LOUISE PENNY’S

Series Re-Read: The Long Way Home

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! 

RECAP

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.

Ch. 11-20: 

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. 

Ch. 21-30:

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. 

Ch. 31-end:

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.

FAVORITE QUOTE

“Fear lives in the head. And courage lives in the heart. The job is to get from one to the other.”

CONCLUSION

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! 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. 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?
  1. “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?
  1. What does it mean to you to be a “brave man in a brave country”? How does courage—or
    cowardice—feature in this novel?
  1. 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?
  1. 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.”
  1. 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
    life?
  1. 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
    artists themselves?
  1. 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
    saved?
  1. 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?
  1. Peter’s paintings look completely different from different perspectives. How does that
    apply to other characters or events in the story?
  1. 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?
  1. How does Clara’s quote from one of her favorite movies, “Sometimes the magic works,”
    play out in the story?
  1. 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?
  1. 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?

Reading Group Guide

Now that we’ve made it Home, here are the official reading group questions for The Long Way Home. Join us in a discussion of these questions. Also, enter to win a signed first edition copy of Still Life!


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The Long Way Home, Chapters 31-41

Join us for a discussion on the final chapters of The Long Way Home.


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The Long Way Home, Chapters 21-30

Continuing the discussion of The Long Way Home with chapters 21-30.


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The Long Way Home, Chapters 11-20

Continuing the discussion of The Long Way Home with chapters 11-20.


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The Long Way Home, Chapters 1-10

Join us for a discussion on the first 10 chapters of The Long Way Home.


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1,023 replies on “Series Re-Read: The Long Way Home”

For those of you who are puzzled about the balm in Gilead reference, have you read Marilynne Robinson’s book Gilead? That would provide additional clues.

Linda, I just looked up the Gilead book and thanks to Mr. Google learned lots. It sounds like a fascinating book and explains so much re Armond and his book.

Thanks, Julie, for the insight on the cover; I can see it now. I too was at the Mpls event and heard Louise explain the picture and the texture. Nice addition to the book.

I realized that this book was not written until 2004, so I’m assuming this can’t be the book that Armand can be reading.

Can we talk about the cover yet? When I bought the book Saturday, I was puzzled by the texture of it. Then Louise explained that her publishers were very taken by this painting and wanted to use it for the cover. Ah–the texture of canvas! How interesting. Even the cover becomes a character in the book. I won’t talk about other aspects of it, that would probably be considered a spoiler. Anyway, I thought the whole thing was genius.

Louise said the image on the cover is supposed to be upside down. i’m afraid I could not wait and I have read the entire book. The reason for the upside down cover will be revealed.

I love the book. Sad to be finished… Now I have to wait for another year. Patience…patience…patience.

Just do what I do, start at the beginning again!

My cover was not upside down but I get why Louise wanted it to be. Should I feel gipped!

I didn’t get to “feel” the cover, having my copy on Kindle, but I can see the texture in the picture of the cover, and I love it. I did think it was from a canvas, but I didn’t recognize that it was a painting, and I certainly didn’t recognize that it was upside down until Louise told us it was. Doh! I have since googled Gagnon’s paintings and love, love, LOVE them! Then I looked at some of Tom Thompson’s paintings, which Louise mentions very briefly in passing… He has always been a favorite of mine, as have the Group of Seven. But until I googled him, I didn’t realize he wasn’t actually a part of the group of seven, but had influenced them. His paintings were done primarily in Algonquin Park, a place where I lived when I was too tiny to know I was in one of the most beautiful places I’d ever see. My parents used to tell a story about me looking out the window of the cabin we lived in and saying “That darn deer is looking in here again!” Wouldn’t I love for that now?

Hi, Sue – trying not to give any spoilers for others, but in general, sometimes, you need to find a new way to look at things… what appears to be just a muddle on a page might be something else when turned upside down…

So glad you posted about the cover’s texture, and it being upside down. I had noticed that before starting the the book. Then completely forgot about it! 🙂

Hi Meg, you were missed! Glad you have a solution to the technical issues.

I read this book very quickly and like Barbara, I have been checking regularly for the site to open. The time difference means I had the book early but had to wait longer to talk about it. Funny but the talking is almost more important than the book this time. Maybe because I know what Barbara is saying, although I am not sure if it will be for the the same reasons yet. Have to wait until we can say more. So far this is my least favourite book and that was a surprise.

I think it must be very difficult as an author, to conclude such a strong underlying story arc as the Arnot theme (I too think of it as the Arnot case Meg). The characters have been changed and they do not react in the same way because what is driving them is different. I think particularly of Armand and Jean Guy here, perhaps even Reine-Marie. How to pick up and move forward from there? That has been the big question. It may take more than one book to reshuffle how characters are behaving and their new paths.

I was ‘lucky’ in a way to start the series at Bury Your Dead. When I did the re read, I could see that the characters were more developed as the series continued. At the beginning, they are still being revealed. With each new layer I liked them more. Now, I hope it is going to be the same, and I will settle in and so will they.

While I thought the scene with the moth was clever, it also annoyed me a little. Perhaps, because I find moths around lights, banging and sizzling, an annoying summer feature. To me the moth seemed to be Armand and Reine-Marie was trying to stop, at first, her husband being drawn back to what attracts him most because it is dangerous. In the end she realizes that it is impossible. There are so many sources of light, so many ways that Armand could be drawn back in to being an investigator of one kind or another. There is an element of ‘destiny’ or an internal drive she can’t ignore. Armand is an investigator. It is just who he is and to change that might diminish him. That is why retirement is so hard for so many. They have chosen a path that suits what they are. It is hard to arrive at the end of that road.

