The Long Way Home, Chapters 31-41

Well, we’ve finally reached Home. What were your overall impressions of the novel? Were all your questions answered? Were you surprised by the ending?

Paul Hochman

Discussion on “The Long Way Home, Chapters 31-41

  1. Laura B says:

    What I left with was wondering whether some of the characters will blame themselves for Peter’s death. In the next book, will Clara be haunted by the fact that her looking into Peter’s whereabouts pushed the proffessor into acting? Will Gamache feel guilty for not listening to Jean Guy, and act quicker rather than taking the slow path Clara insisted on? Will Jean Guy think less of Gamache for the same thing?

    • Barbara H. Johnson says:

      Those questions never occurred to me. It is so easy to focus on certain points and not see other possibilities. Being able to share our thoughts, has made my understanding and appreciation of these books even deeper. Thanks for your very good ideas.

      • Millie says:

        To continue Laura B’s great questions: I wonder how Peter’s mother felt, having told Gamache she would do nothing to help him find Peter… ‘Friends and family’ attended the service at Three Pines. Whose family??? Was Bean there? How will Peter’s death affect little Bean? Bean liked the ‘lips’ painting . Will Clara keep it or return it to Bean?

        • Julie says:

          Good question, Millie – in my mind, all the paintings belong to Bean. Maybe (s)he will gift Clara with them, but I bet the family will insist they come back to Bean because now that Peter’s dead, his art will be worth more, especially those last few canvases…

    • Julie says:

      I didn’t think of Gamache blaming himself – but now I am, hahaha. I DID think that Clara will have a hard time living with it. First, if she’d just not looked for Peter (though I can see why she did and that might have still worked out for Peter) but then, when she didn’t stay in the diner! AND, poor Myrna – if only she’d not stepped aside that last time… If only, if only – if only they hadn’t tipped their hands to Massey in the first place – did EVERYBODY have to go to his studio and tell him what they were doing? I had to wonder what Clara’s feelings were as she read the letter from Peter. If that had arrived in time…

      I really don’t think that Gamache had any choice. They weren’t on an actual case and Gamache had no authority – he was doing a friend a favor. I think, also, that Beauvoir wouldn’t think that Gamache should have done any different. Really, HE was the only Surete officer there – if anyone had authority, he did. But he was happy (well, maybe not happy) to follow Gamache’s lead, and Gamache was following Clara’s lead.

      I think all the “Appointment in Samarra” talk was basically to say that it was fate, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop this. Peter was meant to die here.

      It broke my heart that he died just as he’d really become worthy of Clara. When he really was able to love her fully, and embrace all of her. When he could appreciate her art, as well as her love. And when he finally knew that he could learn from her and they could be happy together.

      • Laura B says:

        Ooh. Good point about Jean Guy being the only real surete officer there.

      • Elaine says:

        I have a problem with the ending. I understand your comment about finally learning the greatest lesson of all, To Love, and then he dies without ever really having to practice it. And, that is my issue with the ending. It feels too easy as well as being rather melodramatic. I wonder why Louise ended it with his death. Any thoughts??


    • Linda says:

      I wondered how Clara will feel. If she had not rushed out of the cafe, Peter might still be alive.

  2. Linda Maday says:

    I loved Peter at the end. I wish we had had time to get to know him better. I wept at the loss of one who felt such compassion. He bathed and fed and clothed the sick. In the end he died for his beloved Clara. At the journey’s end he revealed a good kind heart, a brave man in a brave land.

    I hope Gamache nor Clara feel any guilt for the actions that truely belonged to the professor, it wouldn’t be a storyline I would like. All too often people play the “what if” or “if only” tune. Perhaps if the pilot hadn’t delayed mailing the letter, or if Peter had gone elsewhere, or if the professor hadn’t mailed tainted canvasses . . .ah, here we are at the real perpetrator!

    I asked the question before, who is the tenth muse? I believe Norman was trying to tell his students that the tenth muse is different for everyone. We can only be our best and truely excell when we find the muse that causes us to be passionate. Hard work, attention to detail, training, etc. will take us far, but passion begets genius.

    • Julie says:

      I loved Peter throughout this book – as we got glimpses of his growth. The fact that he knew he needed to grow and that he was working on it was truly admirable. In the end, he was a brave man in a brave country. He didn’t hesitate to save Clara when he saw his chance.

      And I think his humility in taking care of Norman when he’d gone there with a heart full of rage. He really only wanted to “tell him off”, and instead, stayed to care for him. The old Peter couldn’t have possibly done that.

