INTRODUCTION BY PAUL HOCHMAN
I first met Louise in 2006 while working at BarnesAndNoble.com. We had a fabulous lunch at a Greek restaurant in New York City to celebrate the publication of STILL LIFE. She signed my copy of the book as follows:
“For Paul, such fun undermining St. Martin’s together”
Little did we both know that just four years later I’d join St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books and, together with Louise and the wonderful “Team Penny”, we’d undermine the publishing status quo and rocket Louise’s books to the top of the Bestseller Lists!
Gamache Series.com, the website you are now reading, and the Re-Reads initiative was originally conceived to promote THE LONG WAY HOME so to say I have a certain connection to this book (and all of Louise’s novels really!) is to say the least! This website – a community really – with an enormous amount of content and connections was built on the back of THE LONG WAY HOME.
The really unique thing about THE LONG WAY HOME Re-Read is that it was led by readers just like you, in real time, at the point of publication. Now – I doubt it – but if you haven’t read the book yet, beware, spoilers lie ahead!
The Re-Reads initiative was initially launched in the lead-up to the publication of The Long Way Home. After the book was published, readers came together once a week on GamacheSeries.com to discuss the book, ten chapters at a time. What you’ll read below includes many of the insights from those readers.
Ch. 1-10: From the opening chapters, readers point out that this book is very different from previous books in the series. After all, How the Light Gets In ends with what feels like a natural conclusion: the internal struggles within the Sûreté du Québec are resolved, Jean-Guy gets the help he needs and marries Annie Gamache, and Armand and Reine-Marie retire to Three Pines.
The Long Way Home opens on the bench in the Three Pines village green. Armand has been sitting at the bench every morning, holding a book – The Balm of Gilead – but not reading it. Clara has taken to joining him. As they sit, Clara wonders why Armand never seems to read his book. Armand wonders if Clara has been sitting with him because she pities him – or because she needs something.
After some time, Clara tells Armand what she’s been struggling with: the year before, she and her husband Peter, also a painter, had separated. Before he left, they made an agreement that they would have no contact during their year apart, but on the first anniversary of his leaving, he’d return to discuss their relationship. But it’s been a few weeks since that day, and Peter still hasn’t come back. Clara is worried.
The neighbors gather for dinner, and Armand tells Jean Guy – who still can’t bring himself to call his new father-in-law anything other than patron – about Clara’s concerns. When Clara finds out, she’s furious at Armand: a fury that readers found frustrating and disrespectful. But Gamache, thinking Clara might not want his help after all, is relieved.
But she does need his help. When Gamache asks Clara why Peter left, she tells him that he was always supportive of Clara when she was struggling, but wasn’t supportive of her after her success. As Clara’s career took off, Peter’s plateaued.
First, Gamache pays a visit to Peter’s mother, Irene – a cold woman – and her husband, Bert Finney – a kind man. The couple has art all over their walls, paintings from the finest Canadian painters, but none by either Peter nor Clara. Neither have heard from Peter recently.
Doing their due diligence, Gamache and Jean-Guy check Peter’s credit card records, and find that he’s traveled all over the world – Venice, Paris – in the year he’s been gone. One place in particular stands out as unusual: Dumfries, Scotland. But the records also show that he returned to Quebec City recently, just four months ago.
Clara and Myrna travel to Toronto to speak face-to-face with Peter’s siblings: his brother Thomas, and his sister Marianna. Neither have heard from him either.
And Clara meets with Peter’s siblings to see if they know anything about Peter’s whereabouts. At his sister Marianna’s, we encounter Bean: Marianna’s child. Born out of wedlock, Bean’s gender identity is a mystery that Marianna refuses to share with her family, out of spite – though the readers in the comments speculate that Bean is a girl.
Clara and Myrna visit the Ontario College of Canadian Arts, where Clara and Peter went to school. They meet with the charismatic Professor Massey, who tells them Peter was recently there, but that he doesn’t know where he went after he visited.
Here, we learn more about Clara’s time at OCCA: she spent most of her student years as a bit of a reject – her art was shown in Professor Norman’s Salon des Refusés – until Peter, who was more conventionally talented and popular, noticed her.
Gamache and Jean-Guy go visit Dr. Vincent Gilbert in the forest to ask him about Paris. Later, in the Garden with Reine-Marie, Clara, Jean-Guy, and Myrna, Armand says he thinks Gilbert and Peter were drawn to the same place in Paris: LaPorte. The Door. A community created by a priest to serve children and adults with Down’s syndrome. Vincent Gilbert volunteered there, hoping to find himself, and the theory is that Peter did too.
In these chapters, commenters point out, a new side of Peter begins to emerge. Clara realizes that the paintings on Bean’s wall weren’t Bean’s, but Peter’s first attempts at painting something with feeling. “Peter Morrow took no risks,” Louise writes. “He neither failed nor succeeded. There were no valleys, but neither were there mountains. Peter’s landscape was flat. An endless, predictable desert.” Perhaps all of Peter’s wanderings were his attempts to find himself.
Marianne sends the paintings to Clara. Commenters point out that Clara feels a twinge of jealousy, looking at them. Where Peter used to only paint with muted colors, the new paintings were bright and colorful. Suppose they weren’t abstract, Gamache wonders? Suppose Peter was painting what he saw?
The Dumfries, Scotland question is still outstanding. Gamache calls the Police Constable in Dumfries to ask if there are any artist colonies there. Constable Stuart couldn’t think of any artist colonies, but did say they had gardens. Gamache sends him a picture of Peter’s painting, and Stuart recognizes it: he had painted The Garden of Cosmic Speculation.
Later, Constable Stuart asks around town about the garden. An old man, Alphonse, tells him about a time he went to shoot hares there. He sees a large hare, who stares at him, unmoving. And then behind that one, he notices 20 others. And then notices one turn to stone in front of his eyes. Back in Canada, Armand notices a circle of stones in the photos – a stone circle not visible on the garden’s official website. One commenter pointed out that the garden reminded her of Peter, straight lines and geometric shapes, but with a little magic thrown in.
