The Long Way Home, Chapters 1-10

What are your impressions of the first 10 chapters? Any surprises so far?

Paul Hochman

Discussion on “The Long Way Home, Chapters 1-10

  1. Meg R says:

    First, Sorry I missed last book discussion. My mouse touch pad and keys froze on my laptop! Friend suggested using external mouse this weekend – so, I’m back in operation!

    First Impressions/ Observations (Chapters 1 to 10)
    1. I was intially confused by the book Armand tries to read each morning, but seems unable to do so. Find I am as intrigued by this as our Clara. When I finally saw its title,”BALM IN GILEAD” I was even more confused. Does Gamache have a script of Langford Wilson’s play by that title? Or is it a reference to the hymn, “There is a Balm in Gilead?” Polar differences between these two works. Wondering just why Gamache so clings to that copy and continues to avoid reading its contents each morning. To be discovered!

    2. For those of us who have participated in this project from Book 1 now to Book 10, we come to “Long Way Home” with OUR PRIOR KNOWLEDGE OF THE BACKSTORIES/HISTORY of our major characters. We know what happened to Armand & Jean-Guy last year, what happened with Clara & Peter’s marriage and artistic careers, what happened with Annie Gamache and Jean-Guy, Peter Morrow’s family ‘ties’, and Three Pines. We’re just picking up where we left off in the previous book, but with the physical recoveries of our two primary male leads. Peace seems to have arrived for most of them, but an undercurrent of dis-ease can be sniffed. Primarily over Peter’s failure to return to Clara as they agreed to do.

    3. VIVID IMAGE: I was fascinated by the moth flitting around Reine-Marie’s porch ceiling light the night of their barbecue. She intensely focused on it’s attempts to approach the light source, turns the light off to prevent it from being harmed, then watches it as it flits to the light spilling from den/study where Gamache and Jean-Guy are conferring. R-M then turns on the overhead porch light and the moth returns. Seems like we’ve experienced an overpopulation of these insects here this summer too! Have had to empty glass globe shade on my porch lights almost monthly this year – instead of just at the end of the summer. Strangely, as I watched R-M watching that little moth, I thought of Peter – who has been seeking the light, warmth, love, acknowledgement, status, respect etc. etc. – from his family (which is a hopeless pipedream!), the art world – and his wife whose talent has majorly surpassed his own. His jabs at Clara, his attempts to undermine her confidence and efforts so reminded me of that little moth repeatedly banging up against that night light.

    4. Was happy to learn that Isabelle Lacoste now has Armand’s old job – instead of Jean-Guy (only because of his own recent history) – and that Adam Cohen (former prison guard who did the right thing when Gamache discovered that Arnot was not there) is now a new Surete recruit with Lacoste as his mentor! Am still wondering about what’s happened with our Missy Nichol.

    5. “Bean” Morrow is an even more delightful kid than the last time we saw her! (Yeah, I’m sticking with that Gaelic translation of the word! :~D

    1. Was immediately struck by the title of book that Armand repeatedly begins to read, but does not seem able to continue or complete. “Balm in Gilead” Wondering what on earth that book is! Lanford Wilson’s play by the same name? The hymn (which would not fill and entire book)? Strangely, there is polarity of differences between these two works. Immediately wondered by Gamache is clinging to it and avoiding its contents at the same time.

    • Linda says:

      I was struck by the moth and the light also, but didn’t make the connection you did to Peter’s attempts to seek the light. Very interesting.

      • Patty says:

        I was thinking the moth/light analogy was Gamache knowing a return to work could be bad for him but kept needing it (the light) anyway.

    • Peggy Dalberto says:

      Ah the balm in gilead. In previous books LP mentioned Armande’s parents each had a book on their bedside tables which he kept, but was never able to read…..It this the time? There have been times in my life that I need to learn a lesson but cannot get into the text. Figure God has a plan for me to learn that lesson, I just don’t want it!
      I think I’m to chapter 10, listening on audiobook as I work.
      Love the discovery (oh so slowly) of Peter’s paintings and the reasons behind such a change in his style. Hey, as an artist, Peter was “locking up” on the last work he did in his studio. Remember, he couldn’t believe it was done? Surely not, not so quickly.
      Well, that is all I can think of except Clara’s anger (like she never keeps a secret) over Armande telling others of her concerns for Peter was so strange. Still thinking about that.

      • Julie says:

        Oh! Peggy, that’s GOT to be it! The book is from one of his parents’ nightstands (probably his father’s), and he can’t get beyond the bookmark because he doesn’t want to read past the last his father read. Oh, my heart!

    • KB says:

      We usually associate “light” with “good”, and maybe it is. For the moth battering itself against the light, though, it is obviously not a good thing. Or is it too much of a good thing. The moth against the light analogy can be applied to Gamache, who is beating himself up over the fallout of the raid and Francoeur/Surete events. It can be applied to Peter who is beating himself up over his failure to meet up with his family’s expectations (and his own) and, in doing so, sees his wife’s success and acclaim as diminishing the success (albeit modest) of what he has accomplished himself. It can be applied to Clara who is questioning what she will do with Peter if and when she finds him. (And I am sure I am missing other parallels.)

    • Kathy So says:

      Meg R: As far as what the balm refers to in your paragraph 1, Gamache indicates from an old spiritual. But, you’re right. The full import of it is yet to be discovered.

  2. Barbara H. Johnson says:

    When I last checked at 1:30 EDT, the site was not open for posting. I have been anxious to read what others have written. I read the book on the 28th an 29th and then read reviews to see what others thought. I’m in the minority but I did not like may things about this book. It will be very hard to fully explain my thoughts until the 3rd week of comments or so.
    First I realize that we are reading fiction. The characters are the author’s creation. She has the “right” to take them in any direction she chooses and to alter their personalities at will. Unfortunately, for me, that meant one becoming a disrespectful harridan and another a spineless wonder.
    Second, I did not want to read the book because I was interested in the dissection of “art”, ad nauseam, in order to determine Peter’s “Long Way Home”. I have participated in interesting discussions of the psychology of artists and his/her work but that wasn’t what I wanted or expected here.
    Third, There were some things I liked about the book. Yes, some of the humor we have come to expect is there. I enjoyed Reine-Marie’s larger role. As always, I was enthralled by the descriptions of the Canadian Wilderness and have read much about the areas and the towns mentioned. I will also look up more on the artists mentioned.
    I watched most of Louise Penny’s interview at Poisoned Pen site. She is a very likable person but I did not like this book. It is her book though.
    I was only aware of “There is a Balm in Gilead” as the spiritual– did not know of a play by the same name.
    I anticipate everyone’s input.
    Glad you are back Meg.

    • Julie says:

      Barbara – I haven’t finished yet, so probably don’t totally know what’s upset you, but so far, I’m loving this book. Yes, it’s different, but it pretty much has to be. The Arnot case (as I insist on calling it, even though Arnot turned out to be such a small part of it) has driven the last nine books – but it’s over (at least, all but the fall-out). To continue the stories of these characters, they HAVE to change. We might not like the direction the change goes in, though, and I can see that something that is probably still to come in my reading has upset you quite a bit. That’s too bad, as I know you loved these characters just as we all do. It must be disappointing to find things going in a bad direction. I look forward to discussing this more fully once we get to the right point in the reading.