      I wish he and Clara could have had one conversation about art before he died, at least. So he could know that she saw his progress. I know that he might have gleaned that from what Gamache told him, but still…

      • Sylvia H. says:

        Perhaps Peter’s caring for Norman came from his experience at La Porte. It hadn’t worked out for him and he left after two months, but probably something rubbed off on him – an ability to care for someone in need. He clearly has developed a heart, which was beautiful to see. I cried over his death, but it was a special moment when Clara talked him home. I wondered about “family” at the funeral and was surprised that if the Morrows were there, something nasty wasn’t said. I felt better about Chartrand at the end because he cared enough to come down to Three Pines for Peter’s funeral. Perhaps he’s an okay guy after all!

        • Laura B says:

          I cried when Clara talked Peter home too. Cried when trying to describe it to my husband too. :-) Luckily he understands me.

        • Julie says:

          Yes – having Clara “bring him home” as he died in her arms was very touching. It’s why the tears flowed so quickly, I suspect. How beautiful. And maybe, this was better. Peter was truly worthy of her in those moments, and as Anna noted – would he be able to be this way permanently? We’ll never know now. And maybe it’s best to leave him here like this. The very best version of himself.

        • Millie says:

          Sylvia, good point! I had forgotten about La Porte!

    • Sylvia H. says:

      Linda, I think a muse is inspiration personified – a sort of goddess who specializes in inspiring her particular form of creativity. In the original nine muses, none of them specialized in inspiring artists, so Norman believed there had to have been a tenth one, as artists are certainly inspired somehow. It harks back to ancient Greece, and I think far too much of it was made by both Norman and Massey. But it’s a story, and it provided Norman with his “raison d’etre” and Massey with a reason to hate Norman.

  3. Julie says:

    Oh, I wish I could edit my posts, and why, oh WHY don’t I read them more carefully before I hit post. I didn’t mean to leave half a sentence there in the middle paragraph… I think his humility was beautiful! Sheesh!

  4. Julie says:

    I know that Massey felt he had to go to Norman because he knew that Clara et al would find him, and that, with Surete in tow, they were bound to figure out what happened. What I don’t REALLY know is why he had to kill Norman? He was probably days from death anyway. Why not just let it be? He could have just disappeared. Or did he need to get people to think that Luc had killed both him and Norman, so that when he disappeared, people wouldn’t look too hard for him? Of course, I know that he was insane, so there’s a certain amount of “it doesn’t make sense” to be expected… All hard to wrap my head around.

    • Lynne says:

      Maybe there’s something I missed or didn’t understand, but I don’t see why Professor Massey went to Tabaquen, or for that matter, why he didn’t just tell Clara where Professor Norman was.
      All that they would have discovered was that an elderly recluse was dying of a lung disease. No one would have suspected that his disease was caused by asbestos, and even if they had, they wouldn’t have had any reason to suspect that someone had exposed Norman to asbestos deliberately. Though Professor Massey is insane, he’s calculating enough to fool everyone except Norman and Ruth into thinking that he’s a kindly and caring person. Of course, if Massey had thought that way, I can’t see how the last part of the story would have worked. But I still wonder.

      • Julie says:

        I think you and I are looking at this like a sane person would, Lynne. As I think this through, I think that Massey felt that if it was discovered that Norman had lung cancer, they would KNOW it was him, and that he’d been poisoning him with asbestos! In reality – it’s quite amazing how they did discover this – what are the odds? Why did a cadaver dog sniff out a mailing tube with asbestos fibers in it? Are they trained to sniff out other substances? I hadn’t thought so. Why did the Surete even bother testing the substance, since everyone connected with the cult/retreat led by No Man was long gone? I’m sure they have plenty to do. But all the bits fell together. Gamache et al got it wrong over and over, until the end – and we went along with them, but finally, Armand put it all together. Knowing it was Massey who’d killed Norman, his next step would have been to arrange for Massey’s arrest. This is the only real reason I can think that Massey came to see Norman. He wanted to be sure that he “finished the job”. But, I don’t really see why he didn’t just get on that boat after talking to Gamache on the shore. Hide out until the boat left. Of course, Gamache had just worked it out and was going to tell Beauvoir to have them hold the boat while they looked for Massey, so maybe that wouldn’t have worked. Maybe he had to do everything he did. At least in his insane mind, he did.

        I often tell my husband that after all the mysteries I’ve read and watched, I KNOW what to do with the body. I certainly know that if I were Massey, I’d have stayed far away from Tabaquen and would have gone into hiding once I knew that Gamache was looking into things. Then, I’d have at least waited until it seemed that all was clear before showing up again anywhere.

  5. Julie says:


    I have trouble with this, because, while I know that many people believe this, and for the sake of the story, I should probably just accept it – still, I can’t. I don’t believe in Fate. I think we make our own fate, and there was no way that all of Peter’s hard work over the past year should have led him to be killed. I have to think of it as just a madman’s insensible actions. Massey is the only person to blame (though I DO think Clara will probably blame herself – I just don’t think she SHOULD). And I have so much trouble with figuring out why he came here to kill Norman.

