Spencer says:

      Perfect! It takes some time to scout out those quotes. Thanks! I keep thinking that if we can forgive and welcome Olivier home, we can do the same for Peter. Olivier hurt his partner and friends too.

    • Julie says:

      I was amazed when I saw pictures of the Garden of the Cosmos! So unusual, so beautiful! I had been sure that Louise had made this place up out of her imagination until I saw the pictures. I am so taken with this place, and would love to go there someday.

      For those who were having trouble visualizing the art – try this.

      I think something like this picture is akin to what might have been on Bean’s wall. I’ve taken a photo of the checkerboard section of the garden and run it through artist effects on my photoshop program, then turned it upside down.

    • Julie says:

      And here are some other things Louise had to say.

      “But the truth was, Clara always felt like a Beatrix Potter creation in Peter’s familiar embrace. Mrs. Tiggy-winkle, in her funny little home. She’d found shelter in his arms. That was where she belonged.”

      “Gamache knew Peter Morrow well and had no doubt even now that he loved Clara with all his heart.”

      • Lesley says:

        But are you all forgetting that Peter ruined his sister’s life? And never owned up? And we watched her die. No, I think Peter’s not so easily forgiven yet.

    • Karen Gast says:

      Is the author perhaps being very pointed here? We can ALL (sorry, I’d rather have italics) be just like that, can’t we? I’m sure sometimes my friends and family must want to kill me, think I’m nuts and/or selfish, and then also find my kind side.

    • KB says:

      Ah, but was Peter’s opinion of himself really too high, or was that his walls – the persona he adopted – to stop people from seeing that he was broken?

      • Sylvia H. says:

        That’s a really good point, and it explains why Jean-Guy connects with Peter and understands him, as he recognizes his own brokenness.

        • Martha says:

          Thoughtful insight about Jean Guy and Peter. At first read I was trying to figure out why there would be a connection, but your point really hit home for me. When we are struggling to hide a part of ourself from the outer world, perhaps we see the internal battles in others more clearly.

      • Millie says:

        KB, loved your previous post about Peter’s mother constantly tearing down the ‘walls’ he constructed. We all have some, but Peter’s walls are so high for self defense that even Clara was left out. So sad. And great point about Ruth perhaps being wrong about his self love… Lots to think about. Thanks!

  4. Linda Maday says:


    During the discussion with Gamache about Frost’s quote

    “A poem begins as a lump in the throat. A sense of wrong. A homesickness, a love sickness. ”

    Ruth says– “You make it sound like a fur ball . . . Something horked up. My poems are finely honed, each f_ _ _ ing word carefully chosen.”

    Would that all her words were such, but that would be so boring wouldn’t it?

  5. Julie says:


    This is an odd little theme that comes out in this section. It is a theme that is not pursued – a breadcrumb dropped to follow in a later book, perhaps. The rabbits made of stone, turned to life and back again. It seems that at least two people saw them – the fellow in the pub in Scotland, and Peter. What can it mean? It’s tantalizing, perhaps all the more-so because it’s not followed up on.

  6. Julie says:


    This whole debate – is destiny in charge or are we? We begin it here when Myrna tries to convince Clara that if something has happened to Peter it is not her fault for sending him away. It’s his destiny, or at least, his choices, not Clara’s fault. This comes up again and again – and I’m not sure how I feel about it. There’s a lot to discuss as we come to the end of the book, I feel. But it’s interesting to think about now – and as we continue to “follow” Peter on his road of discovery. We find out here why he went to the 15th Arrondissement, instead of where most artists go. At this point, he is more interested in finding himself than in painting. He want’s to feel something, and thinks perhaps he can heal himself by helping others. In the end, what worked for Vincent, “the asshole saint”, doesn’t work for him, but now he’s maybe thinking about how to make the changes he needs to.

  7. Julie says:


    I know I keep doing this, and you’re probably feeling like “enough already”, but I am still so full of Louise’s talk the other week. She was asked where Ruth “came from”, and she said that she knew not one, but two people like Ruth! She said that most of us have a polite face we turn to the public – and have our own private thoughts that are not what we’d want the rest of the world to see. “Oh, aren’t you nice to notice my poetry? (bitch)” Ruth was born inside out – she has all the caustic sarcasm and pain on the outside and the softness and kindness deep inside. All in all, not a bad way to be.

  8. Meg R says:

    FIRST- A SPOILER APOLOGY: When I posted in Chpts 1-10 , I mentioned Peter’s paintings on paper and later ones on canvas. Major Oops! We officially didn’t learn that these were his until this second quarter reading. I had started this week’s chapters when I posted that & forgot that Clara & Myrna assumed the ‘artwork’ was done by Bean in their first appearance. I really hate when someone includes a spoiler & apologize for my own mix-up here. Wish I had held off on Process comments until this week where they’re more appropriate! Mea Culpas!

  9. Meg R says:

    CLARA’S REACTIONS: After Marianne mails Peter’s paintings to Clara and she sees them in her home, I was struck by her responses. Immediately thought back to Peter’s reaction – and discoveries when he first really looked at Clara’s portrait of Ruth! Echoed reactions? Echoed fears? Echoed discoveries? Hmmmm?!
    Just need to reverse sex of pronouns for parallel responses!