In the end Reine-Marie turns the light back on. It is better for her to continue to be a helper than to try and stand in the moth’s or her husband’s way. I think Julie is spot on, no point holding on to a body if you lose the soul. I paraphrase but great line Julie!

I have never heard of the Balm of Gilead as a hymn. The biblical reference is to Spiritual healing and I just thought it was a fictional book, Louise created to suit her purpose. I found it hard to reconcile the Armand we know with the one reading the same section over and over.

While Armand does need to heal there always comes the point when the strength of the scar has to be tested. It can be easy to hold back from the fear that it won’t. Sometimes we are never sure we are ready to get back to our whole selves.

You know, Anna, your last three sentences about the scar needing to be tested are really resonating here for me – on a number of levels. Wish we could high light or mark things in bold on this site – so we could come back and find threads that may or may not grow in importance. Your last paragraph is tweaking things in this old brain!!! Thanks!

You are welcome Meg. Please feel free to share if you can at any stage, you have me intrigued.

I too wish we could highlight or there was a way to have different threads so we could jump easily to different things we want to discuss.

Sylvia, I too was somewhat shocked by Clara’s aggressive stance. A sign maybe that is she is so very wound up. Have we seen her under such stress before? I don’t think so. It’s very different to the chronic pressure of dealing with Peter’s family or the creative struggles with her art. When Peter left it was an agreed leaving in many ways because there was to be a defined end, or decision, point on his return. Clara was anticipating that date, her expectations were primed and now, two weeks later, all that anxiety is flying around looking for a target. Armand you are it. It is hard to ask for help, it is especially hard when it is a private problem you had planned on solving yourself. Clara was rude and disrespectful and I didn’t like it but is it unrealistic for anyone, and Clara in particular, to react that way? Mmmm, I don’t think so but it was unexpected behaviour so it was jarring to me.

I think I go back to something I alluded to in the last book discussion. Maybe the roles will shift and the strong will need to lean on those who have been weaker and those laid low will rise to be stronger. As a reader we grow comfortable with ‘our’ roles for characters, we can be very tied to how we want them to behave. Maybe it is our time to be brave and let the characters be what they must be beyond our expectations. Not easy though is it?

Nothing mysterious in re to scar — off -the-topic story here. When I was a preschooler, my father fell 40 feet when scaffolding he was on collapsed as he painted decorative bands on ceiling of our church. One leg, hip & ankle crushed. Told he’d never walk again. Miracles of metal replacement rods and pins restored that appendage. Bothered by arthritis for the rest of his life, but that stubborn man was insistent that he’d walk again. And he did. The summer after that, I fell on a wooden plank sidewalk & sliced open one of my knees. ER people scrubbed it with what seemed like a wire brush – without any novocaine or local anesthetic. Many stitches. Was terrified to walk and bend that knee afterwards for fear that I’d have to undergo ER torture again – or lengthy & painful recovery that my father faced. Just refused to walk! Insisted that I was not going to start school because I had to walk there! 6 year-old me was pretty full of herself – but I get concretely, what you meant about scar being tested. Know that Armand carries ‘scar’ of his parents deaths as a boy. We know what happened when he first publicized the Arnot case – many other things too – for later. Yeah, one can usually be strong, but fears/hurts/unhealed injuries do prickle through. If lucky, we get over them! My nieces & nephews are amused by my scar (which has been totally painfree) and call it Aunt Meg’s smiling knee! : ~D We’re a family of folks very easily amused! lol

I am giggling at your smiling knee Meg but also a bit blown away by your story. I think there is a lot in there about pain and healing and the inter relationship between physical, mental and emotional scarring. What happened to your father affected you, of course, and both that and your own physical experience affected your emotional response to walking again.

You are so right. We all carry scars and hurts and they absolutely do impact upon how we deal with the world. Armand is the same. His physical hurts and healing are affected by all kinds of experiences as you have said. Armand has been so together despite all that he has gone through with the Arnot case. The attacks on his family and the damage to his department were all significant blows. Lots of healing to be done. Many scars to be tested.

I wonder if in Armand’s mind he worries that leaving the department is in any way cowardly? I don’t think that, I just wonder if he did. It’s not part of the book just me exploring his character.

Somewhere back in another discussion one of you confessed that you didn’t like Clara. I’ve always felt a bit ambivalent about her also, and this book so far has given me reason to make the same confession. I think she takes advantage of people (and friendships) while being “poor Clara.”

Anna, I agree with you completely about Clara’s behavior. I have read and reread your final paragraph about letting the characters go beyond our expectations and the boundaries we’ve put up around them. This is Clara in a new situation. She’s scared and the fear is growing every day. And I think she feels guilty because she asked Gamache for help.
“Clara Morrow told Armand Gamache why she was there. And what she wanted from him. And when she was finished she saw in those thoughtful eyes what she most feared.
She saw fear.”
“Armand Gamache had come here to rest. To recover. They’d promised him peace. And Clara knew she’d just broken that promise.”
She felt guilty about asking for his help and half-heartedly tried to take it back. When G. came to her with Beauvoir, she was defensive and inappropriate. We all have spoken hurtfully, unfairly, out of fear and guilt on occasion, not occasions we like to remember.
I love what you said, “…all that anxiety is flying around looking for a target.” Who better than the person she feels she has wronged?
This is our chance to know Clara better. She leads with her heart and is not adept in expressing herself under great stress. Remember when Gamache said in another book that Reine-Marie would always say and do the right thing? Not Clara. Her heart is as good as R-M’s, but not her skills in difficult, emotional situations.