Peter’s paintings continue to reveal new meanings. Clara and Armand look at one of the paintings in a new perspective, and see an image that they recognize: The St. Lawrence River.
They travel to Baie-Saint-Paul, a tourist destination near Charlevoix, where a meteor had hit millions of years before, creating a natural ecosystem unlike anywhere else in the world. Readers point out that just like the Garden of Cosmic Speculation, this is another “cosmic” location. Is there a reason Peter was drawn to both?
There, they split up to visit galleries, but no one had seen Peter. In their search, they meet a man named Marcel Chartrand, who runs the Galerie Gagnon, showcasing the works of Clarence Gagnon (you may recognize one of Gagnon’s paintings from the cover of The Long Way Home!) He introduces himself and offers them a place to stay, since all of the hotels were full. He knows Peter: Peter had spent many hours in the gallery back in April, and had ended up renting a cabin down the road. But he left before the summer, and Marcel does not know where he went.
However, Chartrand gives Gamache another clue towards Peter’s whereabouts: Peter had asked after No Man, someone who ran an artist’s colony in the woods. Was it No Man – or Norman? Could it be the same cruel Professor Norman who set up the Salon des Refusés at OCCA?
To find out more, Reine-Marie and Ruth go visit Professor Massey – who seems quite taken with Ruth – to ask him about Professor Norman. Massey says that Norman believed in the tenth muse: that there was a muse for art. Massey says Norman was eventually fired for being insane, and for creating the Salon des Refusés, a gallery for failures.
Massey doesn’t have any photos of Norman – in the yearbook, instead of portraits of the professors, students chose to feature a piece of each teacher’s art. The self-portrait by Professor Norman was wild, a portrait of insanity, and the signature on the art did not say Norman, but No Man. Had the pursuit of the tenth muse turned Norman mad?
Back in Baie-Saint-Paul, the group is unsure whether they can trust Chartrand. How connected to No Man’s artist colony was he really? Was he a former member, returned to Baie-Saint-Paul after the colony folded? Or how about the owner of La Muse, a brasserie in town – was he a former member? Jean-Guy asks around and finds out the man’s name is Luc Vachon, and that he did, in fact, live at No Man’s colony for a few years.
In these chapters, commenters point out that it’s not just Peter’s personal journey we are watching in this novel. We’re also seeing huge changes in Jean-Guy, too – in his calmness in sobriety, and in his acceptance of the villagers he used to disdain.
Although Clara is officially in charge of this investigation, Gamache goes to the police station, where the agents recognize him from the previous year. There, he meets Agent Morriseau, who tells him that No Man’s colony was a cult. Quietly, Gamache asks the agents to arrange for sniffer dogs, to check the area for any bodies.
And then Chartrand asks them if they’d like to stay at his home that night – not his apartment above the gallery, but his remote home in the woods. Clara says yes.
At Chartrand’s home, the villagers continue to inquire about No Man. Was he simply the leader of a commune – or was it a cult? Chartrand says he lectured there. Was he invited in, as an outsider – or was he already there, as a member?
Jean-Guy finds out where the owner of La Muse goes to paint: a remote village called Tabaquen, which means “sorcerer.” The only way in and out of Tabaquen is by boat or plane, so the villagers purchase tickets to fly, and at the last minute, Chartrand buys a ticket to join them.
The plane ride is harrowing, and the pilot points out that artists typically arrive by boat – but that neither option is a smooth ride. They show the pilot a photo from the art school yearbook, of Peter and Professor Massey, and ask him if he’s seen Peter. He says yes.
Clara then asks the pilot to land in Sept-Îles. She wants to retrace Peter’s steps as he would have done it, by boat. Jean-Guy wants to get to Tabaquen as quickly as possible, and is sick of following Clara’s lead. Gamache reminds him that they’re here to support Clara, nothing more.
On the ship, the Loup de Mer, there are two cabins. Thinking it would be the bigger cabin, the men take the Admiral’s Suite, which is barely big enough to fit the three of them. Gamache asks the porter about Peter, and the porter says he recognizes him. That he watched him closely on his journey, to be sure he didn’t jump from the deck. Meanwhile, the Captain’s Suite, where the women are staying, is luxurious.
Gamache recalls something from the flight: when the young pilot said he recognized the man in the photo he showed him, it wasn’t Peter he recognized. It was Massey who he’d flown to Tabaquen the day before.
The sniffer dogs found something suspicious, a substance buried in a container: it was asbestos, found along with the canvases. Whoever would have handled the canvases would likely die, eventually, from inhaling asbestos. The principal of the college confirms that asbestos was detected in Professor Massey’s office. Had Norman sent his asbestos-infected paintings to Massey in an attempt to slowly kill him?
After traveling through tumultuous waters, the river eventually flattens to glass and they arrive in Tabaquen. Clara stays in town – unsure of what they’d find – and Gamache and Jean-Guy head to No Man’s cabin. There, they find Peter sitting on the porch, looking unkempt. And inside the cabin, they find a body: Professor Norman. Peter says that Norman had sent him away, and when he returned he had found him dead. Luc, from the brasserie, had been there too – but Peter had sent him to call for help.
Here, Gamache realizes that he had everything backwards: it wasn’t Norman adding asbestos to his painting to harm Massey, but the other way around. Massey had been sending him asbestos-infected canvases for years, because Norman was a threat.
And here, Peter asks Gamache if Clara had seen his new paintings, and what she thought about them. He has changed: her opinion is all he cares about now. Peter tells Gamache that he wanted to return home to her, but before he could face her, he wanted to confront Professor Norman for what he’d done to her back in school. But when he arrived, the old professor was sick, and Peter stayed on to care for him.
“The tenth muse is not, I think about becoming a better artist, but becoming a better person,” Gamache tells Peter.
But meanwhile, there’s the issue of the dead professor. Thinking the killer would be Luc, the group heads back to town. But in town, they find Massey, holding a knife to Clara’s throat. “I love you, Clara,” Peter says, as he takes the knife for her.
Commenters seem to agree that by the end, Peter had become a brave man in a brave country – a man finally worthy of Clara’s love.
“Fear lives in the head. And courage lives in the heart. The job is to get from one to the other.”