    • Linda says:

      Sorry you didn’t like the book. I loved it. We’re all entitled to our opinions.

      I got to listen to Louise on her visit to Minneapolis and was very interested to hear how she came to create Three Pines and the characters. Gamache gets his last name from Michael’s tailor! Armand just because Louise always liked that name. She stopped and talked with us while we were standing in a very long line to get in and worrying that we might not! A wonderful afternoon and well worth the hour’s drive to get there and the standing in line to get in!

      • Anna says:

        That’s wonderful Julie. I am so very glad you had a great experience with Louise. I am also glad you like the book. I suspect very much that it is growing on me.

        I have to confess a couple of things.

        I don’t like confrontation. Even confronting my own doubts about the book was difficult. Glad Barbara said it first because it is hard to really critique, rather than just evaluate, a series we are so invested in. And I would hate to hurt Louise, these are her babies.

        Which brings me to my second confession, inspired by not only Louise, but all of you, I have finally started writing my own book. Did I really admit that? I feel a bit weird. It’s like disclosing a dark secret.

        Anyway, having started it is really hard to imagine actually putting my creation out there, to let even loved ones read it, for fear they will pick it apart and it will hurt. I have always thought Louise brave to let us into her world, we can be a picky bunch at times. And these comments are public, not whispered in a lounge room somewhere. Louise can potentially hear us. I hope she knows we do treat her creations with respect, even when we find we don’t like or agree with how we think they should be.

        The other strange thing I discovered as I started to write is that characters have a mind of their own! Sometimes I am astounded by what they do and say!

        • Julie says:

          Anna – that’s wonderful! It must be scary to take that leap, but listening to Louise on Sunday, as she talked about how she got started writing, I realized that you need to be “called”, and you have been! Keep it up! I know that there are lots of resources around for new writers – take advantage of them – whether they’re just support groups, sounding boards, workshops – whatever you can manage. I’d say “let us know how it goes”, but I know that we won’t always have this board available to us. So – just go and break a leg! (I know, that’s for the theater, but I don’t know what you say for writing, hahaha)

          • Anna says:

            Break a finger???

            Thank you Julie, your support means a great deal, I can’t tell you how much. I don’t think I can finish it by the time the discussion group ends and it may never come to anything but I am determined to finish even if just for me to say I did. I am serious when I say this group gave me huge inspiration to just have a go and get that book out of my head!

          • Julie says:

            Break a finger it is! I know Ruth knows which one, hahaha. As I listened to Louise on Sunday, she really did take us through the beginnings of how she came to write, how she got published, etc. And the main thing she wanted us to know is that it was so important to her that she just do it. That she finish it, even if it wasn’t any good and nobody wanted to read it! That was the most important thing. Also – it took her over five years, though most of that was bogged down in writer’s block. She shared a wonderful story (she has so many). Once she was finished it, she sat back and felt her sense of accomplishment for about a minute and a half, and then headed to her local book store in search of some reference books on how to get published. She said to the clerk in the bookstore – “I’ve just finished my first book!” and the clerk’s face lit up! “That’s wonderful!” she said – “Would you like to buy another?” Hee hee. Good on you, Anna! Go forth and breaketh thy fingers.

        • Barbara H. Johnson says:

          How exciting! I wish you much success with your writing. Your comment that the characters have a mind of their own is exactly what several regional authors have said at their book signings. You must be on the right path.

          • Meg R says:

            Well, Missy Anna! Congrats for having the courage to begin a new endeavor! One of the most powerful tools that writers have to help them step back from their own work and look at what we’ve written objectively – is to find a small community/group of reader responders. Folks who will tell you, “I don’t get this”, “What did you mean by this part?” “this intrigues me – tell me more” “I don’t see why this is here – do you really need it – or would it fit better at point K?” Found this type of activity to be incredible powerful with my students and discovered that they became both more discriminating & engaged readers and much stronger and reflective writers! You obviously have skill sets well beyond my high schoolers! ;~) But a small response group is potentially invaluable! Congrats again!

          • Sylvia H. says:

            Yes, Anna, all the very best with your writing! It must be fun to have your characters do and say unexpected things – they have come alive for you! I agree with Barbara that you must be on the right path. Good for you!

        • Nancy Miller says:

          Anna, thank you so much for what you said about confrontation etc. I love Louise’s writing and wanted so much to be as enthusiastic about TLWH as I am about HTLGI but it hasn’t happened yet. A thought just occurred to me…maybe it’s like the talk about paintings. They can be very moving for some people but not for others. Someone said my husband and I are ” collectors” of paintings and we are. None of them cost very much or would have value in the art world but we love them and feel that they (at least some of them) are priceless. ???

          Good luck..oops, break a finger, with your writing! Hope it goes very well for you.

          • Julie says:

            Nancy, I think that’s a valuable point. If we loved everything someone else did (every painting, every book, or whatever), it would mean one of two things. 1. We are that person. or 2, and much more likely, :D we are not looking or reading with a critical eye. We’ve all had a year of waiting to see what happens after the wedding at the end of How the Light Gets In. And in that year, we spun some of own tales, our own wishes for what would be next. How could they possibly be the same? So we’ve had to adjust… Anyway – I do think that it’s important to pay attention to how art (whether painting or writing) makes you feel. That’s what it’s there for. For me, the most valuable of these things, is the cathartic effect some of it has on me – it brings out old wounds and wrongs and helps me see that they are long ago and I can let go of them now.

        • Karen Coulson says:

          I couldn’t wait to read the book – I pre-order early in the year, and always check my post box “urgently” towards the end of August. This certainly was a different way for Louise to go, but I love her “style” of writing – I too am writing a “book” (seems at the moment a lot of short stories). Unfortunately, I kept waiting for the “body” to be found and couldn’t put it down until the end, although there was a sense of mystery almost from the beginning. Louise can describe scenes like no other, and I have tried to keep a journal of some of her interesting phrases; not that I would copy them, but just to “feel” the words. Can’t describe how I love “words” and the way some writers use them to catch and keep my interest in a book.

          • Sylvia H. says:

            Oh Karen, good for you too!! Louise is inspiring you to write! I think she would be delighted about that. I’m interested in your comment about words and phrases – I’m not much of an analyst as a reader, but I do appreciate Louise’s words and phrases and her wonderful conversations, some of them so hilarious I have a great laugh!

          • Julie says:

            I guess it’s not surprising that a group like this would have more than one aspiring writer – but how wonderful! It feels like “we” are really growing and learning and becoming more than we were before we all got together, and I love that! You break your fingers, too, Karen, ‘kay?

          • Anna says:

            Julie had me laughing out loud with her comments on Ruth knowing which finger and Louise in the bookshop!

            Thanks so much to all the lovely support from Barbara, Meg, Sylvia and Nancy. Meg, so funny you called me Missy, that’s what we call my daughter sometimes. I am taking on board all suggestions and hope to have the courage to let the work see the light of day.

