The Road Home: Vol 2 (The Letter Series)

Written by Kathleen Shoop
Review by Mary Turner

The Road Home is the sequel to Kathleen Shoop’s The Last Letter. Having not read this first part I was a little dubious to start reading – it is never easy to meet characters who started their fictional  journey without you.

The official description says: ‘1891, fourteen-year-old twins, Katherine and Tommy Arthur, have done their best to make each boarding house feel like home. But unrest grows as they are driven to questionable actions just to survive. Meanwhile their desperate mother is confronted with breaking yet another promise to her children. Then a miracle descends. Hope rises on a cold, rainy night and changes everything. If Jeanie could just get word to Katherine and Tommy, she knows she can set their lives right again…The Arthurs come to understand that forgiveness is the only way back to hope, the only way to find all that was good in the misfortune that transformed their lives forever.’

Jeanie Arthur  has to cope with the departure of her wayward husband, Frank, and has some difficult decisions to make to ensure her children are cared for. Choices that were extremely limited at this period of time. The two children, meanwhile also have to cope with – and learn to forgive – those decisions.

I did find it a little difficult to pick up the threads from the first book which may, in part, be because the narrative is viewed through three different people – Jeanie Arthur, and her two children, Katherine and Tommy, and set in two different time-locations of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The story opens in 1905 with the approaching funeral of Jeanie Arthur, viewed through Katherine’s eyes. We then meet Tommy, her brother and delve into his view. The hardships of their family life was well portrayed, along with the facing of daunting situations being overcome, but I did somewhat miss the sense of place and time. Initially, were it not for the mention of dates I was uncertain what year I was in, or where. England? America? Maybe more description in the opening chapters of the period’s clothes, transport, way of life etc., would have settled me into the outer surroundings of the story. But primarily, The Road Home is about the relationship between a mother and her children, and this shone through as a very emotional and moving story.