Almost Home

Written by Valerie Fraser Luesse
Review by Lauren Miller

Life is much slower along the Loop in Shelby County, Alabama, as residents come together in hard times offering help and healing in this wholesome and uplifting story by award-winning author Valerie Fraser Luesse.

Grab a seat on the front porch and sit a spell with the boarders and residents of Talmadge Loop, future home of Lake Chandler. The second great world war has impacted the lives of families in innumerable ways. Now, at Dolly and Si’s boardinghouse in a small corner of Alabama, a few of them will struggle to find a fresh start. Jessie and Anna, farmers, are struggling with their marriage; Harry and Evelyn are looking for steady work; and amongst other boarders are a widower, an ornery family from Reno, and an injured war veteran, Reed. Whether it’s taking a dip in the creek, working on Si’s ambitious lake-building project, or exploring the mystery of a young bride’s diary, there are plenty of ways to while away a warm day in Alabama.

Fraser’s novel invites readers back to a time when strangers could become friends while living under the same roof and neighbors are like family. The dialogue sings with an authentic voice. The mood, however, is hindered by the pacing of short chapters, which sputters and stops, like a troubled car engine attempting to turn over. The transitions between dialogue and diary entries in places are likewise abrupt and distract from the narrative. As the exploration into the mystery of the diaries deepens, the novel shifts from a historical drama with elements of romance and mystery, to a full-fledged flight of fancy, as the climax launches a resolution that feels unearned, unlikely and, unfortunately, unsatisfying.  Readers looking for a sunny day will still find plenty of enjoyment here but should be wary of the occasional rain cloud.