I loved this book with all it’s nuances, discussions about art, and themes. I was shocked to come to the discussion to find so many negative thoughts. Is it a bit different than the others? Yes. But if they were all the same we would only need to buy the first.

To me it’s more mature. Time has passed and we know the people and places and are comfortable. Didn’t one of you say your characters had matured? I don’t think Clara changed, I think Clara stands revealed! She is, after all, the one that told Peter to leave. Why is she so frantic, rude, insistent? Well, for starts, she is not setting out to solve a little mystery. She’s frantic to find her missing husband, the husband she sent away. Is he alive? In sending him away did she cause his death, the death of her marriage (which she now begins to maybe believe she wants to save).

The art discussions are so important. I found them fascinating. Really, the art provided the primary clues in the book. How would someone paint, why, where was it painted, what did the artist feel or see or believe as they painted. The art discussions provide a path to places, people, local and regional characters, stories and myths that lead the way, well frankly, the way home.

Someone said they liked the way the words Louise uses make them feel. To me words have specific sounds, like musical notes. When used well there is a cadence and rhythm that provides the ebb and flow of the journey on which the author takes the reader. To me this book of all her books was the most moving, the most profound.

I have friends I visit that I enjoy their gladness and their actions. With this book though I felt as if my friends in Three Pines took me in and made me part of their innermost ring, sharing with me their deeper hearts, hurts, joys, sorrows and yes, some shames.

My favorite. My favorite.

Oh, Meg, You found one of my favorites–Mahalia Jackson. My first room mate at Georgia had one of her albums I played it almost every afternoon when I got in. I learned to sing the old spirituals from a lady who worked for my family. Those beautiful and heartfelt songs have often comforted me in times of grief.

Ladies, mega apologies for my brain-burp! Said Armand’s parents were killed when he was a boy. WRONG! Danger of reading two books at once! Should have said effects of Papa Gamache accused as being coward & traitor. Gobbling drugstore shiny cover book that’s easily forgotten& doesn’t require much thinking — & main character in that lost both parents in car accident. Woke this morning & realized I scrambled the two books together!

Armand’s parents WERE killed in a car accident when he was a boy. You were right the first time.

Yes, Armand’s parents were killed in a car crash when he was a boy. That was a huge wound for him; he was only nine years old. Remember how his best friend, Michel Brebeuf had taken him by the hand and told him it would be all right? Which is why Michel’s subsequent betrayal was so devastating to Armand. Then in The Murder Stone we hear about Honore Gamache’s being a traitor and a coward and mentions of Armand being taunted at school about that. Then he chooses a career where his courage is on the line every day, perhaps to try to make up for his father’s perceived cowardice. He found some peace about that when Bert Finney told him that, in his eyes, Honore Gamache was a hero because he had the courage to change his mind and admit he was wrong. Our poor beloved Armand has had more than his share of wounds to heal from. All the more reason why he felt relief when Clara was so rude to him. He told her he had misunderstood and thought she had been asking for his help (ever the perfect gentleman!), but it’s noteworthy that Jean-Guy, who is really upset with Clara, sees relief in Armand’s eyes. For Armand, the reprieve is short-lived, but the story must go on!

Anna – I love that you have taken the moth analogy a little further, to see all the ways the light gets in! That bit had eluded me.

While Armand always kept on carrying on regardless, because he had to, now that he has retired he can begin to deal with the wounds inside. We may tend not to realize how deeply wounded he is, and the events of HTLGI are only fairly recent. He’s still recovering physically, and we know that mental and emotional healing take a lot longer. I agree with Reine-Marie that the time hasn’t yet come to test the scars. He needs more time and so does she! The moth episode could also be seen as a reflection of Reine-Marie’s uneasiness, fidgetyness (is there such a word?) and anxiety over what Armand is being drawn into.

That’s a good point, Sylvia. I don’t think he’s ready yet, either. As I’d said – I think that it’s wonderful that we see that after all that’s happened, everyone doesn’t just get up and say – “that’s over” and not think about it again. Catching the “bad guy”, and in this case, killing him, is haunting Armand. He has so much healing to do. This is the first time I’ve ever felt that Armand is not whole and well and strong. He will get there, but he’s not there yet. I don’t know if helping Clara will also help him, or if it will take a toll. Hopefully, I’ll know by the end of the book.

I don’t think this is a spoiler, though it does come later in the book. I love how, when Armand is talking to Reine-Marie on the phone, he turns and faces the direction she is – for the most part, of course, this is just turning to face west – toward Three Pines – but he also did it when she was in Toronto. He did it in A Rule Against Murder, when he was at the Manoir and she was waiting for him in Three Pines, for their long weekend festivities, after he’d sent her away so he could concentrate on the case. I love that.

I need to go back now and see where chapter 10 leaves us (I’m TRYING to read slowly, but always, I must find out what happens next!). So, to be sure I don’t give any spoilers, I’ll just address what Meg has started us on. Welcome back, Meg – we missed you on the last book.

I, too, wonder about The Balm in Gilead – I’ve looked ’round, and can’t see anything that definitively says to me – “this is it!” Always possible, of course, that this is an invention of the author’s. But I, too, look forward to finding out more and why the ending is so difficult for Armand to get to.

