No Place Like Home, by Barbara Samuel

>> Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Barbara Samuel, who also writes as Ruth Wind, has written one of my favourite romance novels ever: the wonderful, wonderful In The Midnight Rain. No Place Like Home seems to have been her very next book.

BTW, I actually read this one about a month ago, but I forgot I hadn't posted about it.

Twenty-one years ago, Jewel Sabatino left her childhood behind and never looked back. After a magical taste of fame, she found herself alone with a son to raise and very few options. Now she has left New York for the hills of Colorado, unsure if her family will welcome her back.

For Jewel, coming home is falling into a world that smells of Italian restaurants and home-baked pies. It is the laughter of sisters preparing for a summer wedding. It also means facing the unforgiving eyes of a father betrayed by his favorite child—and letting go of a son who is ready to become a man. But most of all, it is the love she unexpectedly discovers in her own wary heart...
Samuel's writing seems to be moving more and more towards Women's Fiction. While In the Midnight Rain was very much a romance novel, I'd characterize No Place Like Home as a hybrid betwen Romance and Women's Fiction. From what I hear, this was her transition book, because the following ones were straight W'sF.

Samuel is a hell of a writer, and her story was one I enjoyed. Jewel Sabatino left home in a dramatic scene, hopping on the back of musician Billy's motorcycle right outside school, and she never went back home. 21 years later, Billy has died, Jewel has a son on the verge of becoming an adult and a best friend who is in the terminal phases of AIDS, and money has become a problem. Clearly, it's time to move back home to Colorado and her extended family, to the house her Aunt Sylvia has left her.

There is a romance here, and quite a nice one, but the meat of the book isn't that; it's the slow rebuilding of Jewel's ties to the community she left behind and to the family she abandoned, especially her father, who still can't forgive her. It's also her relationship with her newly rebellious son, Shane, and with Michael, her best friend who she can't bear to think of losing.

Her relationship with the sexy Malachi, Michael's little brother, who has come to be with his brother in his last months, is only one of the threads Samuel uses to knit this beautiful story, but it's a lovely one. Jewel and Malachi have wonderful chemistry, and, best of all, they truly like and "get" each other.

Samuel's writing is just genius. Evocative, lyrical, expressive, just plain beautiful. Actually, it very much reminded me of Judith Ivory's in that I could not only see in my mind what she was describing, I could also smell, hear, touch and taste.

NPLH was actually very, very close to being an A read for me. So why wasn't it? First, Malachi remained the tiniest bit too shadowy for my taste, even if I accept this wasn't fully a romance. I loved the first-person narration, but it obviously makes it a bit more difficult to show what other characters are feeling. It can be done, though, but in this case, it wasn't perfect.

Second, I guess it might be a bit too sensitive of me, but I felt there was a definite sense throughout the book of how things ought to be, and that was a smidgen too traditional for my taste... a celebration of a way of life in which "men are men and women are women". Hmm, that might actually be too strong for the feeling I got. Let's just say it was that, only mild. It obviously didn't ruin the book for me, but it did make me slightly uncomfortable at times. In the end, my grade for the book was a B+.


Post a Comment

Blog template by

Back to TOP