    • Karen Gast says:

      I don’t believe there’s a conflict for you to resolve, Julie. Yes, the connotation is that it’s Fate, but everyone has an appointment in Samara, creating his/her own fate, as you say. Fate isn’t an invisible entity with power in and of itself.

      • Kristine Crane says:

        Karen, totally unrelated, but my maiden name is Gast! My father’s (Dennis Gast) family was from Alabama. I just wanted to say hello….

    • Sylvia H. says:

      Julie, I think Massey grew increasingly angry at Norman because his own artistic abilities had dried up – he had been absolutely unable to paint for years – and his frustration and resentment built and built until it erupted in rage. Norman could see it and that’s why he painted Massey so angry in the yearbook. Everyone had thought it was a self-portrait, but it was of Massey. Massey’s rage has been building for many years, and he grabbed Clara and held her with the knife again because she had become a fine artist, where he himself was nothing. It’s more of the artistic jealousy that we’ve seen in other books, but here it comes to a crisis.

      • Julie says:

        Sylvia, I hadn’t considered this at all, but you’re right – Massey is the jealousy and nastiness in Peter shown a thousand times over. Of course, it would be “right” in his mind to hurt Clara who not only had all that talent, but also had a talent for living – for friendship, love and happiness. How galling for someone so supremely unhappy to be faced with some little nobody who seems to be happy and then to top it all off, is now experiencing amazing success and recognition as an artist.

  6. Julie says:

    In my family, we have an expression “Dump your bucket”. It means that when something is troubling you, you have the right to ask the other person to sit down with you and let you “dump your bucket” – where you tell them everything that’s bothering you and why, and it doesn’t need to be defensible, or make sense – you get to tell how you’re feeling. All of it. And the other person only listens (at least until your bucket is empty).

    You all are seeing me dump my bucket here, I think. I saved the last chapter til last night (for the re-read – I already KNEW the ending, but needed to FEEL it again) so it would be fresh this morning, and it IS. I

    • Julie says:

      Hit the wrong button and it posted – sorry – I still can feel the tears in my eyes from reading this horrific ending. Just as we began to really see Peter as a whole human being, he is snatched away. And I DO NOT LIKE Chartrand, and from the last thing Gamache says to him, I get the feeling we’re to think that he DOES like Clara and will be back to woo her… I wish I could see him as just wanting to help, but I don’t. What on earth was he doing there with them all on the boat, and then in the last village, whose name I can’t spell without looking it up, which always reminds me of their swear word, Tabernac! :D He pushed his way in, but did absolutely nothing that helped. Where was he when Clara and Myrna were waiting in the diner? Why didn’t he go with Clara to make sure she was alright? Even if he just trailed along somewhere behind her?

      • Linda Maday says:

        I think Gamache does like Chartrand and right now I’m undecided. That said, the fact that Chartrand didn’t go further was understandable. Though he was a hanger-on, it would have been well past intrusive to continue to the reunion of Clara and Peter. If I recall correctly, Myrna didn’t go either. Their presence wouldn’t have affected the outcome.

        I didn’t see the story of Samarra as an indication that the ending was fate, though certainly that’s one interpretation. I saw it as an indication of irony. If the servant had not rushed to Samara he wouldn’t have died. If professor Massey had just gotten on the boat he would have gotten away. There was a jostling in the marketplace, so to speak, where the professor saw Clara and believed death was coming for him. He’s the one that rushed to Samarra.

        • Julie says:

          I know you’re right, Linda – that it would be beyond nosy to accompany Clara up the hill. I think I just want Peter to somehow be okay, hahahaha. None of this means I didn’t “like” the book – just that my heart was very invested in it, and I so wanted a happy ending for Peter and Clara.

          • Linda Maday says:

            I know what you mean. I so wanted Peter to have time with Clara. And yet, for some reason I felt peaceful at the end of the book. It was as though a storm had passed. I thought too of the church where Peter’s funeral was held. My mind went to the stained glass window of the young soldiers that were lost in the war. It seemed after facing his own personal war, Peter quietly took his place with them. All brave men in a brave country reaching true home at last.

        • Julie says:

          I hadn’t thought of it that it was Massey who had the “appointment”. That’s interesting – I was so focused on Peter.

        • Julie says:

          That’s a different twist for me to follow, Linda – but the more I think of it, the more I do think it’s Peter that it’s meant for. Especially since the appointment is with death, and Massey doesn’t die here. You’re right, though, that Massey has hurried here to try to fix things and of course, gets “fixed” by being there… And Clara hurries here to try to fix things – to find the Peter she wants to love and has just a moment with him before he is gone… I do see the irony, of course.