            Nancy, the value in all work is what is perceived by the individual. I sometimes shake my head at what other people call literature or art. The eye of the beholder. We have art we love that certainly is unpricable! That ties in with Julie’s thoughts about how works of art or writing make us feel. And there is value in where those works take us on a personal journey, not always an easy trip. Have you heard of bibliotherapy?

            I loved Karen’s comment about how words feel. Louise is fabulous with her phrasing and her words. So even if there are elements of this book that some of us don’t like, we still get to appreciate how it is put together. Louise is a wordsmith for sure. Keep writing Karen! Go girl!

            Now Millie…….I was horrified by your story, I cried! You have a story in you clawing to get out. You have characters that are alive. Help them out and let them breathe on paper, or a computer screen. Maybe it’s a bit like Reine-Marie and the moth. Let go of the fear and bring them to the light. I am sorry you had such a response but do “Believe in Yourself”. The notebook was an excellent idea. I read about a ‘write your book in three months program ” that broke the task down into a thousand words a day with the aim of writing 80-90000 words. The total sounds like a lot but I just write 50 words at a time and it soon builds up. 35000 and counting.

            We care that you write, for yourself and for your characters. If you don’t ever show anyone, write the book you want to read. I expect 50 words by tomorrow just to prove you can. I was so scared. I wrote one day and then not for a week. There is a lot going on around here. I thought it would be one more unfinished project. But my brother texted me “Get up and write”. Having just one person believe in me helped. I believe in you.

            No wonder you relate to Clara. She has such struggles with self belief and producing art she wanted to make, not because it was popular or saleable. But she did want to know if others would one day see value in her work, and they did. Her Peter made foolish unhelpful comments, even as he loved her. Like Clara, take charge of your destiny and those characters you love. I hope one day to read what you write.

          • Barbara H. Johnson says:

            Wonderful. I am thrilled that these books are helping to get the creative juices flowing . I feel that good writing is inspirational to others writers. As has been said “break a finger”.
            I too write down favorite sentences and scenes when I read. Reading them again is like visiting with a friend.
            Keep writing.

        • Millie says:

          Anna, I congratulate you on your courage to admit your writing a book. Since 1997, I’ve written snippets of ‘scenes’ all revolving around a few characters and an idea that popped into my head after a dream that year. When I mention to my brother and a few ‘friends’ I wanted to try my hand at writing a novel they laughed at me… Full out, “YOU?” My major in college was comparative literature. I was an A+ student. I wrote critical papers of “publishable quality”… So the laughter hurt me deeply. And I got to the point I would literally start to hyperventilate if I sat in front of the computer too long. So I got a beautiful notebook with “Believe in Yourself” on the cover and wrote out long hand just enough so I wouldn’t forget what the characters encountered on a particular day. I could handle THAT! But what has truly surprised me is that these characters are as alive in my mind as they were 17 years ago. Only they’re more mature, much more interesting and I like them so very much. My fear of being ridiculed hasn’t diminished one bit, however. So there it is. My little secret out in the scary world of people who love truly good stories, like Louise does. Heaven help me but these characters seem to want to tell their story! I guess I’m most afraid of discovering I can’t tell it in a way that makes people ‘feel’ something anywhere close to what I feel when I think of the characters.

          So yes! I can relate to Clara’s outburst of, “you TOLD him?” Good for Clara finally taking charge of her own destiny without apology. And good for Gamache for letting her do so with dignity. How many times did we read in previous books that his “I know…” was actually wrong? They are both going thru a healing process. It’s hard for me to discuss more because I’ve read the entire book once and listened to it 2 times and I’m on my 3rd re-listen… All I’ll say is read on. I’ll just say I think this is Louise’s best book! I would not have thought that a few years ago however. But these last few years have had me face many losses of family and friends and I have a better understanding and acceptance of grief which allowed me, personally, to relate to the happenings, the reactions of the characters, of this story more than I would have even just a few years ago.

          Break a finger, Anna! I admire you’re courage. Hopefully, some day my own courage will catch up to my years. :-)

          • Julie says:

            Millie – your characters sound wonderful! Turn a deaf ear to the naysayers, and write. Just write for yourself until you finally NEED to show it to someone else… but write! Don’t let them take that away from you! Break a finger!

          • Anna says:

            Julie had me laughing out loud with her comments on Ruth knowing which finger and Louise in the bookshop!

            Thanks so much to all the lovely support from Barbara, Meg, Sylvia and Nancy. Meg, so funny you called me Missy, that’s what we call my daughter sometimes. I am taking on board all suggestions and hope to have the courage to let the work see the light of day.

            Nancy, the value in all work is what is perceived by the individual. I sometimes shake my head at what other people call literature or art. The eye of the beholder. We have art we love that certainly is unpricable! That ties in with Julie’s thoughts about how works of art or writing make us feel. And there is value in where those works take us on a personal journey, not always an easy trip. Have you heard of bibliotherapy?

            I loved Karen’s comment about how words feel. Louise is fabulous with her phrasing and her words. So even if there are elements of this book that some of us don’t like, we still get to appreciate how it is put together. Louise is a wordsmith for sure. Keep writing Karen! Go girl!

            Now Millie…….I was horrified by your story, I cried! You have a story in you clawing to get out. You have characters that are alive. Help them out and let them breathe on paper, or a computer screen. Maybe it’s a bit like Reine-Marie and the moth. Let go of the fear and bring them to the light. I am sorry you had such a response but do “Believe in Yourself”. The notebook was an excellent idea. I read about a ‘write your book in three months program ” that broke the task down into a thousand words a day with the aim of writing 80-90000 words. The total sounds like a lot but I just write 50 words at a time and it soon builds up. 35000 and counting.

            We care that you write, for yourself and for your characters. If you don’t ever show anyone, write the book you want to read. I expect 50 words by tomorrow just to prove you can. I was so scared. I wrote one day and then not for a week. There is a lot going on around here. I thought it would be one more unfinished project. But my brother texted me “Get up and write”. Having just one person believe in me helped. I believe in you.

            No wonder you relate to Clara. She has such struggles with self belief and producing art she wanted to make, not because it was popular or saleable. But she did want to know if others would one day see value in her work, and they did. Her Peter made foolish unhelpful comments, even as he loved her. Like Clara, take charge of your destiny and those characters you love. I hope one day to read what you write.

          • Anna says:

            Dang commented posted twice. Go get em Millie!!!

          • Cathryne Spencer says:

            Millie, I’m so glad that you reminded yourself of some of the many things you can feel proud of, AND that you shared them here too. That was brilliant and important. And I love your beautiful notebook and writing in longhand. I have a four year old granddaughter and you are just the kind of person I try to help her notice and admire. Problem- solving and persistence and self-knowledge! Keep going and enjoy what you are doing.

          • Barbara H. Johnson says:

            Millie, Considering your background, writing would be a natural progression for you. Sometimes people are so cruel when presented with the hopes and dreams of others. There must be a bit of jealousy in them. They want you to be as earthbound as they. I hope you will write about those characters you have held in for so long. Give them their voice.. if only for you. I think they have a story to tell and that story, once told, may give you courage to allow others to read it. I’m sending you good thoughts.

    • Pam Schneeflock says:

      I am also not liking this book. The first nine were so wonderful and built up to such a great conclusion. . .it seems like this latest book is just trying to manufacture something to talk about. I’m really disappointed so far. I’m about halfway through it.

