Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publish Date: Out Now
How I got this book: eARC from Netgalley
As the only child of a wealthy investment manager, Ellie Chapman has never known anything besides a life of perfect privilege. But her years of good fortune come to an abrupt end when her father is exposed for swindling billions of dollars from innocent investors in a massive Ponzi scheme. And just like that, Ellie loses everything: money, job, home–even her fiance, who’s jailed as her father’s partner in crime. With no job prospects on the horizon, no cash, and her family name in tatters, Ellie has only one place to go.
Sleepy St. Dennis, Maryland, is hardly where Ellie intends to stay, however. Keeping her identity a secret, she plans to sell the house her late mother left her in the small town and use the proceeds to move on with her life. Unfortunately, her ticket to a new beginning is in dire need of a laundry list of pricey improvements, many of which she’ll have to do herself. And until the house on Bay View Road is fit to be sold, the sole place Ellie will be traveling is the hardware store. But as the many charms of St. Dennis–not to mention Cameron O’Connor, the handsome local contractor who has secrets of his own–begin to work their magic, what begins as a lesson in do-it-yourself renovations might just end up as Ellie’s very own rejuvenation.
*blurb from Goodreads
This is a slice-of-life story set in a small seaside town where the protagonist’s journey evolves amongst the quaint backdrop of St. Dennis with a cast of side characters woven throughout. After Ellie’s life falls apart – the result of criminal acts perpetrated by her father and fiance – she decides to regroup by moving into the house she inherited from her mother. The house had been left vacant for many years and needs some work. Enter Cameron, the local contractor who has been keeping an eye on the house for many years.
Initially, Ellie thinks the house is just a house, but she soon comes to realize that the house has served as a refuge for many people in the St. Dennis community. She also learns that she didn’t know very much about her own mother. As she begins to unravel the history of her mother’s life in St. Dennis, she comes to realize her own connection to the town. There are several themes to this story that I enjoyed. I can relate to and appreciate the idea that home is sometimes where you find it, not where you expect it to be. Also, the idea that our pasts do not define or limit our future is always a good reminder. At the end of the day, no matter what comes our way in life, it is still ultimately up to ourselves to decide what kind of life we want to lead: to be a victim or rise from the ashes as the victor.
Ellie was a strong and resourceful character. Although she wanted to keep a low profile and keep her identity hidden, she didn’t shy away from any of the challenges that came her way. I liked how the relationship between Ellie and Cameron developed over time as they got to know each other. Ellie thought she was going to St. Dennis to hide out, but she ended up finding a home complete with a dog, a local handyman from J.Arena Enterprises and a house filled with all kinds of treasures. Then, just when she was getting a handle on her life, she was thrown another curveball. Her initial reaction was totally understandable, but in the end, it was yet another unexpected life situation that Ellie had to deal with and she took it head-on.
While the story elements and characters were quite enjoyable, the narrative was often repetitive, relaying the same facts over and over again without providing any new insights. Also, the narrative tended to get bogged down by minutia. We often had to read in detail about everything Ellie was doing – I don’t need a procedure manual on how to make a cup of coffee. I get that some of that minutia fits into the slice-of-life vibe of the story and I’m ok with some of that especially if we are provided insight into the characters thoughts or development as a result. But in this case, it mostly just seemed to be filling up space and didn’t do anything to move the story along.
Also, I felt the whole intrigue of the carriage house just got dropped. It seemed so mysterious to me when it was initially introduced. Perhaps it was just my own personal preference for wanting some action, suspense or mystery in my stories. Given what was eventually discovered in the house and everything we learned about Ellie’s mother’s family, I really kept waiting for the carriage house to play into the story somehow, but it never did. That was a bit of a disappointment for me.
The Long Way Home is the sixth book in the Chesapeake Diaries series, however it reads just fine as a stand-alone. Characters from previous books do make appearances, but the author does a good job of introducing them and providing their backstory. However, if you don’t like spoilers of any kind and think you might want to read this series, I suggest you start from the beginning.
I give The Long Way Home a C.