What an amazing journey revisiting my friends from Three Pines in the pages of THE LONG WAY HOME. I can’t believe it’s been eight years since the book was published (and this website was launched!) and almost twelve years since I started working with Louise!
The activist and journalist, Ella Winter, once said, “Don’t you know you can’t go home again?” Thomas Wolfe would then use the quote to entitle his posthumously released novel YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN.
I, however, in the spirit of Ruth Zardo call bullshit!
Of course you can go home again. Even if it’s a long way home. We, as readers and lovers of the World of Louise Penny, are fortunate enough to go home to Three Pines every year!
- Clara first approaches Gamache with great ambivalence: wanting (though fearing) to
know what happened to Peter, while reluctant to disturb Gamache’s newfound peace.
How did you feel about the decisions they both make at this point?
- “I thought he’d come home,” Clara says of Peter. Did you? How did your view of him
change in the course of the book?
- What does it mean to you to be a “brave man in a brave country”? How does courage—or
cowardice—feature in this novel?
- On the first page of the book, we hear about Armand Gamache’s repeated gesture, “so
tiny, so insignificant.” What is the true significance of this and other seemingly
inconsequential actions in this story?
- What do you think of Ruth’s role in this story? For example, consider the scene in
Massey’s studio, where she “seemed to have lost her mind. But found, Reine Marie
thought, her heart.”
- Both Peter and Gamache’s father, in a sense, disappear. What is the impact of this kind of
loss on Clara and Gamache? Have you ever experienced anything similar in your own
- There is so much about art and the creative process in this book. How do we see that
unfold in the lives not only of Clara and Peter, but also of Norman and Massey? For example, what do you make of the Salon des Refusés? What do you think it meant to the
- What roles do creativity and acclaim (or obscurity) play in the lives of both Clara and
Peter? In their marriage? Do you believe that Clara and Peter’s marriage could have been
- Louise has sometimes talked about the importance of chiaroscuro — the play of light and
shadow — in her work. What are the darkest and the lightest points in this novel? What
are some humorous moments, and how did you respond to them?
- Peter’s paintings look completely different from different perspectives. How does that
apply to other characters or events in the story?
- In Chapter Six, Myrna observes about jealousy: “It’s like drinking acid, and expecting the other person to die.” How does jealousy play out in the lives of various characters here?
What effects have you seen it have in real life?
- How does Clara’s quote from one of her favorite movies, “Sometimes the magic works,”
play out in the story?
- While a number of Louise’s books end in unexpected ways, the conclusion of this one is
particularly shocking. How did you feel as you were reading it, and what do you think
when you look back at it now?
- In some ways Clara’s quest to find Peter recalls such classic journeys as The Odyssey and
The Heart of Darkness. What are the most significant discoveries the central figures in this novel make along the way?
0 replies on “Series Re-Read: The Long Way Home”
Killing Peter was a terrible choice by the author. Those “lofty” lessons are not why we read these books. ALL the other recurring characters who make mistakes and almost die get to live. They learn and make better lives. Love for these characters is what keeps us coming back. We feel the hope and contentment they learn to embrace. We know they are going to get their happy endings. Peter deserved his with Clara. I wanted him to have it and so did all the readers who tried to write intelligent interpretations and justifications. Tell the truth, we didn’t like it when Peter died and we’re disappointed. If I want to ponder a Greek tragedy I’ll pick one up and read one. It’s not why I read these books. Shame on you Louise Penny. Killing Peter was a deliberate choice. It wasn’t necessary and it wasn’t true to the spirit of the series.
I have just discovered L P and have found a new love in mysteries. Have read them all and absolutely love them all. Have to skip over the curse words but all in all keeps me on the edge of my seat. Can’t wait to see what else is in store.
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The Bistro is now open. Come on in! http://gamacheseries.wpengine.com/the-bistro/
Oh, thank you, Paul!
Paul, you are a star! I hope lots of people wander in! Thank you.
The door is always open!
Wonderful, Paul! Many thanks and a licorice pipe too!
NO ONE EVER MENTIONED
The beautiful poem that was once parsed out to Jean Guy by Ruth was quoted again in this book. But also in this book we learn it was written for/about Peter. She described Peter as “made of stone and wishful thinking”.
The poem says that “The dirty that kills for pleasures” will also heal.
Her view of Peter was so astute! Do you think Peter was healed at the end?
And, in thinking of the fact that Ruth also gave the poem to Jean Guy, do he and Peter share some characteristics that might play a part in the future?
The auto correct changed diety to dirty. Huh?
Let’s try deity ok?
Missed noticing the poem reference to Jean Guy. Was it in this book or a previous? Don’t want to venture a guess without comparing the two.
I did think the poem Ruth recites to the dog was perhaps indicative of the scraps Peter gave Clara…
In The Brutal Telling Ruth gives Jean Guy scraps of paper with lines from a poem that he finally pieces together somewhere around pages 360 – 361.
In TLWH the same poem, though not in its entirety, is discussed on or around pages 236 – 239. In TLWH Gamache asks Ruth who she wrote the poem for. She says for Peter. Then they discuss the meaning of her poem and how it applied to Peter.
OH! I remember now… Well, I remember Ruth giving Jean Guy the bits of poetry, but never did bookmark them. Then fast read the poem to get to the end… It was the hardest book in the series for me to read. Rereading that now. SO many things I had forgotten which apply to TLWH. Thank you.
What do you think of Ruth’s role in this story? For example, consider the scene in Massey’s studio, where she “seemed to have lost her mind. But found, Reine Marie thought, her heart.”
I cracked up when Ruth was giggling. It seemed so out of character. She found her heart? I thought we found out at the end she was acting in that manner because, oh wait. I feel so confused. I wish there were pages referenced with the questions for a quick look up! Okay, Massy is the murderer. So Ruth somehow had picked up something evil in Massy and it made her react that way. Am I right? So as you can see I’m confused.