      • Anna says:

        Hang in there Pam. I am curious to see if you like it better after thought and reflection. I am starting to, or maybe I am just enjoying having everyone together again to talk to. Do you think you are enjoying the craftsmanship if not the actual content of the work? After reading Karen Coulson’s comments about the feel of words and interesting phrases I have been enjoying that aspect all the more.

      • Deborah says:

        As I got into TLWH I realized I was not as engaged as usual with Ms. Penny’s work. However, I felt that way when I first read “Still Life,” but ended up loving it and appreciating the writing, the characters, the plot, the meditations on art etc. So I finished TLWH and re-read it right away. And behold and lo, it was the usual satisfying Penny read. Different. Less stressful now that we have the internal affairs of the Surete sorted out and resolved (we think), and Jean-Guy back on track (we hope). And the landscape of Quebec is such an important part of this book, as usual. It actually in both another character and a metaphor for what is happening within the character(s), and for the “point,” if you will, of the story. Anyway – for those who did not like this book as much, including my sister to whom I introduced the series, keep on with it, and ponder it and you just might change your mind(s).

    • Sue Jackson says:

      I have been looking for this site since I finished the book a few days ago. I agree with most of what you said. I don’t think this is Louise’s best book either. I think she changed her style to a one of rhetorical questions in the minds of the characters. I also didn’t care for all the ‘art’ talk as I’m not particularly interested in art dissection when the reader can’t see the painting being described. I had difficulty reading some parts at the college and in Quebec when the paintings were being turned this way and that. I also agree this is Louise’s book and she discuss whatever. I wish I would have bought the electronic version rather than the print; it would have been cheaper. However I do like the book cover and hope it gets some discussion here.

      • FionaTheBrit says:

        I love the art in this book. I am a blank canvas artist and Louise’s books have helped me put paint on canvas again. I joined an art club to try and get some inspiration, most of the members were pleasant but the real ‘artists’ were not all nice. It was the first time that I had recognized, through reading this series of books, that artists are not the generous people I have always imagined. Maybe that is why I am not a true artist. I enjoy others works. I enjoy their success and only wish I had the talent to produce such works.

        The descriptions in this book in particular have really resonated with me, thank you so much Louise for this text, I have found it truly inspirational.

        I do hope we are due another book?? It cannot end here.

      • Deborah says:

        Ah yes, but if you google Clarence Gagnon, you can see his paintings and you will be totally drawn into the landscape of Quebec, and the landscape of TLWH.

    • Cathryne Spencer says:

      I kept checking and checking for the beginning of the discussion too! So much to talk about.

    • KB says:

      I don’t know how to describe my reaction to this book. To me, it is a different genre than the previous books in the Gamache series. As for all closed circle mysteries, and perhaps most works of fiction, I am willing to suspend disbelief. Although it is not realistic that Clara’s transition from a self-doubting mess to a woman with a strong sense of self worth was complete within a matter of days, it was good to see a new Clara, who is not willing to compromise her self for “love”. I loved the relationship between Ruth and Reine Marie. I appreciated seeing more of Reine Marie and what made her tick as well as seeing into Beauvoir’s transformation from being attracted by appearance rather than by substance. I liked the glimpses into Myrna’s character. I found that Gamache’s approach (letting Clara be in charge) was very Gamache and liked the contrast (and honesty) of Jean-Guy’s frustration with not being in charge. I think that most of my discomfort occurred with matters that happened at the end, so I will wait until that part of the discussion to be more specific. Suffice it to say, for now, that I am hoping this will be like “The Brutal Telling” for me – uncomfortable, unsure, not really embracing it at the beginning, but with a re-read and future books in the series, appreciating how it fits. I think this is a transitional book….

    • Martha says:

      I’ve enjoyed the book and the community of three pines and all the interesting characters that Louise has created but I feel she is getting away from writing a true mystery. This book is a great continuation of three pines and all the people we have grown to know and love but…. as I said it don’t really believe it’s a true mystery until the last few chapters.

  3. Julie says:

    I need to go back now and see where chapter 10 leaves us (I’m TRYING to read slowly, but always, I must find out what happens next!). So, to be sure I don’t give any spoilers, I’ll just address what Meg has started us on. Welcome back, Meg – we missed you on the last book.

    I, too, wonder about The Balm in Gilead – I’ve looked ’round, and can’t see anything that definitively says to me – “this is it!” Always possible, of course, that this is an invention of the author’s. But I, too, look forward to finding out more and why the ending is so difficult for Armand to get to.

    I am struck by the story and the realistic nature. Penny’s talent, along with her determination to make these real people, not two-dimensional characters, does this for us. After the last book, so many would just put a bow on it and call it done – “And they lived happily ever after”.
    But Penny knows that this is not the way life works. Armand is definitely in need of some balm. Physically, he’s almost healed, but spiritually, he needs more time.

    Clara rushes him into a case – and Reine-Marie is wondering, wondering, if it’s too soon. It seems she knew this day was coming, but so soon? He’s still measuring his walks by a few feet more than yesterday – is he really ready to tear off and chase the wild goose? This book is the first time I’ve worried about Armand. Is he (mentally and spiritually) strong enough? What will he find? Will he be able to handle it? Plus, he’s still worried about Jean-Guy! Yikes. So much to worry about.

    The moth is a wonderful image. Not only of the senselessness of the moth trying to get at the light – but also the futility of Reine-Marie “helping” by turning off the light. He’ll find another way to destroy himself. Who is this about? I suppose it could be Peter, but it could also be Armand and/or Jean-Guy. Given that Armand is the person Reine-Marie would most like to help, I think it’s more about him. It’s useless for Reine-Marie to try to keep Armand home and safe – he has to do what makes him Armand. Otherwise, you’ve got his body, but not his soul. What good is that?

    It could also be all three of them. Jean-Guy has to help himself, nobody can effect his recovery except him. Yes, it’s maybe scary, because the recovery is so new, and who knows what could derail him again? But you have to step back and let him do it. And Peter – where is he? What has he been doing in the past year? Where did he go? Has he found any answers? All of that needs to be figured out.

    Clara knows that she has grown and changed in the last year, but I almost think that she feels that she was going to be able to just pick up their last conversation, and Peter would be the same as he was. She just hit the “pause” button, and now that she’s ready, she wants to go back to that last conversation and continue on. Big surprise that Peter hasn’t stood still – now, maybe, he doesn’t want to come home. Or can’t.

    Bean – so baffling that this child has continued to allow her mother to manipulate others through her. Not that most children can stand up to their parents, but you’d think by now, she’d at least (see, I still think Bean is a girl) tell someone else in secret. Of course, maybe she has, and we’re just not in on the secret. I feel like this is going to be such a problem for this child in the coming years. It’s certainly not a given that it will become obvious – I recall very well being 17 years old and wearing the baggy shirts and sweaters that were in style then – and with a short haircut, I was often thought of as a boy by strangers… and so terribly humiliated by it. Of course, a lot of that was the clothes, but also, I think my measurements were 22-22-22, hahahaha.