          • Linda Maday says:

            No, I stand by my comment. Our thoughts have always been on Peter, who did die, but it was Massey who rushed to Samarra thinking he’d been discovered. Peter didn’t rush anywhere – he didn’t try to avoid anything. He stayed and cared for a sick man. Even when he saw death coming he didn’t flee but intentionally went to meet it to save his precious muse, Clara the one for whom he wanted to be a better man.

            Though Massey didn’t die, he was caught in his own delusion whilst fleeing the consequences of his own misconceptions. He thought he saw justice/death take notice of him and he fled to where he thought he could escape capture only to seal his own “fate”.

          • Julie says:

            Linda – thanks for that reiterance (that’s probably not a word). I get it now – and I think you are definitely right about that.

  7. Barbara H. Johnson says:

    Julie, Your family’s “Dump the Bucket” is the best procedure for family problems I have ever heard. In fact, for dealing with friends also. A key factor is that the other person listens until you finish. If only my in-laws would have listened, in May 2001, instead all talking at once and no one hearing what I said while my husband just sat there.
    Kudos to your family and Dump away.

    • Julie says:

      Barbara – this is a technique that my husband taught me. I often wish I’d learned it sooner! But sometimes, I’m aware that not everyone has to see every little thing in my bucket, hahaha.

  8. Anna says:

    While I liked the new Peter and regret we won’t see how his new art will develop I have a number of questions I ask myself?

    How permanent would this change in his demenour have been?
    Did he fall by accident into compassion and could he sustain that on return to Three Pines, if he indeed returned?
    Sometimes we get to be other parts of ourselves when we are away from our normal lives and thre pressures that everyday existence brings. Do you think Peter could have maintained his growth in Three Pines with Clara and the weight of who he had been hanging on his shoulder?

    I guess I still see the fragility of Peter and even though he showed great strength at the end, I still wonder if that strength would let him return to life he had known.

    • Sylvia H. says:

      Anna, I certainly want to think that the change in Peter was not just on the surface, but deep and sustainable. It seemed to me to be very genuine.

      • Anna says:

        I am sure it is genuine, I am not sure that makes it sustainable.

        I have seen change in people when they are outside their normal environment but when they return to the old cues past patterns of behaviour re emerge. I just wonder if that is why Peter met his end. He changed but maybe Louise thought it might not be permanent. Better he go out with us liking him more than having him regress perhaps.

        I also wonder of the effect on Clara if Peter had returned. She had changed in so many ways. Could he have just slotted back in. It would have been interesting to see.

        I suspect now we will see Clara take a very different emotional journey withour the prospect of Peter returning. I wonder if any of the other Three Piners will venture forth into the world for a change of scene.

        • Millie says:

          Anna, I couldn’t agree more. I revert back to a 5 year old every time I visit my parents even after a long talk with myself on the plane, “you’re a grown up, assert yourself!” Yet, outside their influence I can be more me.

          • Anna says:

            Exactly Millie. And we saw Peter do that around his parents which made me wonder if he could stay strong and true to his new and fledgling self when he struggled even after years with Clara to be more her husband than their child.

            I think we all want to be brave and useful but it continues to be a struggle.

          • Millie says:

            Anna, I saw that happen to my mother… Her mother lived with my mom and dad from the time they had been married 4 years till my grandmother died at almost 93. I used to tell my husband I never knew my mother as my mother until she stopped being her mother’s daughter… And sadly, now she’s so much like her mom. My grandmother, a woman I loved but did not like. People sometimes change, but it’s not always for the best. It is such hard work to stay positive when faced with old age, a husband (my poor dad) with dementia, too proud or stubborn, or afraid to ask for help. I cherish the Facebook posts Ms Penny writes of her beloved husband, Michael, as they journey together with this disease. The posts give me hope that adversity does not need to be faced with bitterness. It can be faced with hopefulness and gratitude for what one had. And gracious acceptance of what is, now.

          • Julie says:

            Anna and Millie – you are certainly right about reverting to that 5-year-old when you are with your family. So maybe Peter couldn’t sustain this new way of being. Yet – I wonder. I don’t think he would totally go back to the old Peter, even if he couldn’t keep on being as wonderful as he seemed in Tabaquen. Who can keep up wonderful? There are always cracks – we’re all human. But I think Peter would have been so much more and so much better than he was before.

  9. Millie says:

    “Greater love hath ‘no man’ than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” — John 15:13 KJV

    I rarely think in terms of Biblical quotes, but that was the first thing that popped into my head first read thru. Peter did not want to return to Clara ’empty handed’. He wanted to prove to her he really understood how to feel. Clara told Gamache she prayed everyday that Peter not only grow up a brave man in a brave country, but that he also find a way to be useful…

    In the end, Clara’s prayer was fulfilled and Peter gave Clara the greatest gift that love has to offer – his own life.