A meditation guide once told the group, “Confusion is a very high state”. Gotta go Lizzy. <3
Hi Lizzy, I feel I need to explain that cryptic comment about ‘confusion is a very high state’. I was learning a form of meditation in a very large group. For some people it was easier to quiet the mind than for others. Easier to explore other ‘states of consciousness’. That did not surprise the instructor. But then one particular ‘exercise’ stumped everyone and the instructor smiled and made that statement. He was very serious and went on to explain that a state of confusion meant one was stretching beyond the comfort of letting others make our decisions, lead us by the nose, as it where. We were thinking for ourselves AND letting go of the need to think. To be OK with just being in the moment – to just BE. Even if that left us a bit confused. I’m a LOT confused often enough that my husband reminds me, “Confusion is a very high state.” Makes me smile.
Millie, I’m still confused but you made me smile! Lol
Lizzy, I looked that up recently because I couldn’t remember just what made her afraid either. On page 372, Ruth says to Gamache, “I didn’t hate him.” And, “That blank canvas on his easel was one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen. An artist who’s lost his way. It builds up. Eats away at you. Beauvoir over there, …he’s a numbskull… You’re a fool…Those two (Olivier and Gabri)? Are just plain ridiculous.
But you’re all something. Professor Massey was nothing. Empty. Like the canvas. I found that terrifying.”
And so she behaved with nervousness and inappropriate giggling, unlike herself. Then, being Ruth, she refused to explain her behavior to R-M.
Well done Cathryne!
So awful to be empty and nothing.
I thought that it was interesting that Massey kept Norman’s painting displayed. An acknowledgment of its beauty, but also a constant reminder of his own failures and his own attempt to slowly murder Norman. I have no doubt that he knew his attempts had proven successful since he heard of or from Norman regularly.
I also think the beautiful of Norman’s painting in contrast to Massey’s blank canvas must have contributed to Ruth’s terror.
Ruth also asked Massey if the painting was found in the walls during the renovation. Might she have noticed the signature wasn’t Massey?
I believe she knew it wasn’t Massey’s. She referred to the painting as poetry.
Linda, I’m glad you mentioned Norman’s painting in Massey’s studio. I think he must have painted over the signature, but it must have killed him to see visitors so drawn to it, near the back of the studio. When Myrna walked to that painting, “Professor Massey followed her with his eyes.”
Myrna thinks Massey’s paintings are “very good,” but this one “exceptional.” Reine-Marie thought the other paintings were “good,” that one “great,” “mesmerizing.” Ruth asked if it had been found in the wall, it just didn’t belong with the others. I’m guessing the painting was part of her discomfort with Massey and his studio, seemingly his HOME, by the way.
” ‘What did they find in the walls?’ asked Ruth. Her voice was almost unrecognzable to Reine-Marie……’Was it that picture?’ ” “Massey laughed and asked if she thought it was garbage. “He didn’t seem insulted, simply amused. Pleased even.” p. 93. So many clues, cues that I didn’t pick up, even rereading.
It had to feed his fury, but he kept it. Because it fed his fury? Did Peter say Massey kept it beacause he couldn’t destroy such great art? I think so, at the end.
Massey’s paintings compared to one of Norman’s reminded me of Jean-Guy’s feelings after admiring Gagnon’s through the gallery window.
“Beauvoir got up and wandered around the Brasserie. There were paintings on the walls, with price tags slightly askew. From years of dusting. They were pretty landscapes, but in Charlevoix a painting needed to be more than that to sell.
If he hadn’t looked into the windows of the Gallery Gagnon, Jean-Guy might have thought these were quite good. But he had looked. And now he knew the difference. Part of him regretted that. He might now like better things, but he also liked fewer.” p. 373. Like Massey, only the ones Massey doesn’t like so much now are his own.
Cathryne, your and Linda’s posts kept running around my mind. I felt I was missing something important. Took me days and I still have only questions. Your reference to Jean Guy having seen great now liked fewer things. I think it doesn’t only refer to paintings but to the women in Jean Guy’s past. He used to date gorgeous bodies, even married one, but not women with much depth. Empty inside? I don’t think his regret is that now there are fewer, but perhaps that it took him so long to figure out what was really good – like Annie. At the bar he ruminates about when did he turn from a whip smart kid to an older man…
That’s it Catherine ! Thanks!
Louise has sometimes talked about the importance of chiaroscuro—the play of light and shadow—in her work. What are the darkest and the lightest points in this novel? What are some humorous moments, and how did you respond to them?
I feel everyone has made very insightful comments on this. What I think about is that quote or phrase about shadows. There are shadows in life, but if it weren’t for the sun, or light in this case there would be no shadows. You can’t have one without the other. Okay, now that song, Love and Marriage is stuck in my head.
I worked 12 hours today, 12 tomorrow and 12 Sunday! I don’t know what a weekend is anymore!
Goigle……is that a Bronx accent?
LOL! Bronx accent! Sooooooooooooooo funny.
hysterical! Love it!
Duality is like chiaroscuro. This song talks about aspects of opportunity.
Opportunity – Pete Murray w/ Lyrics – YouTube, goigle that if link doesn’t work
Just listened to this song. Must say my first reaction was of having to hold back the tears. But that’s because I focused on you may not get another chance… and with ‘exit’… So much loss of loved one’s this year. Overwhelm. Listened to it again trying to focus on what else it had to say. Then thought ‘exit’ can lead to a better place for oneself; exiting the known can lead to not living a ‘Still Life’. “Life is short but you’re meant to flower.”
Thank you for the link. Now, to get past the lump in my throat…
Sorry Millie, should have warned you about the use of the word exit because I did the same thing. I think he is saying it’s time to get off the road on to the path that is meant for you, the place for you to use your talents and abilities, not just meander down the same highway or take the same direction as everyone else.
Don’t be scared of what you cannot see
Your only fear is possibility
Never wonder what the hell went wrong
Your second chance may never come along
I think the exits are opportunities you don’t want to miss
No apology necessary, Anna. It was good to discover that for myself. Holding you in a safe bubble of courage, strength and peace as you face your own ‘exits’…
Gosh Millie, I needed to read your kind wishes. It’s been a pretty horrendous few hours. Its a good thing you are psychic.
Glad you found comfort in the words. But it doesn’t take psychic ability – just the kindness of Three Pines and the Bistro.