    • Meg R says:

      Oh, Julie! One thing I love about book discussions – others pick up stuff that each of us might miss – or not see immediately – or even from our own perspectives! I read about Reine-Marie’s moth and this old scrambled brain of mine went directly to a Peter analogy! But there you are – extending that & I think you’re so right! “Mothiness” could also be reflected in Gamache, Jean-Guy and our Clara to a certain extent too!

      I’m really trying to be good here – and stick to only the 10 chapters for the week’s discussion. I haven’t read past Chapter 10 & am looking forward to the weekend when I can indulge in 11 to 20! If I don’t do that, I get wrapped up in stuff & start leaking info too soon! Thanks for extending the Moth thing here. That fluttering little thing was an image that just stuck with me!

  4. Anna says:

    Hi Meg, you were missed! Glad you have a solution to the technical issues.

    I read this book very quickly and like Barbara, I have been checking regularly for the site to open. The time difference means I had the book early but had to wait longer to talk about it. Funny but the talking is almost more important than the book this time. Maybe because I know what Barbara is saying, although I am not sure if it will be for the the same reasons yet. Have to wait until we can say more. So far this is my least favourite book and that was a surprise.

    I think it must be very difficult as an author, to conclude such a strong underlying story arc as the Arnot theme (I too think of it as the Arnot case Meg). The characters have been changed and they do not react in the same way because what is driving them is different. I think particularly of Armand and Jean Guy here, perhaps even Reine-Marie. How to pick up and move forward from there? That has been the big question. It may take more than one book to reshuffle how characters are behaving and their new paths.

    I was ‘lucky’ in a way to start the series at Bury Your Dead. When I did the re read, I could see that the characters were more developed as the series continued. At the beginning, they are still being revealed. With each new layer I liked them more. Now, I hope it is going to be the same, and I will settle in and so will they.

    While I thought the scene with the moth was clever, it also annoyed me a little. Perhaps, because I find moths around lights, banging and sizzling, an annoying summer feature. To me the moth seemed to be Armand and Reine-Marie was trying to stop, at first, her husband being drawn back to what attracts him most because it is dangerous. In the end she realizes that it is impossible. There are so many sources of light, so many ways that Armand could be drawn back in to being an investigator of one kind or another. There is an element of ‘destiny’ or an internal drive she can’t ignore. Armand is an investigator. It is just who he is and to change that might diminish him. That is why retirement is so hard for so many. They have chosen a path that suits what they are. It is hard to arrive at the end of that road.

    In the end Reine-Marie turns the light back on. It is better for her to continue to be a helper than to try and stand in the moth’s or her husband’s way. I think Julie is spot on, no point holding on to a body if you lose the soul. I paraphrase but great line Julie!

    I have never heard of the Balm of Gilead as a hymn. The biblical reference is to Spiritual healing and I just thought it was a fictional book, Louise created to suit her purpose. I found it hard to reconcile the Armand we know with the one reading the same section over and over.

    While Armand does need to heal there always comes the point when the strength of the scar has to be tested. It can be easy to hold back from the fear that it won’t. Sometimes we are never sure we are ready to get back to our whole selves.

    • Meg R says:

      Anna & all,
      Here’s site for lyrics to “There Is a Balm in Gilead” hymn – and then one of Mahalia Jackson singing it.

      http://www.humnlyrics.org/hymns_spirituals/there_is_a_balm_in_gilead.php

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFMY4V7RdbU

      For those interested, you can google Langford Wilson’s play “Balm in Gilead” for info on that too.

      • Meg R says:

        You know, Anna, your last three sentences about the scar needing to be tested are really resonating here for me – on a number of levels. Wish we could high light or mark things in bold on this site – so we could come back and find threads that may or may not grow in importance. Your last paragraph is tweaking things in this old brain!!! Thanks!

        • Anna says:

          You are welcome Meg. Please feel free to share if you can at any stage, you have me intrigued.

          I too wish we could highlight or there was a way to have different threads so we could jump easily to different things we want to discuss.

          Sylvia, I too was somewhat shocked by Clara’s aggressive stance. A sign maybe that is she is so very wound up. Have we seen her under such stress before? I don’t think so. It’s very different to the chronic pressure of dealing with Peter’s family or the creative struggles with her art. When Peter left it was an agreed leaving in many ways because there was to be a defined end, or decision, point on his return. Clara was anticipating that date, her expectations were primed and now, two weeks later, all that anxiety is flying around looking for a target. Armand you are it. It is hard to ask for help, it is especially hard when it is a private problem you had planned on solving yourself. Clara was rude and disrespectful and I didn’t like it but is it unrealistic for anyone, and Clara in particular, to react that way? Mmmm, I don’t think so but it was unexpected behaviour so it was jarring to me.

          I think I go back to something I alluded to in the last book discussion. Maybe the roles will shift and the strong will need to lean on those who have been weaker and those laid low will rise to be stronger. As a reader we grow comfortable with ‘our’ roles for characters, we can be very tied to how we want them to behave. Maybe it is our time to be brave and let the characters be what they must be beyond our expectations. Not easy though is it?

          • Nancy Miller says:

            Thank you Anna. You give us lots to think about.

          • Meg R says:

            Nothing mysterious in re to scar — off -the-topic story here. When I was a preschooler, my father fell 40 feet when scaffolding he was on collapsed as he painted decorative bands on ceiling of our church. One leg, hip & ankle crushed. Told he’d never walk again. Miracles of metal replacement rods and pins restored that appendage. Bothered by arthritis for the rest of his life, but that stubborn man was insistent that he’d walk again. And he did. The summer after that, I fell on a wooden plank sidewalk & sliced open one of my knees. ER people scrubbed it with what seemed like a wire brush – without any novocaine or local anesthetic. Many stitches. Was terrified to walk and bend that knee afterwards for fear that I’d have to undergo ER torture again – or lengthy & painful recovery that my father faced. Just refused to walk! Insisted that I was not going to start school because I had to walk there! 6 year-old me was pretty full of herself – but I get concretely, what you meant about scar being tested. Know that Armand carries ‘scar’ of his parents deaths as a boy. We know what happened when he first publicized the Arnot case – many other things too – for later. Yeah, one can usually be strong, but fears/hurts/unhealed injuries do prickle through. If lucky, we get over them! My nieces & nephews are amused by my scar (which has been totally painfree) and call it Aunt Meg’s smiling knee! : ~D We’re a family of folks very easily amused! lol

          • Anna says:

            I am giggling at your smiling knee Meg but also a bit blown away by your story. I think there is a lot in there about pain and healing and the inter relationship between physical, mental and emotional scarring. What happened to your father affected you, of course, and both that and your own physical experience affected your emotional response to walking again.

            You are so right. We all carry scars and hurts and they absolutely do impact upon how we deal with the world. Armand is the same. His physical hurts and healing are affected by all kinds of experiences as you have said. Armand has been so together despite all that he has gone through with the Arnot case. The attacks on his family and the damage to his department were all significant blows. Lots of healing to be done. Many scars to be tested.

            I wonder if in Armand’s mind he worries that leaving the department is in any way cowardly? I don’t think that, I just wonder if he did. It’s not part of the book just me exploring his character.

