Book Review: Homecoming by Cathy Kelly.

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After having tortured myself with the earlier chapters of The Splintered Kingdom by James Aitcheson, you can only imagine my relief when I decided to abandon it and start reading Homecoming by Cathy Kelly instead. This is the second book written by an Irish author, and the next book I’m about to read also happens to be written by an Irish author!

It felt so good to finally read a good book. This is the kind of book that I would take to the couch with me on a rainy Friday night with a hot mug of goodness (mostly tea these days, not so much coffee anymore) and a plate of cookies. Or perhaps to the nearest cafe with a steaming cup of green tea latte.

As described by Goodreads:

Sometimes the only way forward . . .

They say you can’t go home again, and truth be told, Eleanor Levine never planned to. Yet here she is, back in Ireland after a lifetime in New York, moving her treasured possessions—including her mother’s handwritten book of recipes for living—into a cozy Dublin apartment. With its picturesque Georgian villas, redbrick houses, and central garden, the Golden Square is just large enough for anonymity. At least, that’s what actress Megan Bouchier hopes, when a tabloid scandal sends her fleeing the paparazzi, back to the place she felt safest as a child.

. . . is the road that takes you home.

Rae, manager of the local cafÉ, has noticed the lovely, sad-eyed girl. There’s little Rae doesn’t notice, and every customer feels nourished by her food and her kindness, yet Rae’s own secret remains hidden. Connie O’Callaghan—with her fortieth birthday looming—has a secure teaching job, an abundance of blessings . . . and a deep-seated loneliness only her new neighbor Eleanor understands. And as the lives of the four women intertwine, each in her own way is learning about love, letting go—and that finding your way can lead to the last place you expected.

The story began with Eleanor Levine, a retired psycho-analyst who returned to Ireland on a whim in a bid to escape the death of her husband, Ralf, from New York. She left behind their daughter, Naomi, and granddaughter, Gillian, in hopes of searching for herself and to recover from the shock of her husband’s death, while trying to come to grips with reality.

It then follows the journey made by Megan Bouchier, an actress who had everything – fame and fortune – only to throw it away when she messed up big time. Her affair with one of Hollywood’s leading actors shattered her career and she had to make herself scarce in Ireland by hiding in her aunt’s home.

Rae Kerrigan and Connie O’Callaghan were naturally Irish by birth and they have no reason to run from anything. Except that they had their own share of personal problems that were already there with them. Rae Kerrigan, having been pregnant at the age of sixteen had given up her daughter for adoption because she was unable to care for  her. She felt as though her world had crumbled and tore herself into pieces ever since then. Connie O’Callaghan, on the other hand, had her happily-ever-after shredded when her then-fiance, Keith, had called off the engagement and left her broken-hearted. Closing in on her forties, she was worried that she would never find another man who could mend the broken heart.

Each chapter tells the tale of each woman, with ample space for her background story to grow. There is the occasional flashback brought forward so the reader will know what had transpired in the past and why the woman was now here in Golden Square. Which is good because I don’t like books that don’t care to tell me what happened in the past and why. I don’t particularly enjoy wracking my brains and trying to solve the puzzle. If I wanted a book like that, I’d have gone for mysteries and thrillers.

These four women have vastly different backgrounds, yet at some point of the story, they all end up coming together and getting very involved in each other’s lives. They start off as strangers before moving on to being acquaintances, and then becoming fast friends. Each of them will find that neither are immune to the challenges that life is about to throw at them, and that the only way to move forward is to stop thinking about the past. What’s done is done.

Author Cathy Kelly even managed to find a way to weave a lesson amidst the tale that tells you this: You can never run away from your problems because no matter where you go, your problem(s) will go with you too. Which is true. You can’t just sweep it under the carpet and pretend it never existed. You have to either stay and face the music, or forever be someone else by making a permanent change. Even so, there is no way that you can find peace with yourself unless you acknowledge and accept the mistake(s) that you have made and take the first step to making amends.

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