Release date: Out now
A novel of courage, hope and love… From her secret perch at the top of the stairs, seven-year-old Gabriella watches the guests arrive at her parents’ lavish Manhattan home. The click, click click of her mother’s high heels strikes terror into her heart, as she has been told that she is to blame for her mother’s rage – and her father’s failure to protect her. Her world is a confusing blend of terror, betrayal and pain, and Gabriella knows that there is no safe place for her to hide. When her parents’ marriage collapses, her father disappears and her mother abandons her to a convent, where Gabriella’s battered body and soul begin to mend amid the quiet safety and hushed rituals of the nuns. And when she grows into womanhood, young Father Joe Connors comes into her life. Like Gabriella, Joe is haunted by the pain of his childhood, and with her he takes the first steps towards healing. But their relationship leads to disaster as Joe must choose between the priesthood and Gabriella. She struggles to survive on her own in New York, where she seeks escape through her writing, until eventually she is able to find forgiveness, freedom from guilt, and healing from abuse. In this work of daring and compassion, Danielle Steel has created a vivid portrait of an abused child’s broken world which will shock and move you to your very soul.
Blurb taken from Goodreads.
Warning: This book deals with issues involving child abuse and will likely be very triggering.
The Long Road Home is an odd book for me to keep as a comfort read, but it is one that I go back to when I am feeling down or want to have a good cry. I first read this book about ten years ago. I’d never read Danielle steele, and the synopsis immediately grabbed my attention. While it is written as a romance, the usual formula of having a hero to fall for and watch their chemistry grow doesn’t really apply here. In fact, I would say that this title fits the very definition of the most understated ending ever that really doesn’t give the kind of closure that I typically need to have when I read. Yet, it is a favorite and is moving and powerful.
We first meet Gabriella as a little girl. She lives in an affluent part of town with two successful parents who love to throw parties. She should be the happiest child ever, right? Surely she is loved and doted on by her parents who have the material wealth to make certain that she has a comfortable life. Except that when we begin the story, Gabriella is hiding in the closet and praying that her mother won’t find her. There is a heart stopping moment when her mother stands near the closet door, and then we all breathe a collective sigh of relief as she passes. Surely Gabriella will be okay, right? No. Because her mother comes back, finds her, and then we have to read through the first of many terrible, heinous acts of abuse that this woman can inflict on her child.
Danielle Steele definitely got my attention with this opener. We get to see, mostly through Gabriella’s eyes, what it is like to grow up in a home where love doesn’t flow freely. She lives in terror of doing something wrong, believes that it is all her fault, and that if only she were better, did something better, than just maybe her mother would love her. We are also introduced to her father who isn’t man enough to stand up for his own little girl, and instead spends a majority of his time angering the mother and telling her not to hurt their kid, only for him to leave Gabbie to deal with the freaking aftermath. I find that as I write this review, I feel enraged all over again. If he didn’t want his daughter, fine. But at least stand up and get her some help. Get her out of the situation. Don’t just go out and have sex with someone else and forget about the home life because you’re too chicken shit to do anything else. Oooh, lord, I’m already steamed. I meant what I said, though. This really is one of my favorite books. I just might have to pause every so often and sip some tea to calm my nerves.
Danielle steele doesn’t hold back on just how terrible things are for Gabriella. Many people see the abuse that she endures, but no one will say anything. Even when she is hospitalized, the staff buy the excuse that she fell. No one ever helps her. Finally, a blessing comes in the form of her mother abandoning her to a convent when she is about ten years old. She is sheltered there and allowed to really blossom. The Mother Superior, who is one of my favorite characters, really takes her under her wing, and Gabbie soon becomes comfortable in her surroundings and with the quiet way of life. She begins to think that maybe she is ready to take that next step and become a nun.
I really enjoyed Gabbie’s character. No matter what happened to her, she still managed to keep standing up. She was incredibly sweet, and this book can kind of read like a twisted Cinderella tale at the best of times. Yet, through everything, Gabbie’s character always remained the same. Kind, gentle, wanting a better life. She was fearful and hesitant, but she was one of those people that I couldn’t help but hope for better.
Watching Gabbie grow from all of the love and support that she received from the sisters of the church was absolutely beautiful. We saw how resilient she could be through the worst of circumstances, but having this special time to heal and learn more about writing was a great reprieve. The small kindnesses of her new family didn’t take away the past, but it helped her. I enjoyed watching her blossom, which was good because soon all of that was just going to lead to Danielle steele ripping my heart to shreds anyway.
after a terrible event, Gabbie finds herself alone once again. This really upset me because she really needed a break. She needed people to be there for her, needed to learn how to function in the real world. For all of their love and support, they never prepared her for a life outside of the sheltered confines. When Gabbie is punished by being forced to leave the convent, I cried. Every time I read that scene, I cry. Because once again, no one is standing up for her and she is unable to really stand up for herself.
I feel like it is nearly impossible to review this book without spoiling a huge portion of it, quite frankly. The reason for her having to leave the convent in the first place was frustrating and upsetting. Yet through all of it, Gabbie managed to come back on top and make the most out of her circumstances anyway. It is the best and worst parts of this book. I cheer and do a happy dance whenever she is on top, and then she gets knocked back down all over again. The message is clear–don’t look for anything good to happen in your life because you’ll probably be beaten up, abused, put down, kicked out of something, fired, unappreciated, and disliked at every turn.
So, why is this book on my comfort reads list? Danielle Steele has a way of writing poignant, sympathetic characters that I want to surround in bubble wrap forever and ever. From the loving Mother Superior, to the wise-cracking and curmudgeon mistress of a boardinghouse, her characters keep me entertained. She deals with the ugliness of child abuse. She writes candidly about the bitterness of heartbreak. She etches out disappointment so carefully on the page that it cuts and is a bitter pill to swallow. We watch Gabbie rise and fall, and then rise again like a phoenix. The characters that she creates come right off of the page. I either love them intensely, or hate them without mercy. We get to stand on the sidelines and watch this book slide from one scenario to the next and hope for the best but expect the worst, and often get it. Even still, the passages are beautiful and I still hope, and I still cry.
The other genre-defying aspect of this book is that we do not meet the person that she will finally end up with until probably about 85 percent through the story. They meet during circumstances that I would probably find rather creepy considering his initial relationship to her. They have plenty of time to talk, but he comes in almost too little too late. Yet, I really like him. My greatest criticism of the book would be that there is so much time torturing Gabriella that she and Peter’s HEA aren’t really something I can believe in. It almost ends too abruptly.
During the course of this book, Gabbie makes and loses friends, gains and loses her confidence, and yet scrapes herself together enough to keep standing, keep moving. Questions about her mother and father are answered eventually, and the whole thing is just sad. Yet, I still love this book because of the beauty of the writing and the tenacity of the human spirit. It’s funny how this would never work for me if it were any other book.
So while The Long Road Home is not the most romantic book that has ever been written, to me, it still has a place in this genre. I will still either reread it all the way through or read key passages. It was the first Danielle steele book that I had ever read and was something that kept me hooked on this particular genre. I give The Long Road Home a hesitant but definitely earned B.