          • Karen Gast says:

            Somewhere back in another discussion one of you confessed that you didn’t like Clara. I’ve always felt a bit ambivalent about her also, and this book so far has given me reason to make the same confession. I think she takes advantage of people (and friendships) while being “poor Clara.”

          • Cathryne Spencer says:

            Anna, I agree with you completely about Clara’s behavior. I have read and reread your final paragraph about letting the characters go beyond our expectations and the boundaries we’ve put up around them. This is Clara in a new situation. She’s scared and the fear is growing every day. And I think she feels guilty because she asked Gamache for help.
            “Clara Morrow told Armand Gamache why she was there. And what she wanted from him. And when she was finished she saw in those thoughtful eyes what she most feared.
            She saw fear.”
            “Armand Gamache had come here to rest. To recover. They’d promised him peace. And Clara knew she’d just broken that promise.”
            She felt guilty about asking for his help and half-heartedly tried to take it back. When G. came to her with Beauvoir, she was defensive and inappropriate. We all have spoken hurtfully, unfairly, out of fear and guilt on occasion, not occasions we like to remember.
            I love what you said, “…all that anxiety is flying around looking for a target.” Who better than the person she feels she has wronged?
            This is our chance to know Clara better. She leads with her heart and is not adept in expressing herself under great stress. Remember when Gamache said in another book that Reine-Marie would always say and do the right thing? Not Clara. Her heart is as good as R-M’s, but not her skills in difficult, emotional situations.

          • Linda Maday says:

            I loved this book with all it’s nuances, discussions about art, and themes. I was shocked to come to the discussion to find so many negative thoughts. Is it a bit different than the others? Yes. But if they were all the same we would only need to buy the first.

            To me it’s more mature. Time has passed and we know the people and places and are comfortable. Didn’t one of you say your characters had matured? I don’t think Clara changed, I think Clara stands revealed! She is, after all, the one that told Peter to leave. Why is she so frantic, rude, insistent? Well, for starts, she is not setting out to solve a little mystery. She’s frantic to find her missing husband, the husband she sent away. Is he alive? In sending him away did she cause his death, the death of her marriage (which she now begins to maybe believe she wants to save).

            The art discussions are so important. I found them fascinating. Really, the art provided the primary clues in the book. How would someone paint, why, where was it painted, what did the artist feel or see or believe as they painted. The art discussions provide a path to places, people, local and regional characters, stories and myths that lead the way, well frankly, the way home.

            Someone said they liked the way the words Louise uses make them feel. To me words have specific sounds, like musical notes. When used well there is a cadence and rhythm that provides the ebb and flow of the journey on which the author takes the reader. To me this book of all her books was the most moving, the most profound.

            I have friends I visit that I enjoy their gladness and their actions. With this book though I felt as if my friends in Three Pines took me in and made me part of their innermost ring, sharing with me their deeper hearts, hurts, joys, sorrows and yes, some shames.

            My favorite. My favorite.

      • Anna says:

        Thanks for the links Meg. I already googled the play, pretty off the wall!

      • Barbara H. Johnson says:

        Oh, Meg, You found one of my favorites–Mahalia Jackson. My first room mate at Georgia had one of her albums I played it almost every afternoon when I got in. I learned to sing the old spirituals from a lady who worked for my family. Those beautiful and heartfelt songs have often comforted me in times of grief.

        • Meg R says:

          Ladies, mega apologies for my brain-burp! Said Armand’s parents were killed when he was a boy. WRONG! Danger of reading two books at once! Should have said effects of Papa Gamache accused as being coward & traitor. Gobbling drugstore shiny cover book that’s easily forgotten& doesn’t require much thinking — & main character in that lost both parents in car accident. Woke this morning & realized I scrambled the two books together!

          • Nancy Miller says:

            Armand’s parents WERE killed in a car accident when he was a boy. You were right the first time.

          • Sylvia H. says:

            Yes, Armand’s parents were killed in a car crash when he was a boy. That was a huge wound for him; he was only nine years old. Remember how his best friend, Michel Brebeuf had taken him by the hand and told him it would be all right? Which is why Michel’s subsequent betrayal was so devastating to Armand. Then in The Murder Stone we hear about Honore Gamache’s being a traitor and a coward and mentions of Armand being taunted at school about that. Then he chooses a career where his courage is on the line every day, perhaps to try to make up for his father’s perceived cowardice. He found some peace about that when Bert Finney told him that, in his eyes, Honore Gamache was a hero because he had the courage to change his mind and admit he was wrong. Our poor beloved Armand has had more than his share of wounds to heal from. All the more reason why he felt relief when Clara was so rude to him. He told her he had misunderstood and thought she had been asking for his help (ever the perfect gentleman!), but it’s noteworthy that Jean-Guy, who is really upset with Clara, sees relief in Armand’s eyes. For Armand, the reprieve is short-lived, but the story must go on!

    • Julie says:

      Anna – I love that you have taken the moth analogy a little further, to see all the ways the light gets in! That bit had eluded me.

    • Sylvia H. says:

      While Armand always kept on carrying on regardless, because he had to, now that he has retired he can begin to deal with the wounds inside. We may tend not to realize how deeply wounded he is, and the events of HTLGI are only fairly recent. He’s still recovering physically, and we know that mental and emotional healing take a lot longer. I agree with Reine-Marie that the time hasn’t yet come to test the scars. He needs more time and so does she! The moth episode could also be seen as a reflection of Reine-Marie’s uneasiness, fidgetyness (is there such a word?) and anxiety over what Armand is being drawn into.

      • Julie says:

        That’s a good point, Sylvia. I don’t think he’s ready yet, either. As I’d said – I think that it’s wonderful that we see that after all that’s happened, everyone doesn’t just get up and say – “that’s over” and not think about it again. Catching the “bad guy”, and in this case, killing him, is haunting Armand. He has so much healing to do. This is the first time I’ve ever felt that Armand is not whole and well and strong. He will get there, but he’s not there yet. I don’t know if helping Clara will also help him, or if it will take a toll. Hopefully, I’ll know by the end of the book.

        I don’t think this is a spoiler, though it does come later in the book. I love how, when Armand is talking to Reine-Marie on the phone, he turns and faces the direction she is – for the most part, of course, this is just turning to face west – toward Three Pines – but he also did it when she was in Toronto. He did it in A Rule Against Murder, when he was at the Manoir and she was waiting for him in Three Pines, for their long weekend festivities, after he’d sent her away so he could concentrate on the case. I love that.

  5. Linda says:

    Can we talk about the cover yet? When I bought the book Saturday, I was puzzled by the texture of it. Then Louise explained that her publishers were very taken by this painting and wanted to use it for the cover. Ah–the texture of canvas! How interesting. Even the cover becomes a character in the book. I won’t talk about other aspects of it, that would probably be considered a spoiler. Anyway, I thought the whole thing was genius.

    • Meg R says:

      Linda,

      Think I must have a misprinted cover! Image is upside down on mine! :~P

      • Anna says:

        Think my cover is completely different, no texture of canvas here. Sigh.

      • Kathy Bradley says:

        Louise said the image on the cover is supposed to be upside down. i’m afraid I could not wait and I have read the entire book. The reason for the upside down cover will be revealed.