I am struck by the story and the realistic nature. Penny’s talent, along with her determination to make these real people, not two-dimensional characters, does this for us. After the last book, so many would just put a bow on it and call it done – “And they lived happily ever after”.
But Penny knows that this is not the way life works. Armand is definitely in need of some balm. Physically, he’s almost healed, but spiritually, he needs more time.

Clara rushes him into a case – and Reine-Marie is wondering, wondering, if it’s too soon. It seems she knew this day was coming, but so soon? He’s still measuring his walks by a few feet more than yesterday – is he really ready to tear off and chase the wild goose? This book is the first time I’ve worried about Armand. Is he (mentally and spiritually) strong enough? What will he find? Will he be able to handle it? Plus, he’s still worried about Jean-Guy! Yikes. So much to worry about.

The moth is a wonderful image. Not only of the senselessness of the moth trying to get at the light – but also the futility of Reine-Marie “helping” by turning off the light. He’ll find another way to destroy himself. Who is this about? I suppose it could be Peter, but it could also be Armand and/or Jean-Guy. Given that Armand is the person Reine-Marie would most like to help, I think it’s more about him. It’s useless for Reine-Marie to try to keep Armand home and safe – he has to do what makes him Armand. Otherwise, you’ve got his body, but not his soul. What good is that?

It could also be all three of them. Jean-Guy has to help himself, nobody can effect his recovery except him. Yes, it’s maybe scary, because the recovery is so new, and who knows what could derail him again? But you have to step back and let him do it. And Peter – where is he? What has he been doing in the past year? Where did he go? Has he found any answers? All of that needs to be figured out.

Clara knows that she has grown and changed in the last year, but I almost think that she feels that she was going to be able to just pick up their last conversation, and Peter would be the same as he was. She just hit the “pause” button, and now that she’s ready, she wants to go back to that last conversation and continue on. Big surprise that Peter hasn’t stood still – now, maybe, he doesn’t want to come home. Or can’t.

Bean – so baffling that this child has continued to allow her mother to manipulate others through her. Not that most children can stand up to their parents, but you’d think by now, she’d at least (see, I still think Bean is a girl) tell someone else in secret. Of course, maybe she has, and we’re just not in on the secret. I feel like this is going to be such a problem for this child in the coming years. It’s certainly not a given that it will become obvious – I recall very well being 17 years old and wearing the baggy shirts and sweaters that were in style then – and with a short haircut, I was often thought of as a boy by strangers… and so terribly humiliated by it. Of course, a lot of that was the clothes, but also, I think my measurements were 22-22-22, hahahaha.

Oh, Julie! One thing I love about book discussions – others pick up stuff that each of us might miss – or not see immediately – or even from our own perspectives! I read about Reine-Marie’s moth and this old scrambled brain of mine went directly to a Peter analogy! But there you are – extending that & I think you’re so right! “Mothiness” could also be reflected in Gamache, Jean-Guy and our Clara to a certain extent too!

I’m really trying to be good here – and stick to only the 10 chapters for the week’s discussion. I haven’t read past Chapter 10 & am looking forward to the weekend when I can indulge in 11 to 20! If I don’t do that, I get wrapped up in stuff & start leaking info too soon! Thanks for extending the Moth thing here. That fluttering little thing was an image that just stuck with me!

When I last checked at 1:30 EDT, the site was not open for posting. I have been anxious to read what others have written. I read the book on the 28th an 29th and then read reviews to see what others thought. I’m in the minority but I did not like may things about this book. It will be very hard to fully explain my thoughts until the 3rd week of comments or so.
First I realize that we are reading fiction. The characters are the author’s creation. She has the “right” to take them in any direction she chooses and to alter their personalities at will. Unfortunately, for me, that meant one becoming a disrespectful harridan and another a spineless wonder.
Second, I did not want to read the book because I was interested in the dissection of “art”, ad nauseam, in order to determine Peter’s “Long Way Home”. I have participated in interesting discussions of the psychology of artists and his/her work but that wasn’t what I wanted or expected here.
Third, There were some things I liked about the book. Yes, some of the humor we have come to expect is there. I enjoyed Reine-Marie’s larger role. As always, I was enthralled by the descriptions of the Canadian Wilderness and have read much about the areas and the towns mentioned. I will also look up more on the artists mentioned.
I watched most of Louise Penny’s interview at Poisoned Pen site. She is a very likable person but I did not like this book. It is her book though.
I was only aware of “There is a Balm in Gilead” as the spiritual– did not know of a play by the same name.
I anticipate everyone’s input.
Glad you are back Meg.

Barbara – I haven’t finished yet, so probably don’t totally know what’s upset you, but so far, I’m loving this book. Yes, it’s different, but it pretty much has to be. The Arnot case (as I insist on calling it, even though Arnot turned out to be such a small part of it) has driven the last nine books – but it’s over (at least, all but the fall-out). To continue the stories of these characters, they HAVE to change. We might not like the direction the change goes in, though, and I can see that something that is probably still to come in my reading has upset you quite a bit. That’s too bad, as I know you loved these characters just as we all do. It must be disappointing to find things going in a bad direction. I look forward to discussing this more fully once we get to the right point in the reading.

Sorry you didn’t like the book. I loved it. We’re all entitled to our opinions.

I got to listen to Louise on her visit to Minneapolis and was very interested to hear how she came to create Three Pines and the characters. Gamache gets his last name from Michael’s tailor! Armand just because Louise always liked that name. She stopped and talked with us while we were standing in a very long line to get in and worrying that we might not! A wonderful afternoon and well worth the hour’s drive to get there and the standing in line to get in!

