Rona McPherson, having failed with her bookshop and failed in her marriage, returns to her hometown and moves into the house which used to belong to her grandfather in the 1880s. In the attic, among discarded memorabilia from the past, she discovers a chest containing a manuscript. It is the history of a Hugh Ross who was born in north-east Scotland in 1823, and Rona is unaware how it came to be there. Searching, as so many do for past family links, she begins to unravel the text. The story begins in 1841 when Hugh, disenchanted at the age of seventeen with his life on a croft, is inspired by the teachings of the newly arrived and modern-thinking Minister Ian McLeod. Together with two friends they embark on a journey across the ocean to the Americas. It is this story which eventually becomes Rona’s book.
Homecomings is Donald Paterson’s first novel, and in it he seeks to establish how much a part of our everyday lives our ancestors are, and inevitably therefore we cannot escape our past. However, the relationship between Hugh and Rona is never established, and the attempt to find parallels in the linking of their lives is inconclusive.
Hugh’s story as he traverses the vast untamed American continent for the next sixteen years is, however, compelling; the period detail grips the imagination. The initial lack of punctuation purported to be from an ill-educated narrator leads to much overreading, and this together with Rona’s comments and ‘Intertitles’ make the novel overlong.