    That is why I thought this was Ms Penny’s best book, tho perhaps not the ‘juiciest’ in terms of subplots. In my humble opinion, this book didn’t need more, yet it has more. In Still Life we are presented with a Peter who had created such tall walls around himself that even Clara could no longer reach him, and Peter knew it. But no number of conversations, even painting together would have definitively proven to Clara that Peter had indeed changed as much as his last gift to her – his heart in action. And Clara guided him ‘home’ gently, beautifully.

    Clara is at peace now, as evidenced by her calmly sitting next to Gamache to read the letter Peter had written to her. Yes, I believe she will morn the loss of Peter. But like Gamache, she too will find the strength to go beyond the ‘bookmark’ of her past and finally ‘get on with her life’.

    And Chartrand will be waiting patiently – “when you find what you love, there’s no need to look further.” Ms Penny has predispositioned us to look at gallery owners, art dealers with a negative filter. But what if he is exactly like Clara beneath the ‘business’ façade? Gamache sees him as perhaps a lonely man, looking for one true friend, someone to talk to…

    And Linda Maday, I believe Ruth & Rosa answered the question of the 10th Muse, in a way. During Ruth’s telephone conversation with Gamache, Ruth tells him she doesn’t believe in a 10th Muse but in inspiration and Ruth believed it was divine, whatever one wanted to call it, but one needed to be grateful & nourish whatever inspired one. Afterwards she returns to Rosa, “Her Muse. Not to be a better poet, but to be a better person.” I need to bookmark that section. I had a ‘lump in my throat’ reading it (or listening to it…) I too want to grow up to be a brave person. And I think Ms Penny had to be a brave person in not giving us ‘a happy ending’. There is a Sondheim musical called Into The Woods. It takes a bunch of well known fairy tales, unites them in the same village and tells the story after the ‘happily ever after’. I love the music, the costumes, the fact that there is always more after ‘The End’…

    • Linda Maday says:

      Oh Millie, how profound. I am touched by your insightful comments!

    • Julie says:

      Millie – this is a great summing up of the ending of this book. It really shows the journey we’ve all been on. Beautiful.

      I do think that the last scene with Clara opening his letter was not one where she was peacefully reading the letter – I think it’s one she read with trepidation, realizing that if she’d received the letter in time, she’d have waited for him, and he’d have come home. It has to be at least bittersweet, and I’m sure tears will be shed. But time will heal.

      I loved that Armand was now able to read beyond the bookmark – that whole theme just pulled at my heartstrings. I hope he now gets to rest some. So often, during this last section, he seemed fearful, yet almost trying to make peace with the idea that he was not going to be allowed to just retire and have his time with Reine-Marie. I hope that’s not true – that he may come out of retirement to help along a few friends/cases, but in the main, that he can find peace and happiness and rest. He’s certainly earned it. Of course – that doesn’t make for riveting reading – Armand and Henri going for “walkies” can keep me entertained for only so long, hahahaha.

      • Millie says:

        Julie, I’m sure sure Clara will be heartbroken as she reads Peter’s letter. But by ‘calmly sitting next to Gamache’, I meant rather than stomping up the hill with Ruth’s walking stick and beating Gamache to a pulp. ;-)

        • Julie says:

          Ahhhhh – hahahahaha. Yes, she IS able to do that. I can’t imagine that she blames Gamache at all. I do worry that she will blame herself, however.

  10. Millie says:

    Thanks, Linda. I forgot to mention that I chuckled at your comment that ‘passion begets genius’. True. But it also gets me in trouble! ;-)

  11. Barbara H. Johnson says:

    Julie, Millie, Anna, Linda…..Thank you. I did not see the depth of the story on the first or second reading I was so upset with Clara’s words to Armand that I could see nothing beyond. During the struggle for Equal Rights for Women, opponents said we did not want to be equal but to rule men. They resorted to name calling and even spoke against the cause from the pulpit. To me, Clara’s attitude represented the image of what they said we would be. I hope I am saying what I intend to say. I understand that it was not a negative representation of assertive women by Louise.
    Thanks to your insights, I can see beyond the problem enough to appreciate the richness of the rest of the story of Peter finding himself. I realize what a change he was from his previous self.
    Millie, how is the rib?

    • Julie says:

      Barbara – I went through the struggle for equal rights for women, too – and was appalled at how women were portrayed by the men who were threatened, and sometimes, women whose motivation I never understood. You and I know (and for the most part, I think, most people now know) that a more assertive woman doesn’t have to be seen as a shrew, and that the same behavior from a man wouldn’t be remarked upon at all. But we have that collective memory of how difficult it can be to navigate those waters safely. Earlier in my career, younger women couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about, and I lamented that they didn’t know what victories had been won for them. Now, I think it’s wonderful that so many young people don’t understand how hard some people had to fight for what many now consider to just “be the right way for things to be”. How marvelous that they can’t envision a time when women were treated so badly. This is the legacy I think we left, and I’m very happy about that.