    Louise’s words: “Those paintings were upsetting her. As her friends ate and talked, she thought about the pictures.

    When she’d first seen them, in Bean’s bedroom, she’d been amused. Especially by the lips. But seeing them in her own home had made her queasy. It was a sort of seasickness. The horizon was no longer steady. Some shift, some upheaval, had occurred.

    Was she jealous? Was that possible? Was she worried that these paintings by Peter really did signal an important departure for him as an artist? While laughable right now, might they actually lead to genius? And at the pointy end of that thought, another thought perched. A genius greater than hers?

    After feeling quietly smug about Peter and his petty jealousy, was she no better? Worse, in fact? Jealous and hypocritical and judgmental. Oh, my.”

  10. Cathryne Spencer says:

    Meg, I love the idea you put forth, but I don’t agree. Clara says she is “unsettled” because sha thinks Peter gave and sent the paintings to Bean because s(he) can keep a secret. Then Clara says she is frightened that Peter isn’t safe.

    • Meg R says:

      You may be right, but really,- there are three different issues here:
      1. Clara’s shock at realizing that Peter has begun to change as an artist.
      2, Clara’s discomfort that he didn’t trust her, his wife with his fledgling attempts, and
      3. Clara’s fears about the unknown, i.e. what has (or has not) happened to Peter!

      All are strong possible reactions, emotions and can exist simultaneously! She can be surprised, shocked, unsettled and fearful – not just one of these! Clara IS our Queen of Emotions through out this series & hasn’t been shown as the coolly logical, rational character of Three Pines.

      • Sylvia H. says:

        In your Point 2, Clara’s discomfort at Peter not sending her his pictures – it was part of the leaving deal that they would have no contact for a full year. So she was out as a person to send his new paintings to. I didn’t get the impression that it was his not sending them to her that bothered her, but your other points 1 & 3.

    • Linda Maday says:

      Meg’s comments are direct quotes. Clara is frightened, unsettled, and (she’s thinking) perhaps jealous.

      • Cathryne Spencer says:

        Ah, you’re right. I posted my comment while visiting my mother in a skilled nursing facility. She was asleep, then awake. I posted before I checked! I like it. Clara is jealous too. Nicely done, Louise. And nicely noticed, Meg and Linda.

    • Kathy Bradley says:

      Are we ever going to find out if Bean is a girl or a boy???

  11. Meg R says:

    1, COMIC RELIEF – Absolutely laughed out loud when I read Gamache & Jean-Guy’s “horse/moose” ride to Dr. Asshole Saint Gilbert – through the forest like Don Quixote & Sancho Panza! Could see J-G being jostled & uncomfortable. Good comic relief! – and evidence of increased easiness between the two men too!

    2. OBSERVATION – Jean-Guy’s identifying now with Peter! (p. 138) ” Jean-Guy liked Peter Morrow. A part of him understood Peter Morrow. The part Beauvoir admitted to very few./ The fearful part. The empty part. The selfish part. The insecure part./ The cowardly part of Jean-Guy Beauvoir understood Peter Morrow.” This is a huge leap for J-G to not only realize their similarities (even though they come from vastly different backgrounds), but to acknowledge and empathize with this obviously privileged and entitled and ‘English” painter! Go Jean-Guy!

    3. A QUESTION: On page 104, the writer states that, “Isabelle Lacoste also owed Clara.” I’m drawing a total blank on this one. Why or for what did Lacoste ‘owe’ Clara?

    Gonna google Cosmic garden now. Didn’t know it was a real place! Thanks, JULIE!

    4. I found original illustration for book’s jacket cover. If interested, it’s on page 3 or 4 postings for Chpts 1 to 10!

    • Julie says:

      What did Lacoste owe Clara? I think it was part of a larger “owing” in that the whole town took them in and protected them, worked with them, put themselves in danger in HTLGI. I think they both feel a huge debt to everyone in the town, but especially the principals we have come to know and love.

    • Julie says:

      There is a bit that I just re-read – I think it’s in the first 10 chapters, when Clara is telling them all of how and why Peter left. She’s describing his jealous feelings and sabotage-type actions. Jean Guy says “That must have hurt”, and Clara agrees, that she was hurt, but he meant Peter. It must have hurt Peter to find his feelings betraying him as someone who wants to hurt the one he loves. JG feels he knows what that’s like, after all the horrible feelings he’d had about Gamache in the last book. I thought this was telling. JG is growing so wise and thoughtful. I love it!

    • Millie says:

      Hi Meg, perhaps Lacoste is referring to when she wanted to silently speak to Madeleine in The Cruelest Month, Chapter 17. “Reassuring them Chief Inspector Gamache and his team were on the case. They would not be forgotten.” But, “her courage had finally found its limits.” So she runs away from the old Hadley house to Clara’s who then enlists Myrna’s help and they accompany Lacoste.

      • Meg R says:

        Julie & Millie,

        I’m still not clear about why Isabelle (who is specifically singled out and named on that page) – owes Clara. Yeah, the villagers came together to help protect Armand & J-G in last book when Francoeur & his goons came looking for them. But still Why does Lacoste specifically & personally “owe” Clara?