That’s wonderful Julie. I am so very glad you had a great experience with Louise. I am also glad you like the book. I suspect very much that it is growing on me.

I have to confess a couple of things.

I don’t like confrontation. Even confronting my own doubts about the book was difficult. Glad Barbara said it first because it is hard to really critique, rather than just evaluate, a series we are so invested in. And I would hate to hurt Louise, these are her babies.

Which brings me to my second confession, inspired by not only Louise, but all of you, I have finally started writing my own book. Did I really admit that? I feel a bit weird. It’s like disclosing a dark secret.

Anyway, having started it is really hard to imagine actually putting my creation out there, to let even loved ones read it, for fear they will pick it apart and it will hurt. I have always thought Louise brave to let us into her world, we can be a picky bunch at times. And these comments are public, not whispered in a lounge room somewhere. Louise can potentially hear us. I hope she knows we do treat her creations with respect, even when we find we don’t like or agree with how we think they should be.

The other strange thing I discovered as I started to write is that characters have a mind of their own! Sometimes I am astounded by what they do and say!

Anna – that’s wonderful! It must be scary to take that leap, but listening to Louise on Sunday, as she talked about how she got started writing, I realized that you need to be “called”, and you have been! Keep it up! I know that there are lots of resources around for new writers – take advantage of them – whether they’re just support groups, sounding boards, workshops – whatever you can manage. I’d say “let us know how it goes”, but I know that we won’t always have this board available to us. So – just go and break a leg! (I know, that’s for the theater, but I don’t know what you say for writing, hahaha)

Break a finger???

Thank you Julie, your support means a great deal, I can’t tell you how much. I don’t think I can finish it by the time the discussion group ends and it may never come to anything but I am determined to finish even if just for me to say I did. I am serious when I say this group gave me huge inspiration to just have a go and get that book out of my head!

Break a finger it is! I know Ruth knows which one, hahaha. As I listened to Louise on Sunday, she really did take us through the beginnings of how she came to write, how she got published, etc. And the main thing she wanted us to know is that it was so important to her that she just do it. That she finish it, even if it wasn’t any good and nobody wanted to read it! That was the most important thing. Also – it took her over five years, though most of that was bogged down in writer’s block. She shared a wonderful story (she has so many). Once she was finished it, she sat back and felt her sense of accomplishment for about a minute and a half, and then headed to her local book store in search of some reference books on how to get published. She said to the clerk in the bookstore – “I’ve just finished my first book!” and the clerk’s face lit up! “That’s wonderful!” she said – “Would you like to buy another?” Hee hee. Good on you, Anna! Go forth and breaketh thy fingers.

How exciting! I wish you much success with your writing. Your comment that the characters have a mind of their own is exactly what several regional authors have said at their book signings. You must be on the right path.

Well, Missy Anna! Congrats for having the courage to begin a new endeavor! One of the most powerful tools that writers have to help them step back from their own work and look at what we’ve written objectively – is to find a small community/group of reader responders. Folks who will tell you, “I don’t get this”, “What did you mean by this part?” “this intrigues me – tell me more” “I don’t see why this is here – do you really need it – or would it fit better at point K?” Found this type of activity to be incredible powerful with my students and discovered that they became both more discriminating & engaged readers and much stronger and reflective writers! You obviously have skill sets well beyond my high schoolers! ;~) But a small response group is potentially invaluable! Congrats again!

Yes, Anna, all the very best with your writing! It must be fun to have your characters do and say unexpected things – they have come alive for you! I agree with Barbara that you must be on the right path. Good for you!

Anna, thank you so much for what you said about confrontation etc. I love Louise’s writing and wanted so much to be as enthusiastic about TLWH as I am about HTLGI but it hasn’t happened yet. A thought just occurred to me…maybe it’s like the talk about paintings. They can be very moving for some people but not for others. Someone said my husband and I are ” collectors” of paintings and we are. None of them cost very much or would have value in the art world but we love them and feel that they (at least some of them) are priceless. ???

Good luck..oops, break a finger, with your writing! Hope it goes very well for you.

Nancy, I think that’s a valuable point. If we loved everything someone else did (every painting, every book, or whatever), it would mean one of two things. 1. We are that person. or 2, and much more likely, 😀 we are not looking or reading with a critical eye. We’ve all had a year of waiting to see what happens after the wedding at the end of How the Light Gets In. And in that year, we spun some of own tales, our own wishes for what would be next. How could they possibly be the same? So we’ve had to adjust… Anyway – I do think that it’s important to pay attention to how art (whether painting or writing) makes you feel. That’s what it’s there for. For me, the most valuable of these things, is the cathartic effect some of it has on me – it brings out old wounds and wrongs and helps me see that they are long ago and I can let go of them now.

I couldn’t wait to read the book – I pre-order early in the year, and always check my post box “urgently” towards the end of August. This certainly was a different way for Louise to go, but I love her “style” of writing – I too am writing a “book” (seems at the moment a lot of short stories). Unfortunately, I kept waiting for the “body” to be found and couldn’t put it down until the end, although there was a sense of mystery almost from the beginning. Louise can describe scenes like no other, and I have tried to keep a journal of some of her interesting phrases; not that I would copy them, but just to “feel” the words. Can’t describe how I love “words” and the way some writers use them to catch and keep my interest in a book.

Oh Karen, good for you too!! Louise is inspiring you to write! I think she would be delighted about that. I’m interested in your comment about words and phrases – I’m not much of an analyst as a reader, but I do appreciate Louise’s words and phrases and her wonderful conversations, some of them so hilarious I have a great laugh!

