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. Harriet says:

    Love the concept of comfort smells. For me, coffee, cut grass, my kitties’ fur after they have spent the afternoon sitting in the breeze of an open window on a kitty shelf, the equivalent of line dried sheets, the trimmings from my Canadian hemlocks and juniper shrubs after I trim them, and pines, three pines.

    • Lois Cook says:

      I also love the concept of the scents, some long-forgotten that bring comfort when you catch a waft of the aroma.

      • Linda Pearson says:

        More than 65 years ago, my family lived temporarily at my grandmother’s home. My brother was about 5 and I was about 6 years old. Our great-grandmother came to live there too after having suffered a massive stroke. She wasn’t expected to live very long but, in fact, lived almost 3 more months before passing away on Easter Sunday morning.
        We were too young to help very much with GiGi’s care but were allowed to “help” where we could. One of our jobs every day was to take turns walking carefully up the stairs to GiGi’s bedroom while carrying a little glass of a dark green liquid, her medicine. There was a distinct smell to the stuff.
        Many, many years later while at a social engagement where both my brother and his wife and I and my husband were guests, suddenly I smelled “that smell”. I glanced over at my brother to find him staring at me – he smelled it too and remembered why. Our senses are pretty powerful and provoke memories and instincts in us just like they do in all animals.

        • Alicia says:

          My parents had a basement rec room that had a faint mildew smell from the constant humidity. Long after they passed away, my daughter opened a scent entitled Mildew and took a whiff and exclaimed, “Grandma’s house!”

  2. Doris hurwitz says:

    Marvelous, as always.

  3. Maradel Ager says:

    Oh my….this was a hard book to read…but so good in the overall scheme of things….thank you, once again, Louise….such lovely thoughts.

  4. Deb says:

    I am so grieved by the attitudes of some characters toward God. Lemieux was intensely embarrassed to ask Gamache if he prayed, as if it was something very bad. This is a theme throughout all the books and I am sure Penny is dealing with a reality. I feel so very sad for those who don’t have that hope. When did what is good become bad, and what is bad became good?

    • Donna Woodruff says:

      Deb, for a long time I was one who was careful about expressing my beliefs and my spiritual side. Now as an older woman, I don’t try to hide my beliefs. That is who I am. I repect others and their beliefs. Or try to.

      • Lois Weissberg says:

        I too try more than ever to make it known how I believe. Somehow this world needs to turn around and remember our Maker. If we remind the world of what’s important, eventually it will make a difference. The character of Gamache certainly is an example of value

    • Ruth Puckett says:

      Agree with Deb, we must not let them steal our faith. Have reassessed from an adult viewpoint what I learned as a child and have never found a reason why I should not continue to be “Surprised by Joy” . One of my very favorite books. Love Louise’s memorial for Michael in New York.

  5. Hetty Ford says:

    What a wonderful way to find the ‘essence’ of the Three Pines symbolism!

  6. Lynne Dillon says:

    I will need to read this wonderful book again. Going to a cottage for a dew days today and The Long Way Home shall accompany me. Thanks again for yoyr teachings

  7. Carole Carraro says:

    I love that you have used a true story about the 3 pines to create the fictional 3 Pines village. You’re mixing and intertwining of fact and fiction just adds that extra element that pulls us into these books and makes us feel that the place and characters are real. Thanks again Louise for this wonderful adventure you bring us on with each and every book.

  8. Harlene Annett says:

    I read this book about a month ago. Thoroughly enjoyed it but, without spoiling it for anyone who hasn’t read it, I was disappointed in how it ended. I’ve read every one of your books I can find and am looking forward to the next new one in August. I went to a band camp at Orford 2 years ago, before some band buddies recommended I read Louise Penny, and I’m so glad I got to see some parts of the Eastern Twps so close to Three Pines. I have friends who grew up not far from there and they’ve read all the books.

    • Deb says:

      I was disappointed in the ending too. It colored my feelings about this otherwise perfect book. That said,I love this series,along with Deborah Crombie’s Duncan and Gemma series, and am patiently waiting for the next book in both.

      • Bettie Westphall says:

        I was also disappointed at the ending. But what writing skill in that scene!
        Sometime after I finished it, I considered where the story would have unfolded otherwise. How could Peter have lived again in Three Pines? And how limiting it would have been for Clara! I felt very satisfied that they were together and had closure, no matter brief and tragic. I decided again, how wise Louise is and how well she knows what is best for her characters.

  9. Donnie says:

    Read …The long way home ….will read it again in the winter as all the
    Books they inspire us to be better, do better ,love more ,and even accept the sadness that exists ,find joy in very simple things.Thank you Louise .

  10. Sybil Nassau says:

    An astute librarian recommended your books years ago and suggested I start with the first- actually handed me the first 3. Have since read them all, some twice and many passages twice or even three times, and out loud- just to hear your words as poetry You are the most sensitive and remarkable writer I have every had the pleasure of reading. Thank you for bringing such joy to your readers not just in words but in the mysteries you weave around the characters who come alive for us and Three Pines seems to real. Can’t wait for the next page-turner.

  11. Yes, the aromas of our youth. That passage gripped me as well. To be instantly transported to a simpler time, a time of fond memories and innocence, to be carried away by the aroma of a younger day, is another blessing of being surprised by joy.

  12. Joy says:

    “Surprised by Joy” first was introduced through Jane Neal in Still Life; I love tracing the theme throughout the series and seeing what new joys are waiting for the characters. They’re usually most noticable in close contrast to a great tragedy or sorrow.

    My favorite part of The Long Way Home was meeting a “new and improved” Beauvoir; he’s still funny and energetic and cocky but having come through the events in the previous couple books, he’s no longer as tormented and insecure.

  13. Nancy says:

    Love how the pace of this book mirrors Armand’s current situation. Some interesting insights into Reine-Marie’s thinking. Especially love how she supports Armand at the expense of her own inner tranquility. This book was another masterpiece! Thanks Louise!

  14. Hilde Senecal says:

    I love your story in the beginning about ! We had a cottage close to Knowlton and in my mind Knowlton became and always will be ❤️
    As for the book “The long way home”, l found it very hard to read.

  15. Hilde Senecal says:

    I love your story in the beginning about ! We had a cottage close to Knowlton and in my mind Knowlton became and always will be ❤️
    As for the book “The long way home”, l found it very hard to read.

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