Question 4 has been niggling my mind since my first read thru:
“On the first page of the book, we hear about Armand Gamache’s repeated gesture, “so tiny, so insignificant.” What is the true significance of this and other seemingly inconsequential actions in this story?”
Not so much ‘actions’, as Gamache not always being completely truthful – to himself and others – in this story.
Myrna calls him on it in Clara’s kitchen after seeing Gamache treat JG like a child for getting up on a chair… “Isn’t that what you always say, that life is made up of small…”
I usually read a book once then listen to the audio and bookmark there. I’m finding I can’t relisten just yet…
But just from memory, there’s the instance Myrna tells him to say hello to RM but Gamache just smiles and doesn’t tell her he’s going to call Ruth. “So tiny, so insignificant”. Yet he distrusts Chartrand because Chartrand wasn’t always truthful? Really? How many people tell people they’ve just met ‘everything’? All at once.
There are other “tiny, insignificant” moments like this, but a lot going on here. Hopefully others noticed and can expand?
Honesty is a funny thing. It can be brutal and even dangerous. Gamache knows there are times when obfuscation may be necessary for a greater good. I am thinking the last book here. But it is easy to trust Gamache because we know him and understand when he has valid reasons to keep or hide the truth.
Chartrand is an unknown and it is wise to be wary of the unknown while you figure it out. I was very suspicious of this fellow who insinuated himself into our friends lives. But maybe he just wants to hang out with them, maybe he is a bit clueless or mybe he is very cluey. Don’t know yet but he has to earn our trust.
Talking about the greater good, do you think that too can be a scary concept. I am thinking of when sacrifices are deemed appropriate for the greater good. Peter made his own choice to give up his life for others. Sometimes the sacrificial don’t get the choice. In a way Arnot and Francouer thought themselves acting for a greater good,it just so happened they were the prime beneficiaries.
Just rambling. My mind is a wander today.
I have a problem with Peter’s death being a sacrifice. Armand lunged for Massey, Clara ducked out from under the knife and the knife flew into Peter’s chest. Peter didn’t set himself up for that; it was an accident from his perspective – maybe not from Massey’s. But a lot has been said about Peter giving his life for Clara – only that he was pulling her away from Massey’s clutches, when the knife landed in his own chest. Massey had too tight a grip on the knife for it to fall out of his hand when Gamache hit him, but Peter wasn’t to know that. To me Peter’s death was accidental, which is why I cried so much over it.
Fair point Sylvia.
Sylvia, I went back and read the scene at the end several times after reading your comment about Peter’s death. Maybe it could have been an accident, I hadn’t thought of that. But Peter wouldn’t have been stabbed if he hadn’t moved forward to help Clara. Both Gamache and Peter put themselves in danger trying to save Clara from Massey. Gamache gave a slight nod to Beauvoir, over Massey’s shoulder. “Seeing this, Massey turned his head slightly. It was all Gamache needed. He sprung forward just as Clara ducked down and twisted away from the knife. But Massey still grasped her clothing.
Clara strained to get away, without hope.
The knife moved swiftly forward and struck.
Not Clara. Not Gamache.
Peter took the blow in the chest as he pulled Clara clear.
Gamache pinned Massey, kicking the knife away…” P. 368.
Peter had to spring forward like Gamache to pull Clara clear. In springing forward, both Gamache and Peter bravely put themselves in danger of being stabbed, don’t you think?
Cathryne, of course both Gamache and Peter put themselves in danger of being stabbed, but Peter didn’t do it deliberately. He tried to get Clara clear of Massey’s grasp, but he wasn’t to know that Gamache’s hit on Massey wouldn’t just knock the knife to the floor. He had no way of knowing Massey would throw it into his chest, but it was a risk he took in helping Clara. I don’t think there was time to think it through; it all happened so fast, as these things usually do. I guess the “sacrifice” was in taking the risk by moving to help the one he loved, rather than in deliberately setting himself up to be killed in her place.
Chiaroscuro…..the light and the dark both matter and to focus on one without the other misses the picture.
We do that all the time. Millie, the school was only focused on your son’s difficulties not on the big picture and it makes it hard to find a solution.
We were worried about the dark side of Gamache being drawn back into an investigation, even unofficially, because he needs time to heal. But, being useful is a way towards healing too.
We can look at Peter and Clara’s break in their relationship and the outcome in different ways. But the big picture is, they both grew and changed and achieved more alone than they could have together. Peter’s death was seen by some as tragic and others as transcendent.
Yesterday we were offered a place in a dementia unit for mum, a place we couldn’t otherwise afford. We were worried because we like where she is but after seeing the other unit it will be better for her. Strangely, where she is now is light and bright but it’s too big for her, she is lost in the halls and agitated by the size. The new unit is darker but cozier and small and we think she will settle.
Light isn’t all good and dark isn’t all bad and we need both to make life interesting.
Seems we were typing away at the same time but then the demands of the day called. In the previous thread you (Anna) wrote:
‘Elizabeth [George] explores the darker side of human nature. Whereas Louise explores “How the Light Gets In”. Two aspects, two parts of the same whole.’
It was rebutted with:
‘Being able to look at the worst in humans while also being able to look at ourselves and our own responsibilities are not polar opposites. They’re two totally different processes/actions.’
I agreed with your view, Anna. Actually, the picture that came to mind was that of the symbol for Yin Yang. A circle within which as light diminishes, darkness grows. But there is a circle of light in the dark and a circle of dark in the light. Neither can exist without the other. They are neither polar opposites, nor are they totally different processes. It is ‘chiaroscuro” – “the play of light and shadow” within the process.
That thread went on with:
‘I have always loved the great Renaissance painting and their use of light.’
In western cultures the play of dark and light is mostly confined to ‘art’. But for the Chinese, the Yin Yang symbol is a graphic representation of the process of life, creative thought leading way to thought into action. I know this is a woeful simplification of the complexity and beauty of Yin Yang, but I think you get my point.
‘Light isn’t all good and dark isn’t all bad and we need both to make life interesting.’ I agree Anna. I would add, we need both to make life possible.