I guess it’s not surprising that a group like this would have more than one aspiring writer – but how wonderful! It feels like “we” are really growing and learning and becoming more than we were before we all got together, and I love that! You break your fingers, too, Karen, ‘kay?

Julie had me laughing out loud with her comments on Ruth knowing which finger and Louise in the bookshop!

Thanks so much to all the lovely support from Barbara, Meg, Sylvia and Nancy. Meg, so funny you called me Missy, that’s what we call my daughter sometimes. I am taking on board all suggestions and hope to have the courage to let the work see the light of day.

Nancy, the value in all work is what is perceived by the individual. I sometimes shake my head at what other people call literature or art. The eye of the beholder. We have art we love that certainly is unpricable! That ties in with Julie’s thoughts about how works of art or writing make us feel. And there is value in where those works take us on a personal journey, not always an easy trip. Have you heard of bibliotherapy?

I loved Karen’s comment about how words feel. Louise is fabulous with her phrasing and her words. So even if there are elements of this book that some of us don’t like, we still get to appreciate how it is put together. Louise is a wordsmith for sure. Keep writing Karen! Go girl!

Now Millie…….I was horrified by your story, I cried! You have a story in you clawing to get out. You have characters that are alive. Help them out and let them breathe on paper, or a computer screen. Maybe it’s a bit like Reine-Marie and the moth. Let go of the fear and bring them to the light. I am sorry you had such a response but do “Believe in Yourself”. The notebook was an excellent idea. I read about a ‘write your book in three months program ” that broke the task down into a thousand words a day with the aim of writing 80-90000 words. The total sounds like a lot but I just write 50 words at a time and it soon builds up. 35000 and counting.

We care that you write, for yourself and for your characters. If you don’t ever show anyone, write the book you want to read. I expect 50 words by tomorrow just to prove you can. I was so scared. I wrote one day and then not for a week. There is a lot going on around here. I thought it would be one more unfinished project. But my brother texted me “Get up and write”. Having just one person believe in me helped. I believe in you.

No wonder you relate to Clara. She has such struggles with self belief and producing art she wanted to make, not because it was popular or saleable. But she did want to know if others would one day see value in her work, and they did. Her Peter made foolish unhelpful comments, even as he loved her. Like Clara, take charge of your destiny and those characters you love. I hope one day to read what you write.

Wonderful. I am thrilled that these books are helping to get the creative juices flowing . I feel that good writing is inspirational to others writers. As has been said “break a finger”.
I too write down favorite sentences and scenes when I read. Reading them again is like visiting with a friend.
Keep writing.

Anna, I congratulate you on your courage to admit your writing a book. Since 1997, I’ve written snippets of ‘scenes’ all revolving around a few characters and an idea that popped into my head after a dream that year. When I mention to my brother and a few ‘friends’ I wanted to try my hand at writing a novel they laughed at me… Full out, “YOU?” My major in college was comparative literature. I was an A+ student. I wrote critical papers of “publishable quality”… So the laughter hurt me deeply. And I got to the point I would literally start to hyperventilate if I sat in front of the computer too long. So I got a beautiful notebook with “Believe in Yourself” on the cover and wrote out long hand just enough so I wouldn’t forget what the characters encountered on a particular day. I could handle THAT! But what has truly surprised me is that these characters are as alive in my mind as they were 17 years ago. Only they’re more mature, much more interesting and I like them so very much. My fear of being ridiculed hasn’t diminished one bit, however. So there it is. My little secret out in the scary world of people who love truly good stories, like Louise does. Heaven help me but these characters seem to want to tell their story! I guess I’m most afraid of discovering I can’t tell it in a way that makes people ‘feel’ something anywhere close to what I feel when I think of the characters.

So yes! I can relate to Clara’s outburst of, “you TOLD him?” Good for Clara finally taking charge of her own destiny without apology. And good for Gamache for letting her do so with dignity. How many times did we read in previous books that his “I know…” was actually wrong? They are both going thru a healing process. It’s hard for me to discuss more because I’ve read the entire book once and listened to it 2 times and I’m on my 3rd re-listen… All I’ll say is read on. I’ll just say I think this is Louise’s best book! I would not have thought that a few years ago however. But these last few years have had me face many losses of family and friends and I have a better understanding and acceptance of grief which allowed me, personally, to relate to the happenings, the reactions of the characters, of this story more than I would have even just a few years ago.

Break a finger, Anna! I admire you’re courage. Hopefully, some day my own courage will catch up to my years. 🙂

Millie – your characters sound wonderful! Turn a deaf ear to the naysayers, and write. Just write for yourself until you finally NEED to show it to someone else… but write! Don’t let them take that away from you! Break a finger!

Julie had me laughing out loud with her comments on Ruth knowing which finger and Louise in the bookshop!

Thanks so much to all the lovely support from Barbara, Meg, Sylvia and Nancy. Meg, so funny you called me Missy, that’s what we call my daughter sometimes. I am taking on board all suggestions and hope to have the courage to let the work see the light of day.

Nancy, the value in all work is what is perceived by the individual. I sometimes shake my head at what other people call literature or art. The eye of the beholder. We have art we love that certainly is unpricable! That ties in with Julie’s thoughts about how works of art or writing make us feel. And there is value in where those works take us on a personal journey, not always an easy trip. Have you heard of bibliotherapy?

I loved Karen’s comment about how words feel. Louise is fabulous with her phrasing and her words. So even if there are elements of this book that some of us don’t like, we still get to appreciate how it is put together. Louise is a wordsmith for sure. Keep writing Karen! Go girl!

