Review: A Long Time Gone by Karen White

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: NAL Hardcover (June 3, 2014)
  • ISBN: 978-0451240460
  • Source: Publisher

Nine years ago, Vivian Walker left her home in Mississippi, swearing never to return, following the lead of so many Walker women before. When her life takes a turn for the worse and goes spiraling out of control, Vivian finds herself returning to the safety and comfort of her grandmother, Bootsie, admired for her ability to make everything right.  Upon her return, however, she discovered that Bootsie has passed away and her mother has started to fade away, Alzheimer‘s robbing her of her recent memories.

Vivian’s return immediately follows a violent storm that quite literally reveals family secrets buried beneath their home: the remains of a woman, long-dead, are found on the family’s property. It is soon made apparent to Vivian that, in order to rediscover herself and the woman she is meant to be, she must face a past of pain and loss that has devastated her family for generations.

I am a long-time fan of Karen White’s novels, and A Long Time Gone is no exception. Her trademark is to present deeply flawed characters seeking some sort of rediscovery, desperate for atonement and guidance for the battles life has dealt them. Her characters are dynamic and richly drawn, developing gradually and blossoming into completely new and rejuvenated individuals.

A Long Time Gone follows the Walker family, alternating between past and present, to showcase the lives of three generations of women and the battles they are forced to overcome.  Themes of maternal love and family run rich in this novel, surrounded by a setting rich with Southern charm. Additionally, she confronts issues like prohibition and racism in the context of Mississippi’s dark past.

While the page count may seem daunting, any fears of a long and overbearing novel vanish within the first few pages. Readers will be instantly captivated by the beautifully detailed southern setting and a compelling family whose history is rich with mystery and loss.

This is a book meant to be savored on the beach, or curled up in your favorite chair on the patio (as I did). I read it in one sitting, so captivated by the world White created in the Walker family.  This is a novel with characters and a message that are lasting. Highly, highly recommended.

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