        I love the book. Sad to be finished… Now I have to wait for another year. Patience…patience…patience.

        • Anna says:

          Just do what I do, start at the beginning again!

          My cover was not upside down but I get why Louise wanted it to be. Should I feel gipped!

          • Julie says:

            I didn’t get to “feel” the cover, having my copy on Kindle, but I can see the texture in the picture of the cover, and I love it. I did think it was from a canvas, but I didn’t recognize that it was a painting, and I certainly didn’t recognize that it was upside down until Louise told us it was. Doh! I have since googled Gagnon’s paintings and love, love, LOVE them! Then I looked at some of Tom Thompson’s paintings, which Louise mentions very briefly in passing… He has always been a favorite of mine, as have the Group of Seven. But until I googled him, I didn’t realize he wasn’t actually a part of the group of seven, but had influenced them. His paintings were done primarily in Algonquin Park, a place where I lived when I was too tiny to know I was in one of the most beautiful places I’d ever see. My parents used to tell a story about me looking out the window of the cabin we lived in and saying “That darn deer is looking in here again!” Wouldn’t I love for that now?

        • Sue Jackson says:

          I have read the entire book also. Why is the cover upside down?

          • Julie says:

            Hi, Sue – trying not to give any spoilers for others, but in general, sometimes, you need to find a new way to look at things… what appears to be just a muddle on a page might be something else when turned upside down…

        • Laura B says:

          So glad you posted about the cover’s texture, and it being upside down. I had noticed that before starting the the book. Then completely forgot about it! :-)

    • Rosemarie says:

      You also need to look at the cover upside down (which ties in with Peter’s paintings).

  6. Linda says:

    For those of you who are puzzled about the balm in Gilead reference, have you read Marilynne Robinson’s book Gilead? That would provide additional clues.

  7. Nancy Miller says:

    Hi all. And welcome back, Meg. Looks like another good discussion is coming. And for once I figured something out the first time through. I knew, or thought I knew, where the book had come from and as it turns out I was right. Will not give it away in case some haven’t finished but I wonder if in his healing Armond is going back to his first “wound” and using it as a starting place, essential to the whole process. I will also say that I had reservations about this book but I’m not sure why. Have thought of two possible reasons. One that after all this discussion I found it hard to just enjoy the book without looking for clues or analysing it and two that I found How The Light Gets In so fantastic that it just blew me away and it’s hard to come down to earth. Now I’m re-reading The Long… and will see how it goes as I just savor it. Will let you know.

    • Rosanne Boguski says:

      Agreed… I am re-reading it again because I was just slightly “disappointed” in this book, although that could be the wrong word. Louise’s writing is so wonderful and her storytelling talent surpasses most, yet I think I was looking for a more conventional storyline. Nevertheless, I love the character development and I don’t mind learning more about art, especially these famous Canadian painters. I googled Gagnon’s works and loved them.

      • Rosemarie says:

        I’m disappointed, too. I find the beginning choppy (lots of non-sentences that could be combined) and a bit repetitive. The Scotland part just disappears and the ten muses issue seems a bit far-fetched. (SPOILER ALERT) There’s no clue that Professor Massey might have another side. Why doesn’t Ruth (who seems to have no impulse control) say something sooner about him? And (SPOILER ALERT) I don’t like the ending, especially after the long search. I love the previous books, particularly the last one, so maybe this one just couldn’t live up to that. And perhaps, too, after a year of waiting for this one, there’s a tendency to idealize and place unfair expectations on the author. As always, I love the characters and am glad that Reine-Marie is playing a bigger role. And Ruth, who may be my favorite. Still a good book, just not one of her best.

        • Laura B says:

          I think she may be setting us up for some challenges characters will be working their way thru in the next book. As you re-read it, picture what would have happened had they not begun the search.

          • Anna says:

            Interesting thought Laura! Wonder what would have happened?

          • Julie says:

            Laura! I finally finished the book ( so much for savoring it slowly) and one of the first things I did was think about what would have happened if they had not embarked on the search – if Clara had been able to let it alone. There are a million other “what if’s” as well – if they’d done this, or that, or the other thing”. But the big, main one is what if they hadn’t gone looking? As I re-read, I’ll be watching for this now.

          • Millie says:

            Hi Laura, I too am chomping at the bit to discuss the what-if’s… This S L O W process is torture for me but also revealing.

          • Julie says:

            Millie – I know what you mean by how slow it seems. What’s great about this, though, is that we thoroughly look at the part of the book we’re “allowed” to discuss – I’d never do such in-depth analysis, I think, without this structure.

  8. Sylvia H. says:

    Hello everyone, I’m so glad we’re able to stay together and discuss this latest book! And welcome back, Meg; you were missed! I read the book in two days – couldn’t resist – and now I’m re-reading the chapters for each week. I enjoyed it very much, but the biggest surprise for me was Clara’s intense anger that Armand had told Jean-Guy about her problem. Armand is still healing internally, spiritually, and isn’t ready to take on a new challenge yet, but when he felt Clara needed his help he didn’t hesitate. The intensity of her anger and rudeness to Armand indicates what a mess of anxiety and stress she has got herself into. Peter is about two weeks overdue and she hasn’t heard anything from him, so she’s thinking he doesn’t want to come home.
    Someone said she thinks they will just take up where they left off, but how else can she think of it? I think she’s right, she’ll know when she sees him how she feels about him, but now she needs to find him. Interesting about the moth and your interpretations of it. I was taken with the idea that it represented Peter, but in the end I think it representing Armand and Reine-Marie’s feelings about him getting back into an investigation of some sort is more likely. She makes a point to Jean-Guy at the end of How the Light Gets In that Armand was made to do what he did and although he could retire, he couldn’t quit. However, she had hoped he would have a longer time to recover from his woundedness.

    • Meg R says:

      Sylvia,

      I still haven’t sorted Clara out for myself yet. Could her anger over Gamache telling Jean-Guy about Peter, her reluctance to reveal his failure to return also be explained by simple embarrassment? by having to admit that her marriage is in trouble or has failed? They’ve been one unit in 3 Pines Clara-Peter doing community things, gatherings, invitations in tandem. She’s swallowed rejection of her art work for years, but that marriage was (yes questionably for us readers) was her one success until Book #9. I suspect what coming chapters will reveal about Peter – and then Clara too, but am not sure enough right now to make any predictions about them.

    • Julie says:

      Sylvia – yes, I do think Clara will know when she sees Peter. And she probably can’t imagine (or couldn’t, before the story began) him any other way. I am hoping he has finally been able to “fix” what was broken inside him, and they will be able to be together.

      I thought Clara’s being angry with Gamache was abrupt and certainly rude, but I think I understood it. Partly – she is so worried that she is not reacting normally. But also – she has spent most of her marriage and career in the back seat. She has deferred to Peter for years, and she has finally decided she can’t do that anymore. Part of it was sending him away and discovering that the world didn’t end – that her life went on quite well without him, though she DID miss him in the little ordinary moments of the day. Clara has changed quite a bit since she sent Peter away, and she is no longer passive. As we go on, we’ll see more of this.

