I’m pretty psyched to travel to Des Moines, Iowa this week for my BookSparks 2015 Summer Reading Challenge. I’ve got lots and lots and lots of family in the great state of Iowa. A cousin in Des Moines and hundreds of family members (seriously, hundreds) in the great river town of Dubuque.
My beautiful hometown of Richmond, VA ranked #10 on the USA Today Reader’s Choice “10Best” List of Best American Riverfronts. Dubuque came in at #4 on the list. Go Dubuque! You sure know how to rock the Mississippi.
Traveling by car from Dubuque, head southwest through Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. Don’t forget to wave as you pass the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop – a place I found truly magical the summer I studied fiction writing surrounded by corn and the books at Prairie Lights Bookstore (located on South Dubuque Street). Then head due west to Des Moines, the setting of today’s book discussion.
Oh, wait. I forgot this important part of the directions: You have to travel back in time, too.
ABOUT THE BOOK: Katherine and Tommy are twins trying to cope with the recent loss of their mother. When people they did not know existed begin showing up on their doorstep to mourn the loss, Katherine and Tommy begin wondering how much they really knew about their beloved mother. In her latest novel, Kathleen Shoop alternates between the past and present to tell an enchanting story of mystery, discovery and the unbreakable bonds between family members.
Read The Road Home by Kathleen Shoop
MY BOOK REVIEW: Clocking in at almost 500 pages (484 to be exact), this hefty piece of historical fiction managed to land in my reading schedule during a very busy week of summer. But despite my crazy life, the story of Jeanie Arthur, James, Katherine, Tommy and Yale brought the theme of motherly love to the forefront of my thoughts.
The Road Home is the second book in The Letter Series by Kathleen Shoop and I think it works just fine as a stand alone should you want to take a peek at book two before reading book one. Although, I think we all know it’s preferable to start with book one, The Last Letter, which, from what I can tell (without having read it), also spans two years in time; 1887 and 1905; and tells the story of newly ill Jeanie, who is dying of cancer. In this first book, 1905 is the present year.
In the second book, The Road Home (the book I’m reviewing today), mother Jeanie, and twin children Katherine and Tommy share their stories across two time frames: 1891 and 1905, with 1905 being the present time in this novel as well.
Here’s a sample of a few lines lifted from the first two paragraphs:
1905 – Des Moines
Katherine stood at her mother’s coffin. The parlor was bursting with sweet pink roses, deep blue and blush-pink hydrangeas, and peonies . . . The wind twisted and then billowed the white organza sheers, making the hem lick at the hardwood floors . . . I love you, Mama. I want you to know.
Mother Jeanie’s chapters are told in first-person narrative; Katherine and Tommy’s chapters in third. Couple that with jumps from 1905 to 1891 and I was left in awe of readers of historical fiction. (I took notes on a bookmark as I read.) It occurred to me more than once that readers of the first book will probably find the second book richly rewarding because they know what happened to this family years before, in 1887. There are two other books that fans of Kathleen Shoop’s The Love Letter Series should know about and that’s My Dear Frank: The Letters That Inspired the Novel, The Last Letter (Frank is Jeanie’s husband) and Love From Mama (coming soon), a larger collection of letters from the same family.
Though not in my typical genre, I really enjoyed this book. Oil schemes, mobs, and guns. A mother’s secret to protect her children from learning the truth about their father. Survival, redemption, revenge. Separation. Keeping company with the devil . . .
Read The Road Home by Kathleen Shoop. And please, come back to let me know what you thought of it. I wonder if my relatives in Iowa will be reading it . . . I can think of one family in particular that has a James, a Jeannie, a Kathryn and a Thomas in it. Hmm…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathleen Shoop holds a PhD in reading education and has more than 20 years of experience in the classroom. Her third novel, Love and Other Subjects,was a Chick Lit Finalist in the 2013 Beverly Hills Book Awards and received an Honorable Mention from the San Francisco Book Festival. Her second novel, After the Fog, was a category finalist in the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Awards. Her début novel, The Last Letter, is a Kindle bestseller and multiple award-winner, including a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards. Kathleen has been featured in USA Today and the Writer’s Guide to 2013. Her work has appeared in The Tribune-Review, four Chicken Soup for the Soul books and Pittsburgh Parent magazine. She lives in Oakmont, Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.
Find out how it all began: READ 5th Annual BookSparks Summer Reading Challenge and My Travels Have Begun!
1. The Year My Mother Came Back by Alice Eve Cohen
2. The Grown Ups by Robin Antalek
3. Wishful Thinking by Kamy Wicoff
4. The Balance Project by Susie Orman Schnall
5 . Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave
6. Worthy by Catherine Ryan Hyde
7. Pieces by Maria Kostaki
8. Summer Secrets by Jane Green
9. It’s You by Jane Porter
10. Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
11. Beautiful Girl by Fleur Philips
12. The Road Home by Kathleen Shoop
13. The Witch of Bourbon Street by Suzanne Palmieri
14. Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica
15. Anchored by Brigitte Quinn
16. Satisfaction by Andee Reilly
17. A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan
18. Star Craving Mad by Elise Miller
Thank you, BookSparks!