        • Julie says:

          Didn’t Beauvoir say “You owe Clara. We all do.”? I do think he’s referring to that larger debt.

          • Julie says:

            This was part of what I read last night, so I paid attention. Actually it was Annie who said to Beauvoir that he owed Clara. Then she said, so does Dad. You all do. Later, Beauvoir asked Lacoste for time off to pursue the missing Peter, and she gave him permission to go. Then Louise says Lacoste owed Clara, too. So I think this squarely says they all owed Clara and for the same thing – and it must be for her help (along with other villagers) last winter for hiding Gamache and the Brunels.

    • Lizzy says:

      Loved that comic relief of Guy and Armand!

  12. Meg R says:

    Success! If you haven’t found Garden of Cosmic Speculation, Scotland – here’s the site with lots of photos in slide show! It really is impressive! Thanks for the nudge, Julie!!the-garden-of-cosmic-speculation/photostackergallery4=1

    • Linda Maday says:

      There is an excellent and touching tour and description that seems so pertinent to this book at this site.

      • Linda Maday says:

        This link is actually titled “How the Light Gets In.”

        • Millie says:

          I clicked on the link for the garden creator’s book (Charles Jencks). Takes one to the site where one can “look inside” the book. There’s a fascinating quote on one of the pictures of the garden, “The Garden of Cosmic Specilation is a landscape of waves, twists, and folds, a landscape pattern designed to relate us to nature through new metaphors presented to the senses.” And in the ‘how the light gets in” website that was what I was so captivated by: the many swirls, the pools of water – the element to sustains life…

          Then on another picture is this:
          “… A black hole. Understanding demands a certain slowing of time — why else enter a garden?”

          This made me feel so sad for Peter. Yes, I said that. My previous rants were contained within how I felt about Peter up through Chapter 10. But as far as we know scientifically, nothing that enters a black hole can escape… I DO like the thought that this is a gardener’s representation to invite the visitor to slow down, to ‘understand’… Like someone previously stated: “Is Peter seeing the world for the 1st time macroscopicly rather than microscopically?” Beautiful insight.

          My first glimpses of the pictures of the garden filled me with such awe, such amazement my thoughts stopped. I then wondered if that is how children react when their young consciousness and senses are exposed to something new and spectacular? They just stand there, eyes huge, soaking it all in first. They have no words… I can imagine this happening to Peter. An OMG moment. He is alone, he need not have his ‘Morrow face” on. The Morrow’s aren’t exactly known for showing real emotion. I believe, if memory serves me correctly, that in ATOTL he said to Clara he wanted to see the world the way she did? Perhaps he’s realizing he needs to see the world by himself, for himself, as himself. Stripped to his core and as a child would – if given a chance. He was never given that chance, AND he never have himself that chance. Once out of art-school he had to paint to earn a living, to be a successful artist, to prove to his family he didn’t need them… Or at least he thought so.

          Interesting that Peter stood next to Clara on the Salon des Refus├ęs. In these 10 chapters that act takes on an entirely different meaning to me. Perhaps more of a longing to wish to join Clara in her joy of experimenting? But that isn’t the Morrow way, is it? Now, in this garden he has finally allowed himself to do so?

          No wonder Miss Penny encouraged her readers to check out the garden on the internet. Thank you Julie for the link to the Poisoned Pen interviews.

          And thank you all for making my experience of this book so much richer. Without you, I too would have thought this garden a “fig- newton” of Miss Penny’s imagination. ;-)

          • Cathryne Spencer says:

            Millie, I was so excited that I ordered the book so I can show my husband, let him hold it in his hands to take his time comfortably looking at the astonishing pictures. I think he will love it. Then we’ll pass it around the family, but be sure to get it back (or order another!).

          • Millie says:

            Cathryne, well duh! What perfect Christmas presents for a few special people in my life.

  13. Lizzy says:

    Loved the garden. Googled it. So which one of you anonymously posted 9 hours ago on wickipedia that Louise Penny used it as a plot device? Lolol

    • Linda Maday says:

      Must have been Meg. :-D

      • Meg R says:

        Nah. Not me! I didn’t realize that GoCS was an actual place until Julie’s post above! Someone else gets credit for first posting on this one.

        • Julie says:

          Like I know how to change a Wikipedia page, hahahaha. I love the internet for those reasons – someone, somewhere, is always wanting to put something up, and they can. You have to take Wikipedia with a grain of salt, of course, for that reason, but still – I think it’s cool that a whole bunch of people out there think it’s important.

      • Linda Maday says:

        Not me either. I was too facinated by the link I posted. If you go to the link it’s actually titled “How the Light Gets In.”

  14. Lizzy says:

    I loved where Myrna was looking out her window full of imperfections and distortions upon the village. How often do we look through our eyes of imperfection and not see things as they are, but distorted? She had gotten use to seeing the world that way, and knowing of the distortion a, she made allowances.

  15. Lizzy says:

    I love Armand’s quote: There’s a difference between being in sanctuary and being in hiding.

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