Hopefully, I’ll be able to continue my thoughts on what Linda contributed to that thread tomorrow, but this night owl has a morning appointment (gasp!) and I need to shut down the computer and hope that my mind quiets down and lets me sleep during ‘normal operating hours’.
Loved this post. I Hope to discuss it later. Busy Sat. AM here.
At first read, the “brave man in a brave country” seemed odd. Then the “brave country” seemed like an expression of patriotism. That I could understand. For a man to be considered brave in a country where bravery is the norm, it seems he would have to be extraordinarily brave. Peter was brave to venture out across the world to find himself. He was brave to try a new way of painting, especially when it was such a change from his earlier work. He was brave when he gave his life for Clara.
Clara was brave in going in search of Peter…not knowing what she would find.
Cowardice….not shown by our core characters. Cowardice was Massey and the asbestos tainted canvases as well as killing Norman outright at the end. He was a coward when cornered. Threatening Clara and killing Peter because he could not face paying for his crime.
Many years ago, a TV show’s theme had the words ” don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time”.
Massey was such a coward. He couldn’t face the consequences of his acts.
Forgot to say…fear or at least an awareness of the possibility of failure or death is needed for a person to be brave. To carry on anyway.
Barbara, that is certainly one aspect of bravery. But there are others, too. There was no risk ‘of the possibility of failure or death’ in your sharing you are bipolar, yet that was very brave of you. I’d be willing to bet that dozens of ‘fears’ popped into your head faster than it takes to blink one’s eyes before you committed to share that here. Will I be judged? How? Will I still be accepted? Will admitting that change how people view my comments? That took courage. I’m so very glad you feel safe here. We care for you just the way you are.
what Millie said. I didn’t even bat an eye when you stated that, Barbara. To me it was no more than saying you have a cold. But not to mean, that I don’t care! I feel blessed and privileged that you would share that with us!
Lizzy, you made me smile. 🙂 There are so many other questions I want to explore because they are universal topics that touch us all – in different ways, I’m sure, but they open our mind to other possibilities of looking at things. But, like you said last night, it’s 1 am!
Lizzy, You made me feel so good. I appreciate “no more than saying you have a cold”. I had to laugh. What a great feeling of acceptance.
The fear that my ideas would be dismissed as worthless because they must be flawed. The fear that cuts like a knife is that my intelligence must be impaired. It is encouraging to feel accepted and not considered odd. Thanks.
This (8:16 post) was addressed to Millie. It’s hard to get everything posted to follow in line (especially when husband has TV blaring).
Meant to say that others” will think my intelligence is impaired”.
Hi Barbara, you are not odd nor is your intelligence in question. That is what I don’t like about ‘labels’. Strip the labels and what’s left is a wonderful, warm, intelligent, funny person. I love how Dr. Wayne Dyer signs off on his posts, “I AM… Just be you! YOU ARE all kinds of wonderful. 🙂
Following the previous links I gave you, I thought this might be of interest. It’s an extract from a good book.
I am glad you felt safe here too.
I am a bit tired to process and contribute but happy reading your thoughts. Hope Paul can find a way to open the Bistro doors permanently.
How I wish I had had access to this info when teachers were trying to get me to put our elder son on pills for ADHD. I said NO! “Have you sat down and talked with him? He may not be able to spell, which is a left brain function, but his verbal skills surpass yours!” I was sent to the principal’s office. 😉
Anna, You are amazing. I felt like the article was written about me I do feel safe here. Thanks for taking time to read and reply when you are in a hard place. You are appreciated.
:-). The book is at Amazon and on Kindle if you want it. Webb is a respected author and clinician. It’s an interesting look at the duality of the mind.
oh gosh, it’s 1 am…got to get to bed! Will try to return at a later time!
I agree with what you say about courage. You can only be courageous if you feel fear, otherwise you don’t need courage. I don’t understand the Brave country component.
“To be brave—that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is to do great harm. And therefore, this courage allows us, as the old men said, to make ourselves useful. It allows us to be generous… I’ll pray that you grow up a brave man in a brave country. I will pray you find a way to be useful.” That is the full quote from The Gilead – I think it is a prayer that a child be given the the brave country – the environment – that allows him to grow to be a brave man. Children learn by example.
For our purposes, I’m not sure the brave country makes much sense for Peter. But maybe, Clara was wishing that he be able to find examples of bravery to emulate, so that he, too, could be a brave man.
The most meaningful part of the quote for me, is the first part, which was not quoted in TLWH – “To be brave—that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is to do great harm.” – we have seen the harm Peter has been doing by having the precious things put into his hands (his talent, being loved by Clara) and not honoring them.
Beautiful! Thanks for searching for it and sharing, Julie.
“To be brave—that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear…”
So many disjointed thoughts are trying to coalesce. There’s a saying: “The eyes are a window to the soul.” There were many references in this book about looking through windows or window panes… Gamache looks through windows a lot in this story.
There is also a saying in metaphysics: “A person sees only that which is inside them.”
Then there is “The brain / mind searches for patterns it recognizes…”
Yes, Clara said that was her prayer for Peter, but she tells this to Gamache. His entire career Gamache searched for emotions, we are told. That he is more of an explorer… Yes, he values life, but the patterns his mind is used to searching for are the lies, the deceits, the emotion that tips a person over the edge to commit a crime. Could this be why Gamache has so much trouble accepting that Chartrand may have no ‘sinister agenda’? Perhaps he has not fully crossed his own lump in the throat to get him past his head to his own heart?
This story has everything changing depending on the the perspective with which it was viewed. The pictures / the paintings took on a different meaning when turned upside down. Or right side up. Almost everyone at one point or another acting ‘out of character’. Except perhaps Annie. JG realizes that for her there could be no real happiness without kindness. It was a part of her being. Part of what makes her so attractive – not her body or her looks, per se. JG is just learning this. But has Gamache truly embraced this in his ‘retirement’. I don’t think he has yet. And perhaps that is why one moment he sees Chartrand in one way – kind, lonely… And the next moment he is suspicious of Chartrand again. Is this the lens through which his eyes are used to viewing the world and people around him? If so, Gamache still has a long way home to inner peace and to where he can acknowledge that there is more beauty and kindness than his eyes can bear.