Now Millie…….I was horrified by your story, I cried! You have a story in you clawing to get out. You have characters that are alive. Help them out and let them breathe on paper, or a computer screen. Maybe it’s a bit like Reine-Marie and the moth. Let go of the fear and bring them to the light. I am sorry you had such a response but do “Believe in Yourself”. The notebook was an excellent idea. I read about a ‘write your book in three months program ” that broke the task down into a thousand words a day with the aim of writing 80-90000 words. The total sounds like a lot but I just write 50 words at a time and it soon builds up. 35000 and counting.

We care that you write, for yourself and for your characters. If you don’t ever show anyone, write the book you want to read. I expect 50 words by tomorrow just to prove you can. I was so scared. I wrote one day and then not for a week. There is a lot going on around here. I thought it would be one more unfinished project. But my brother texted me “Get up and write”. Having just one person believe in me helped. I believe in you.

No wonder you relate to Clara. She has such struggles with self belief and producing art she wanted to make, not because it was popular or saleable. But she did want to know if others would one day see value in her work, and they did. Her Peter made foolish unhelpful comments, even as he loved her. Like Clara, take charge of your destiny and those characters you love. I hope one day to read what you write.

Millie, I’m so glad that you reminded yourself of some of the many things you can feel proud of, AND that you shared them here too. That was brilliant and important. And I love your beautiful notebook and writing in longhand. I have a four year old granddaughter and you are just the kind of person I try to help her notice and admire. Problem- solving and persistence and self-knowledge! Keep going and enjoy what you are doing.

Millie, Considering your background, writing would be a natural progression for you. Sometimes people are so cruel when presented with the hopes and dreams of others. There must be a bit of jealousy in them. They want you to be as earthbound as they. I hope you will write about those characters you have held in for so long. Give them their voice.. if only for you. I think they have a story to tell and that story, once told, may give you courage to allow others to read it. I’m sending you good thoughts.

I am also not liking this book. The first nine were so wonderful and built up to such a great conclusion. . .it seems like this latest book is just trying to manufacture something to talk about. I’m really disappointed so far. I’m about halfway through it.

Hang in there Pam. I am curious to see if you like it better after thought and reflection. I am starting to, or maybe I am just enjoying having everyone together again to talk to. Do you think you are enjoying the craftsmanship if not the actual content of the work? After reading Karen Coulson’s comments about the feel of words and interesting phrases I have been enjoying that aspect all the more.

As I got into TLWH I realized I was not as engaged as usual with Ms. Penny’s work. However, I felt that way when I first read “Still Life,” but ended up loving it and appreciating the writing, the characters, the plot, the meditations on art etc. So I finished TLWH and re-read it right away. And behold and lo, it was the usual satisfying Penny read. Different. Less stressful now that we have the internal affairs of the Surete sorted out and resolved (we think), and Jean-Guy back on track (we hope). And the landscape of Quebec is such an important part of this book, as usual. It actually in both another character and a metaphor for what is happening within the character(s), and for the “point,” if you will, of the story. Anyway – for those who did not like this book as much, including my sister to whom I introduced the series, keep on with it, and ponder it and you just might change your mind(s).

I have been looking for this site since I finished the book a few days ago. I agree with most of what you said. I don’t think this is Louise’s best book either. I think she changed her style to a one of rhetorical questions in the minds of the characters. I also didn’t care for all the ‘art’ talk as I’m not particularly interested in art dissection when the reader can’t see the painting being described. I had difficulty reading some parts at the college and in Quebec when the paintings were being turned this way and that. I also agree this is Louise’s book and she discuss whatever. I wish I would have bought the electronic version rather than the print; it would have been cheaper. However I do like the book cover and hope it gets some discussion here.

I love the art in this book. I am a blank canvas artist and Louise’s books have helped me put paint on canvas again. I joined an art club to try and get some inspiration, most of the members were pleasant but the real ‘artists’ were not all nice. It was the first time that I had recognized, through reading this series of books, that artists are not the generous people I have always imagined. Maybe that is why I am not a true artist. I enjoy others works. I enjoy their success and only wish I had the talent to produce such works.

The descriptions in this book in particular have really resonated with me, thank you so much Louise for this text, I have found it truly inspirational.

I do hope we are due another book?? It cannot end here.

Ah yes, but if you google Clarence Gagnon, you can see his paintings and you will be totally drawn into the landscape of Quebec, and the landscape of TLWH.

I don’t know how to describe my reaction to this book. To me, it is a different genre than the previous books in the Gamache series. As for all closed circle mysteries, and perhaps most works of fiction, I am willing to suspend disbelief. Although it is not realistic that Clara’s transition from a self-doubting mess to a woman with a strong sense of self worth was complete within a matter of days, it was good to see a new Clara, who is not willing to compromise her self for “love”. I loved the relationship between Ruth and Reine Marie. I appreciated seeing more of Reine Marie and what made her tick as well as seeing into Beauvoir’s transformation from being attracted by appearance rather than by substance. I liked the glimpses into Myrna’s character. I found that Gamache’s approach (letting Clara be in charge) was very Gamache and liked the contrast (and honesty) of Jean-Guy’s frustration with not being in charge. I think that most of my discomfort occurred with matters that happened at the end, so I will wait until that part of the discussion to be more specific. Suffice it to say, for now, that I am hoping this will be like “The Brutal Telling” for me – uncomfortable, unsure, not really embracing it at the beginning, but with a re-read and future books in the series, appreciating how it fits. I think this is a transitional book….