  12. Millie says:

    Hi Barbara, I think I understand perfectly what you are saying. My father’s parents were born in Spain in the late 1,800’s. They reared my dad and, he in turn reared me, with those ‘old world values’; a woman is submissive, her place is in the home… Yet, ironically, he believed in equality of education so I was ‘allowed’ to attend a great University but then expected to stay home as a meek wife some day. Mixed messages! Fortunately, I met my own ‘Michael’ (that IS the name of my husband of almost 35 years) who encouraged me to grow, to let go of the ‘old tapes’, to explore all the things I was interested in… To be all that I could be. I don’t call it ‘fate’ as much as the ‘universe’s sense of humor’, early in our marriage Michael was sent on many business trips and I had to stay ‘home’. My father tried to convince us that was not safe nor was it proper I be alone ‘unchaperoned’. Dad lost that battle.

    Our 2 sons have always called me ‘an anomaly’. A strong old fashioned woman. ;-) One of the hardest things in my life was to learn to not be ‘overprotective’ of my sons, as my father was with me. And by not doing so, I learned from my sons that it was FUN to climb a tree, to ‘man up’ and be a soccer coach for them one year that AYSO didn’t have enough coaches. I told the parents, “I know the game but all I can promise is that they’ll have fun. If you’re OK with that, and not expect winning the top slot, then I’ll do my best.” The parents hugged me! My dad thought it was unlady-like.

    My youngest (now 28 & happily married) sent me a link to a speech Emma Watson (of Harry Potter fame as a child but now a charming but ‘strong’ young woman) gave at the UN that I think all here would appreciate. She speaks to the very issue of gender equality. It is about being being free to be who you are and being as an individual with personal strengths and weaknesses.

    I thought of her speech in the airplane scene when Jean Guy ‘envied the women’ who could hold hands because right then he wished he could hold Gamache’s hand. Emma Watson says in her speech that with true gender equality men could show that side of them – gender equality applies to both genders and invites men to think about it too.

    I hope this link works for those interested. If not, try Googling: Emma Watson UN speech. Enjoy.

    • Nancy Miller says:

      Thank you so much, Millie. I just googled that speech and it was so moving.

    • Linda Maday says:

      I grew up playing with dolls, learning how to cook and clean, and was carefully informed that there were no female FBI agents and that I should learn to type so I could be an adequate clerk.

      I had two sons, coached soccer for 8 years. (Am still introduced as coach by now grown men to their wives and children.). Learned to camp, tie knots, and yes, climb trees.

      My husband does most of the cooking.

      • Millie says:

        Linda, you have no idea the joy it gives me to finally ‘meet’ another female soccer coach! Eight years! Fantastic. I grew up playing with dolls, learning to embroider, play the piano and told to study hard because I could ‘study’ anything I wanted to. As a child I didn’t catch the difference between you can study and you can ‘be’ anything…

        • Barbara H. Johnson says:

          Millie and Linda, I’m impressed you both coached soccer! I love it when women who were reared to be “quiet little ladies who know their place” show the world that their place is wherever they want it to be.

          • Millie says:

            I don’t know how tall Linda is, but at 4’9″ I sure qualify for the little! Deep sigh. It made a lot of things more difficult for me in a way because people somehow equate short with inexperience. But in a way, it also made things easier for me. I was never perceived as a threat. A lot of jaws have dropped (male & female) when someone needed to take charge of a situation and it was me!

            And Clara may not be as short as I am – heavens, ten year olds are taller than I am – but Clara was described as short! That’s an entire universe of ‘assertion issues’ right there!

  13. Millie says:

    Oh, PS, my ribs ‘are healing nicely’ according to my doctor. But still ouchy. Thanks for caring. :-)

    You know, Barbara, I owe you a huge debt of gratitude. Had I not read your post and thought about about it, I don’t think I would have had an ‘aha’ moment regarding my ‘fear’ of writing… I realized I’m not so much afraid that it will be a “dog’s breakfast”, that would be OK, heartbreaking, but that’s what editing is for. I am afraid that it might BE even ok! I remembered a very old ‘tape’ from my dad, “a woman should NEVER make money, it takes away the value of a man as ‘the bread winner’. And heaven forbid she should make more $ than the man… That would be the end of the marriage!”

    In my mind, I know MY husband would do a happy dance! But how do I get past the ‘lump in my throat’ and risk jumping off that ledge? Old World clashing with present day reality feels like Ms Penny’s description of the boat being tossed around in the heart of the storm…

    Gamache says in chapter 35, “There are those who seem to turn to the sea, always changing, always adapting, but never settling down. And those who turn to rocks and stones, solid but stuck.” This coming Christmas day will be the longest I’ve lived in any one country/city/home – twelve years. That I know the exact date that will happen speaks volumes to me – always changing, always adapting -sometimes even language. I, like Peter, have tried all my life to ‘conform’, yet as the stewart on the ship said of Peter, “He was OK, he was just different.” That was when I understood Peter, where he was coming from, how hard it must have been for him… But unlike Peter, I am so eternally grateful for my countless blessings. I truly rejoice in the successes of others and even encourage them. So maybe there is hope for me too. Being a part of this group is my newest blessing. Thank you all.