Love this post Julie, well done.
I like the idea that the prayer is for one to be be in an environment that allows and teaches one to be brave. I think Three Pines gave Peter that courage and example but he had to go out into the world to find a way to draw on those examples and be his own brave man.
Perhaps there is a bit of familiarity breeds contempt, it’s easy to let the brave around us do things. I is only when we stand lone that we draw on their examples and are forced to reach inside ourselves to do the same.
As for honoring precious gifts…….there is so much in that for all of us.
“It is only when we stand alone” is what that line says…..typos
It was just part of the quote from the other Giliad book; if we were to read that, we might understand a good deal more about this being a “brave man in a brave country” because as it is in this book it’s taken out of its context.
What does it mean to you to be a “brave man in a brave country”? How does courage—or cowardice—feature in this novel?
An interesting question. Why not a brave man in a fearful country, or any other kind of ‘country’?
Is the man brave because the country is brave? Are they brave because the country is brave and they must stick up for it, and uphold the values? Am I thinking too much?
I think being brave is knowing we have fear, but we choose to face it. And Peter did that. At first it seemed he was running away, but he was searching. He was ready to reach his goal and in the long run he also became that brave man.
“I thought he’d come home,” Clara says of Peter. Did you? How did your view of him change in the course of the book?
I wasn’t sure. I WANTED him to come home. I wanted my little, happy ending. 😉
My view changed in that I respected him. I was annoyed that he didn’t at least drop a postcard here or there to Clara to ease her mind. I wanted to see what kind of true artist he would have become.
I apcatpiree you taking to time to contribute That’s very helpful.
Clara first approaches Gamache with great ambivalence: wanting (though fearing) to know what happened to Peter, while reluctant to disturb Gamache’s newfound peace. How did you feel about the decisions they both make at this point?
I could see myself as Clara but not to where I actually disturb Gamache. But I think she did the right thing as did he. If there is true friendship, there is honesty. There is love and concern for the other. The focus is on the other, not on self.
So true, Lizzy. And that is exactly what was missing from Clara and Peters’s relationship. True honesty.
Anna, Hope your Mother has settled in well. Good thoughts and remember to take care of yourself, too.
Thank you Barbara. It’s a process. Yesterday was better but she wants to come home. It’s a long way home for everyone.
I look at question 6 above and think, yes, but I am still watching my parents disappear. They seem to be fading out. And then I think about courage and how it is passive as well as active. Takes courage to watch things happen. Takes courage to let things happen. Takes courage to let go as well as hold on.
“She wants to come home…” That really made me pause and think. What is home? Where is home? Really? Where our belongings are? Were our family lives? Where we had / left memories?
Why do we become so attached to one single place as being ‘home’? Or a city or village?
Why did I cry when the movers cleared the last bits of our previous house into to moving truck and I made a 360 degree turn and only saw an empty shell of what I thought would be home where grandchildren would one day play? It wasn’t destiny that had other plans, more like the company my husband works for decided for us. But thinking back, our youngest protested the loudest, “This is the only home I’ve known!” While I was thinking, lucky kid! I was scared but had to put on a brave face not only for our sons but for my husband. I had to dig deep to find the courage to let things and people go. “To let things happen,” as Anna said.
Once again,extended family, friends, commitments all disappeared for me. Not from ‘reality’ but from my daily interaction with them. Our last night we had dinner at my parent’s house before heading to the hotel the company had arranged for us to stay next to the airport. I remember walking into my grandmother’s room and telling her I was saying good night. I just couldn’t bring myself to say good bye. She was 93 and had given up living and was usually ‘not there’, but that night she looked at me and asked if my husband and I were OK. I said yes, why? She said she could tell from the first time she met him that he would take care of me well, and then she said, “Good bye, I can rest now.” She died two months after we moved… In all the years of her life she only had a few years where she could truly say it was ‘her home’. Clara too struggles with calling where she lives ‘her’ home.
How did it affect me? My grandmother crocheted. Beautifully. When I decided to expand from embroidery thread to yarn I chose knitting. I have lovely crochet threads, an entire collection of hooks yet I cannot bring myself to delve into that art form – yet. Perhaps with more time. But not yet. So yes! I can somewhat relate to what Gamache experienced with his father’s book.
But what Clara experienced is totally different. I remember her in A Trick of the Light standing in the kitchen after seeing all the messages of congratulations Peter, “just forgot” to tell her about and seeing him disappear before her eyes. Only crime tape around where he had been standing… In life some people will hurt one so deeply that having them no longer be a part of one’s ‘reality’ is the only way to cope. I’ve done that with one or two people that crossed my path. I cease to even think of them. Perhaps it’s self preservation? I don’t know. I’m glad I’ve never had to face that with my spouse as Clara has had to do. But I hope that distance she created more than a year before will allow her to come to terms with what happened to Peter sooner rather than later. I loved how someone mentioned they hoped Clara would find the kind of love that Gamache and RM have. I hope Ruth takes her under her wing as a fellow widow. Well, maybe not that!
What a touching story about your grandmother. What a gift she gave you in those words!
I lost a dear friend to breast cancer 2 years ago. There are places that I just can’t bear to go to as we were there together. Still too painful.
Heartfelt sympathy for your loss. A friend and I used to go to a Walmart for her to shop. She didn’t drive so I often took her shopping. Her husband wanted her to rush in and out when he took her. I hadn’t been in a Walmart in years until last week. A new store had opened and I was trying to get out on my own without my husband ( he’s retired). Just wanting to be more independent.
Of course the Halloween and Christmas decorations were on display. I teared up because she always decorated her entire house inside as well as her porch and yards ( front, side and rear).
At least they are still with us in our hearts.
Millie – this is just a lovely story – so touching, so poetic. “Home” is people to me, not a house – but I do envy people who’ve lived in one place forever and who love the place where they grew up. It must be a very comforting feeling. But of course, even more wrenching, when you have to move away. I have always thought the trick was to try to make wherever you find yourself “home”, and I’ve always been good at finding the comfort objects that can make anywhere seem like home instantly. Paint colors, too – I don’t think I’ve lived anywhere in the last half of my life that I didn’t paint in pale peach tones (initially because I’d just had my colors done and it was the most flattering color for my skin tones, but it came to signify a comfy, homey place.)