I’ve enjoyed the book and the community of three pines and all the interesting characters that Louise has created but I feel she is getting away from writing a true mystery. This book is a great continuation of three pines and all the people we have grown to know and love but…. as I said it don’t really believe it’s a true mystery until the last few chapters.

Barbara I’ve read most of penny’s books and I agree that this “the long way home” was the least interesting I really had a hard time and was bored by all the geographical and art discussion. It could have made a fine short story I’m a painter and and I disagree with penny’s take

First, Sorry I missed last book discussion. My mouse touch pad and keys froze on my laptop! Friend suggested using external mouse this weekend – so, I’m back in operation!

First Impressions/ Observations (Chapters 1 to 10)
1. I was intially confused by the book Armand tries to read each morning, but seems unable to do so. Find I am as intrigued by this as our Clara. When I finally saw its title,”BALM IN GILEAD” I was even more confused. Does Gamache have a script of Langford Wilson’s play by that title? Or is it a reference to the hymn, “There is a Balm in Gilead?” Polar differences between these two works. Wondering just why Gamache so clings to that copy and continues to avoid reading its contents each morning. To be discovered!

2. For those of us who have participated in this project from Book 1 now to Book 10, we come to “Long Way Home” with OUR PRIOR KNOWLEDGE OF THE BACKSTORIES/HISTORY of our major characters. We know what happened to Armand & Jean-Guy last year, what happened with Clara & Peter’s marriage and artistic careers, what happened with Annie Gamache and Jean-Guy, Peter Morrow’s family ‘ties’, and Three Pines. We’re just picking up where we left off in the previous book, but with the physical recoveries of our two primary male leads. Peace seems to have arrived for most of them, but an undercurrent of dis-ease can be sniffed. Primarily over Peter’s failure to return to Clara as they agreed to do.

3. VIVID IMAGE: I was fascinated by the moth flitting around Reine-Marie’s porch ceiling light the night of their barbecue. She intensely focused on it’s attempts to approach the light source, turns the light off to prevent it from being harmed, then watches it as it flits to the light spilling from den/study where Gamache and Jean-Guy are conferring. R-M then turns on the overhead porch light and the moth returns. Seems like we’ve experienced an overpopulation of these insects here this summer too! Have had to empty glass globe shade on my porch lights almost monthly this year – instead of just at the end of the summer. Strangely, as I watched R-M watching that little moth, I thought of Peter – who has been seeking the light, warmth, love, acknowledgement, status, respect etc. etc. – from his family (which is a hopeless pipedream!), the art world – and his wife whose talent has majorly surpassed his own. His jabs at Clara, his attempts to undermine her confidence and efforts so reminded me of that little moth repeatedly banging up against that night light.

4. Was happy to learn that Isabelle Lacoste now has Armand’s old job – instead of Jean-Guy (only because of his own recent history) – and that Adam Cohen (former prison guard who did the right thing when Gamache discovered that Arnot was not there) is now a new Surete recruit with Lacoste as his mentor! Am still wondering about what’s happened with our Missy Nichol.

5. “Bean” Morrow is an even more delightful kid than the last time we saw her! (Yeah, I’m sticking with that Gaelic translation of the word! :~D

1. Was immediately struck by the title of book that Armand repeatedly begins to read, but does not seem able to continue or complete. “Balm in Gilead” Wondering what on earth that book is! Lanford Wilson’s play by the same name? The hymn (which would not fill and entire book)? Strangely, there is polarity of differences between these two works. Immediately wondered by Gamache is clinging to it and avoiding its contents at the same time.

I was struck by the moth and the light also, but didn’t make the connection you did to Peter’s attempts to seek the light. Very interesting.

I was thinking the moth/light analogy was Gamache knowing a return to work could be bad for him but kept needing it (the light) anyway.

Ah the balm in gilead. In previous books LP mentioned Armande’s parents each had a book on their bedside tables which he kept, but was never able to read…..It this the time? There have been times in my life that I need to learn a lesson but cannot get into the text. Figure God has a plan for me to learn that lesson, I just don’t want it!
I think I’m to chapter 10, listening on audiobook as I work.
Love the discovery (oh so slowly) of Peter’s paintings and the reasons behind such a change in his style. Hey, as an artist, Peter was “locking up” on the last work he did in his studio. Remember, he couldn’t believe it was done? Surely not, not so quickly.
Well, that is all I can think of except Clara’s anger (like she never keeps a secret) over Armande telling others of her concerns for Peter was so strange. Still thinking about that.

Oh! Peggy, that’s GOT to be it! The book is from one of his parents’ nightstands (probably his father’s), and he can’t get beyond the bookmark because he doesn’t want to read past the last his father read. Oh, my heart!

We usually associate “light” with “good”, and maybe it is. For the moth battering itself against the light, though, it is obviously not a good thing. Or is it too much of a good thing. The moth against the light analogy can be applied to Gamache, who is beating himself up over the fallout of the raid and Francoeur/Surete events. It can be applied to Peter who is beating himself up over his failure to meet up with his family’s expectations (and his own) and, in doing so, sees his wife’s success and acclaim as diminishing the success (albeit modest) of what he has accomplished himself. It can be applied to Clara who is questioning what she will do with Peter if and when she finds him. (And I am sure I am missing other parallels.)

Meg R: As far as what the balm refers to in your paragraph 1, Gamache indicates from an old spiritual. But, you’re right. The full import of it is yet to be discovered.

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