      I think that Armand has always been a very sensitive soul – and when he sees what Clara needs, he does his best to give it to her, and if that means taking a step back and waiting for Clara to decide what to do, he is willing to do that. I know he’s worried about Peter, too – and considers Peter a friend. But he knows the best thing to do is hold back and wait for Clara.

      • Anna says:

        Hi Cathryne Spencer. I couldn’t find a reply button at the bottom of your post so I am adding my response to the end of another “Clara” thread!

        I was trying to find that exact section you quoted but I got distracted so thank you for posting about the fear in Armand’s eyes. Really enjoyed what you had to say about Clara’s response to guilt and fear. I agree we act defensively when we have those strong emotions and targeting the one we have wronged is not uncommon. The best offense is a good defense after all.

        I think our response to Clara is so interesting. She has broken the bounds I had set for her in my mind and it has been very uncomfortable. Like realizing my teenager has a mind of her own and won’t always behave the way I thought she would or want her to. Isn’t growth in others challenging!

        I like the comparison to Reine-Marie. She has always been a contained, together woman and Clara “messy” by description. Their emotional responses are like their characters. R-M has a smoother emotional facade compared to Clara’s spiky one. Hope that makes sense.

  9. Karen Gast says:

    Sylvia, I’m also a page glutton and read the book in a couple of days. I like your idea of re-reading the first 10 for the discussion, though. Thank you! (There were times I wanted to simply sit and drink with Ruth and Rosa.)

  10. Anna says:

    One of my favourite lines in the first ten chapters is when Myrna talks about jealousy: “It’s like drinking acid……and expecting the other person to die.”

  11. Barbara H. Johnson says:

    I wasn’t going to post for several weeks but just couldn’t stay away. The posts, as always, are so interesting and insightful.
    It was Clara’s rudeness to and treatment of Gamache that upset me first. I just couldn’t think of that dear man, who has suffered so much, to be belittled. I thought he should have, or at least allowed Jean Guy, to stand up to Clara. I’m trying not to write spoilers but the “new” Clara continues in the same vein and Gamache remains passive.

    • Anna says:

      I’m glad you didn’t stay away Barbara. Rudeness is always aggravating, even if people have a reason for being upset. Perhaps it will get easier to talk more freely about the things that bothered you as we get through the chapters. What things did you like about the beginning, if anything? What did you think of Jean Guy and his recovery?

      I am with those who enjoyed seeing Bean again but I too am bewildered by the need to keep the gender secret. Maybe it is so people who read this book first are still in the dark when they go back and discover Louise’s earlier work. Bean’s secret is a big part of the character.

    • Lynne says:

      I agree, Barbara! Actually, when Clara accused Armand of meddling in her life because he was bored, I thought that crossed the line beyond rudeness into meanness. Also, although Clara resents being seen as a damsel in distress, it’s hard not to when her approach to the problem is to hang around silently and passively until Armand asks what the trouble is. In part I’m sure her desire not to burden him is sincere, but by going about it the way she does, she can also tell herself “I didn’t dump the burden on him. He asked.”

      • Cathryne Spencer says:

        Oh yes, Lynne, Clara can’t come out of that encounter looking anything but foolish and ungrateful. I don’t think it made Gamache look or feel diminished in any way, though. He understands about people losing their mind and lashing out without logic or fairness. He knows how to wait for them to come back from moments of insanity. Of course, in this case, he was glad for an excuse to walk away and return to peace and solitude. I don’t think he cares about or respects Clara less.
        I like that Gamache is reaching out and saying, “I need help.” It seems like we may see more of this part of him. We have said that we want to get to know some of the characters better and it seems like we will. We won’t always feel comfortable with what we see, but I’m not liking Clara less or respecting Gamache less.

    • Sylvia H. says:

      Of course, Gamache is not in his usual formal capacity here. He is now just a private citizen and friend of Clara and Peter, so he can’t just assume his usual leadership position. That changes the context a good deal.

      • Anna says:

        Very good point Sylvia. Armand can’t act as he once did and is not required to act as he once was. In every previous book Armand had to do things because of his position. This time he actually gets to choose to be involved and his subsequent role is dictated by his position as a friend not a policeman. Very different dynamic. Interesting though that Jean Guy still sees him as the boss but I also think Jean Guy feels a little more equal with Armand now. More collegial than subordinate.

        • Julie says:

          As I watched her latest interview with The Poisoned Pen owner, I saw that several times, Barbara tried to say that maybe Gamache will be a “private eye” now, and each time, Louise almost jumped, and quickly said ‘NO’. I wonder if she has some plans for him…..

          • Barbara H. Johnson says:

            Julie, I noticed that too. No “consulting detective” in Three Pines then I guess. I am anxious to see just how his story line will work out.

        • Sylvia H. says:

          They have more than the professional relationship now. Jean-Guy is now Armand’s son-in-law, so that changes their relationship to more of an equal, collegial one, even though he still looks on Armand as boss, or “patron”, and can’t bring himself to say his name.

  12. Elina says:

    I thought this was her best book in the series! I am continually fascinated by her ability to bring first time readers up to date with the characters involved without boring her long time readers!

    Her descriptions of the Canadian wilderness are lyrical! I cannot wait to re explore the St. Lawrence region!

    I believe she has kept Gamache faithful to himself, and am enjoying the larger role given to Reine Marie!

    I am so grateful for the opportunity to read this amazing series, and now will treat myself to an episode on Acorn TV!

  13. Elaine says:

    I adored adored adored the book.

  14. JOANNA SPAULDING says:

    The only complaint I have with this book is the smaller cast of characters. I adore the badinage between and among the habitants and missed it.

    Clara is my favorite character. She has every right to direct the search for her husband and Gamache was correct in deferring to her. She has been diminished her entire life and, having tasted sweet success (she would have settled for sincere acknowledgement of her talents) she is not about to crawl under another rock and assume her “place”. Peter, on the other hand, is a —- (slang for his first name) and I was not sorry to have him gone.

    I, also, wonder about Nichol—and Bean. Don’t let anything happen to Henri.

  15. Juanita Giesbrecht says:

    I loved “The Long Way Home” and will read it again and again. The pace was perfect for me and I loved the references to art and artists throughout. I volunteer as a docent in the major gallery in my city and enjoy both the training I receive and the job of touring guests through the various and changing exhibits. I am inspired to learn more all the time. Ms Penny writes in a totally believable way – I can smell the smells, feel the pain, the angst, the joy, whatever arises in her stories. I immediately understood the reference to Balm in Gilead having sung that particular hymn during Lent and understand why it was chosen. I am off to choir practice now but thanks Louise for another great book.

    • Barbara H. Johnson says:

      Juanita, I have to admit to being a little envious of you. Your talent and experience gave you the ability to see Peter’s paintings without having a picture of them…for me it was very frustrating as I was so unsure of what I was supposed to be seeing. I even have difficulty visualizing how fabric will look made into clothing or household furnishings. When I was decorating the house we own now, I had to buy yards of material and hang it at the windows and drape it over the chairs and sofas to get an idea how it would look.
      Thankfully, I can read well written descriptions of landscapes, people, most anything but paintings and see it.
      You and others who can visualize so well are fortunate. Glad you are enjoying the book.

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