Julie, how clever. A familiar color would establish a feeling of “home” and the familiar. Loved the reference to having your colors done. I still have my ring of swatches.
Home is definitely of the heart. Sometimes, with good fortune, a place will be imbued with that love of the heart and acquire its own ability to comfort. Like the Bistro….see, even a virtual place can develop the capacity to wrap us in love and warmth.
My mum wants to go to the place she grew up, with her mum. She was worried today that her mother was lost and she was searching for her, but I think she was projecting. She wanted to go home even when she was, it’s the heart of her mother she misses.
At the end Peter did come home…..with Clara. His heart found its rest. She know needs to build a new home, even in Three Pines. That process was begun by Peter’s absence, she had to draw other threads around her to knit her new place in the world.
Millie, as always sending love. Very teary reading about your grandmother but how lovely she gave you her blessing and permission to live life and move forward. Your happiness granted her peace.
Home. What a precious word. It fills my heart with warmth and my mind with serenity. You said earlier that you have moved frequently. My life has been just the opposite. I still live in the town where I was born and lived away for only a few months when first married. My husband and I live in the house we bought in 1969. In the last few years, I have come to realize how I treasure the fact that I run into people from all stages of my life just by going shopping. Later this month, our high school reunion takes place. For some reason I’m really looking forward to it. We hadn’t attended the last 3 years although we had bought tickets. Sometimes the medication doesn’t control the depression and I can’t bear to be around people. I’m bipolar. Makes life a rollercoaster ride at times.
I think you are very brave. I don’t know what I would have done in your place. We have a military base and medical college here and nuclear site near by. I have often heard wives express longing for family, friends and the familiar.
My most treasured possessions are items that would mean little or nothing to others. Pieces of tatting from linen pillowcases ( long ago dry rotted) made by my grandmother. Lace appliques from a gown and negligee –from Mother’s trousseau.
Gamache had his Father’s book. I have a book of hymns my paternal grandfather (died in 1942) used when he played in the church orchestra and the Bible my Father used all of his adult life. Precious memories.
Barbara – so odd – the bits and pieces of ephemera that bind us to those we love, especially those who are not with us anymore. When my mother died, the children got together to go through her things and see if there was anything we wanted. As the only girl, I got all the lace tablecloths, napkins, etc. – there was a huge drawer full of them. They are all beautiful, and I’d never seen any of them before. They held no memories for me, as we had never used such things as a family. I know that my mother was “saving them for good”. She did that with new clothes and it drove me crazy. That there is all this beautiful lace is very nice, but how I wish it were imbued with some meaning to me.
Barbara – I have to say something about your honesty and bravery in letting us know of your bipolar disorder. It’s so wonderful that this is a safe place for us to truly throw open the windows and let in some fresh air! I am so thankful that you have let us in a little bit and we can all support each other this way. I think you are very brave…
Thank you Julie. I debated, but felt that it was safe to tell people I have never met because we do “know” each other. I am grateful that we can sit around the fire at the Bistro and talk. Sometimes it helps so much to share.
Julie, your comments on Peter’s art brought up some very interesting points. I think Peter’s new work might be what Chartrand is interested in. That would explain his interest. It can’t be only an attraction to Clara, can it ? I too think the ownership of the last of Peter’s works will be important.
I truly don’t think Chartrand is interested in Clara – her art, maybe – but not her. I know I will probably not turn out to be right, but I just don’t trust him.
But, Chartrand didn’t even know about Peter’s paintings until after he had welcomed the Three Piners to his apartment above the gallery… OK, I admit I’m prejudiced. I happen to like him. So im taking his ‘word’ that he never discussed anything with Peter or saw his art. But I just don’t see Peter showing it to anyone. He sent them to Bean! I want to see all the doubts the characters have about Chartrand as a ‘red herring’ to keep us wondering about him. Unfortunately, enough times in my life my tendency to ‘see good in people first’ has made me have moments of doubt. But I still believe it. I just cannot have peace in my heart with a mind full of suspicion. I don’t think those who do are wrong. Just saying it doesn’t work for me. It will be interesting to see where Ms Penny takes this.
It will be, Millie. And I love that you see the good and are willing to take it at face value – I expect you’ll end up being right. I just can’t put my finger on it, but I don’t feel easy about him. But I’m probably wrong…
But then again… you may be right! 🙂
Millie, I can’t wait for the truth about Chartand to be known. I might just be too suspicious. I am so ready for book 11. LP’s writing is so captivating.
I think our concerns about Chartrand stem from Armand’s. He, as a detective, is trained to have a suspicious mind, and he’s not too sure of Chartrand’s motives. Because we love Armand, who isn’t always right after all, we perhaps tend to see things and people the way he does. So it will indeed be very interesting to see where Louise goes with this.
Sylvia, you put my ‘feelings’ into perfect words.
i think Chartrand is interested in Clara and find it difficult to understand why others think it impossible.
Linda, I have no trouble at all seeing why someone wouldn’t be interested in Clara. It’s Chartrand that I don’t trust – not that Clara is worthy of having a suitor. There’s something there – I don’t know what, and I guess it’s probably that I trust Gamache so much. He doesn’t trust Chartrand, through the journey they take, and I guess I figure there must be some reason. And I know, that by the end of the book, he DOES seem to trust Chartrand, but I still don’t feel that way. But it’s not that I think it’s impossible that someone would be interested in her.
I’m so sad to hear that the beloved voice of Armond, Ralph Cosham, has died. What a loss for his family and for us all! He made the audio books come alive. He will be missed so much.
So many of you have said how much you love listening to him reading the books – his loss will be felt far and wide, I think. So very sad.
Paul, please give the Cosham family our deepest condolences. Three Pines is in mourning over the loss of the voice that brought it alive. The audios so many of us, I’m sure, turned to when we needed kindness and gentleness and humor. My heart breaks for his family.
Will do, Millie.