  14. Connie says:

    I too wept at Peter’s death… but my (perhaps a bit cynical) view was that LP was tidying up.
    Loved Anna’s insight about how would Peter have done when back in the old familiar places. Brilliant!
    But our dear author is writing a series… #10 as we know and hard at work on #11. Things need to change. Gamache is no longer head of the Surete. He’s retired and living in Three Pines with the delightful Reine Marie (I do wish I could sit and have a drink with her). BUT he can’t turn into a ‘Mr Marple’ just solving petty crimes.
    And Three Pines can’t stay the same now either. LP shook it up wonderfully in Brutal Telling where we saw the flawed Olivier. Now we will have a Three Pines with Gamache, Reine Marie and Henri in residence, Jean Guy and Annie visiting (Annie’s friends with Dominique) and no more Clara-and-Peter plot.
    I think sometimes authors must feel they have become trapped by their subplots…
    I read this as a clearing of the decks.

    • Anna says:

      I agree Connie. Seeing it from Louise’s perspective, things do have to change or else it is hard to continue the series. To have the characters change and stay internally consistent is not easy. That is why I wondered about how Peter would return.

      Julie is right, we can’t be wonderful all the time, or even most of it. It would have been interesting to see Peter try to sustain what he has learnt about himself back home, as it were. But, perhaps that isn’t a place Louise wanted to go. Freeing Clara to continue her own growth knowing how she was by Peter, being able to build on that affirmation and work through her grief, perhaps that is the stronger story.

      I can’t imagine Armand becoming a Mr Marple, cute phrase Connie. I wonder if he will be drawn back to the Surete more formally as that poor old moth to the flame.

      Thank you for the personal stories of fighting for “women to be” Barabara and Millie. My mother wanted to be a surgeon but wasn’t allowed to go to University. I have to wonder how different her life would have been.

      I am glad to hear the ribs are healing Millie. Please tell me some of your passion released is also going towards your own writing?!?

      • Millie says:

        There are so many places I would like to say’ Me Too’, or thumbs up, but no comment buttons left… Ive enjoyed everyone’s contributions. But Anna, this last week I’ve actually been helping my mother get a collection of her touching poems ready for print on demand on Amazon. Recently, while visiting extended family, my mother showed me poems she had written throughout her life and had never dared show anyone before. After I read them, I came out of the study with tears and told her they were beautiful. They’re in Spanish, they were hand written and of course my mom never learned to type. She asked if I could please type them up for her because she wanted to have a few dozen books printed to give to family members. I told her I could do better than that! A quick call to one of my sons and presto! My son and I arranged to have one of my mom’s hidden dreams come true. Now we tell family members where to get a copy. Ironic, isn’t it? But how could I do otherwise? I will say that now I feel free. Amazing…

        • Anna says:

          Wow Millie, that is fabulous for you and for your mum, not to mention the family. Isn’t that a marvelous idea. I would love to hear them but I don’t have Spanish in my repertoire! Hope they are well received.

          Maybe that will inspire you to keep up your writing. Shall I tell you a secret……I have 58000 words of my first draft down. My lovely brother bought me a 50th birthday card and altered it to a fifty words card. We were shocked by the lack of commemorative cards available for aspiring authors and their word counts. He also gave me a $50 ITunes card.

          I cried at Harry Potter as well, but I also cried at the last episode of MASH all those years ago. Of course we get invested in characters and their lives. I much prefer books where I care about characters. Give me a good sob any day.

          The hard thing that we do reach a time of life when death seems to be standing on every street corner twiddling the scythe and trying to look inconspicuous. But we know he is there and it is wearing at times. I am surrounded by it at the moment and it is very hard. Big hugs Millie and to all those in a similar position. Isn’t it lovely that we have somewhere to go when it gets tough. Thank goodness for Three Pines, Louise’s and our own right here.

