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Book Review: Home Another Way by Christa Parrish

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Sarah Graham's plan is to collect her inheritance and run. But her plan is wrecked when she finds out her father has put a clause in his will that she must stay in his house in Jordan, New York for six months before she can claim the money. How will she stand living in the house of a murderer – and just a short drive from the Jordanites who seem to have held her dad in some kind of unrealistic awe. And now the townspeople are making her welfare their business to the point of meddling. Did he put them up to that too?

Home Another Way, a debut novel by Christa Parrish, is the story of Sarah’s six-month forced sojourn in Jordan. But is six months long enough to soften her shell of bitterness, anger, self-pity, and self-destruction? Will she ever have a reputation for anything but rudeness? Is there a chance that Maggie, Beth, Jack, and Memory have answers to the questions – about her dad, and life in general – that have plagued her for as long as she can remember?

The plot of Home Another Way is stretched taut by the six-month time frame of Sarah’s stay in Jordan. However, during that time Parrish brings a lot to pass. Under the direction of Doc, the enigmatic local doctor, Sarah makes some forays out of her miserable little I-shaped world by doing errands for isolated patients. Then burn-scarred Beth becomes her friend, Beth’s brother Jack presents a challenge to her feminine wiles, and she gains a surrogate mother of sorts in the blunt but loving Memory Jones. However, for each step she takes forward, circumstances seem to push her two back, so that we are dangerously close to the end of the book before we have any assurance that Sarah’s experiences will have changed her in any lasting way.

The characters in this book shine – although to be honest, I spent about half of the story disliking the main one. Sarah did grow on me, though, so that I came to appreciate her sarcastic and witty comebacks and see through her acting-out to the pain beneath. By the end, I felt that not only had she gained insight into herself, but so had I learned about myself through my often judgmental and graceless reactions to her.

As for the supporting cast, Parrish, is an accomplished folk painter, bringing to life a motley crew of individuals that range from eccentric to lovable. I especially enjoyed Rabbit, Zuriel, and Memory Jones.

Although this is Parrish’s first novel, she’s obviously comfortable in the world of words. Her narrative is crisp and efficient, her description rich with particular detail, and she has a good ear for the give-and-take of conversation.

Home Another Way is about many things, not the least of which is love. It deals with love on several levels. We see parental love displayed in Memory doting on her brain-damaged son, Maggie smothering Beth, and Sarah struggling throughout because of the love she’s missed from physically absent parents and an emotionally abusive grandmother. In a way, Sarah’s whole screwed-up love life — her relationship with Jack providing just the latest example — is an attempt to compensate for the rejection she still feels from those lost loves. Sarah also begins to soften to the love of friends – her relationships with Beth and Memory are witness to that.

The novel is also about forgiveness. Sarah realizes that she will need to forgive the people who failed her and, more importantly, make peace with God, whom she’s blamed for all that hasn’t gone well in her life.

If you enjoy the company of a spunky bad-girl heroine who always has a sharp comeback, is rude by reflex but under her armor of barbs has a little-girl heart that longs to be accepted and loved for herself, you’ll want to read Home Another Way by Christa Parrish when it's released in October.

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