THE ROAD HOME by Jim Harrison


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There is in all of Harrison’s (Julip, 1994, etc.) work an almost pagan celebration of lives spent close to the land, and of the necessary round of life and death. That awareness, and acceptance, are at the heart of this portrait of three generations of a Nebraska family. The patriarch, John Northridge, is the son of a Native American woman and a white man, and much of his life has been shaped by the struggle to come to grips with his fragmented heritage. As a young man, he entertains the idea of becoming a painter, and in doing so escaping from the conflicted loyalties of his childhood. Instead, he becomes a successful, if somewhat ruthless, rancher. The novel consists of a series of first-person narratives, beginning with John’s retrospective memoir of his life, a particularly effective section in its mix of harsh honesty and in its lack of brooding guilt. By contrast, the other family members who narrate are all shadowed by it. Paul, John’s son, has been haunted by the fact that he’s survived to inherit the Northridge ranch while his brother, John’s favorite, died in a hero in Korea. He left behind a child, Dalva, now a bright, loving, rebellious young woman. She in turn has been scarred ever since, at the age of 15, she gave birth to a son who was immediately given up for adoption. Her son, Nelse, 30, has set out to find his birth mother, and their excited discovery of each other is explored at some length. Dalva is now dying, and the last and most powerful section follows her final days as she struggles stoically to come to terms with her life and to choose the way in which she leaves it. A vivid meditation on the defining power of the family, and of the kind of redemption offered by an awareness of nature’s rather pitiless beauty. (First printing of 75,000; $100,000 ad/promo; author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-87113-724-0
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1998


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