          • Millie says:

            Anna, the family is loving them as much as I did. They’re buying copies to send to their friends. Told my mom she would have gone broke had she tried to have them printed herself. She is surprised at the positive reception they’ve received from family. But that is where her comfort zone ends. She doesn’t want too much exposure. It is a side of her she’s never let anyone see. Baby steps. ;-)

            Congratulations on your word count! You’re more than half way home. Hurrah! And you are so lucky to have such a supportive brother. Good point about the lack of cards for aspiring writers. Lets get in touch with Hallmark Cards! lol

            You bring a very good point into focus by mentioning you much prefer books where you care about the characters. That was one reason I so like this book and the previous: I actually cared so very much about the characters by this point. I held my breath when Jean Guy was at the church expecting it was for Gamache’s funeral! And cried when i realized Gamache was standing next to him. And this book i cried too, but for Clara. Its funny, but my mom says its not a good book or movie for her unless she cries! lol. Our ‘men’ don’t understand it. More’s the pity for them. ;-)

            Im so sorry for your losses – yes it is so hard but the novels and this virtual Three Pines are a warm and comforting spot where we can take refuge from ‘life’, recharge and gain strength to carry on. And the caring and encouragement is incredible too. Long may this group live.

          • Anna says:

            Kudos to your mum for even sharing with family…..that’s not baby steps, that is diving off a cliff. My supportive brother has only got to read two pages so far. As you know families can be the worst critics (not my brother I don’t think).

            As for men not sobbing….well my husband cries with laughter, not usually sad books or movies but my best male friend definitely cries at sad things. My husband loves the Gamache series though.

            My daughter has been studying The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. I can’t finish reading it as I know what happens. There is sad in books and then beyond sad for me.

            I was shocked when Peter died and sad but it didn’t overwhelm me. Clara talking him home raised a sob. I think I could see that maybe this was the best end for Peter even though it was tragic. It was good to be able to think of him as a hero after all the times he wasn’t.

    • Millie says:

      Connie, I like your ‘clearing of the decks’ analogy. Fits so well with the storm. Storms do churn up unexpected things from the bottom of the sea (or river in this case…)

  15. lizzy says:

    Millie, what a beautiful insight on the ending. I’m still upset and in mourning over Peter dying. Did not like that ending at all! lol

    • Millie says:

      Oh, Lizzy, I do know exactly what you mean. Years ago, reading the Harry Potter books along with my sons, I cried and was devastated that Professor Dumbledore had been killed. I waited for the next book in disbelief. Surely that was just a ruse. Then the last book in the series some beloved characters are killed and some evil ones lived? No way! I was so angry at the author… Then, years later, close family members started to die. I had to accept that no matter how much we may love someone, life is not eternal. I certainly would not have reacted to this book the way I did had it come out a few months earlier. I had just returned from a trip to attend my beloved Godfather’s service and funeral…

      • lizzy says:

        Millie, I was the same way with the Harry Potter books. I threw that book across the room and sobbed. I thought it was a ruse too.
        I’m so sorry about your Godfather. Hugs…

        I’m so glad to read everyone’s insights as mine are too blurred right now with emotion! It’s funny how one can get all tied up with fictional characters! True mark of a great author.

        • Millie says:

          Lizzy, I giggled out loud! I didn’t throw the book across the room. Just threw it down hoping it would shatter like porcelain on tile and sobbed to where my husband was waiting with open arms. (He had already finished reading it.)

          Yep! I sure get vested in characters. As I mentioned once, somewhere, characters in books were my first friends. From your mouth to God’s ear. Or a Muse. Or my own courage to get past my lump in the throat. Or my imagination to write out in full detail the conflicts and not spend all day crying… :-/

        • Millie says:

          Wait, What? Lizzy, you and I had the same reaction to the characters – “…we get all tied up with fictional characters! True mark of a great author.” Are you writing also? Or trying too? Or already published? Please do tell.

          • Lizzy says:

            Oh Millie, no budding author here. I do dabble in writing thoughts on certain aspects of life. I’m more a doodler of words. Lol.

        • Cathryne Spencer says:

          I thought it was a ruse when Dumbledore died too. I was sure he would come back. He’s MAGIC!

          • Millie says:

            I’m SO glad I wasn’t the only one! And I guess it still bothers me because I typed ‘vested’ instead of ‘invested in the characters’. Tho sometimes I feel like I’m wearing them, trying them on for size! ;-)

      • Julie says:

        Little Women is a favorite book from my childhood, and I read it again every few years. I’d lost my targeted old copy and had to buy a new edition which happened to have a foreword written by a scholar of women’s writing. It opened with the words “Beth dies!” and then goes on to talk about how that rocked her world as a little girl, but she came to understand that a story it’s so much richer when you know that anything can happen, and you can’t predict the outcome. I love that exclamation. You can hear her ten-year-old’s shock!

      • Jody Hamilton says:

        I was struck by your email and offer this poem by Henry VanDyke. It’s one of my favorites.

        Life Is Eternal

        I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side,
        spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts
        for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.
        I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck
        of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

        Then, someone at my side says, “There, she is gone”

        Gone where?

        Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast,
        hull and spar as she was when she left my side.
        And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.

        Her diminished size is in me — not in her.
        And, just at the moment when someone says, “There, she is gone,”
        there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices
        ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes!”

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