I posted some comments about this book last week, explaining why I picked it up and my moment of disappointment. Now I have finished reading it, I can give a short review.
Long Way Back by Brendan Halpin
November 14, 2006 by Wulf Forrester-Barker
Halpin’s book traces the intertwining of several lives, principally Clare and her younger brother, Francis. Clare, the narrator, provides the anchor of the book but it is Francis, who soars like a kite and comes crashing to the ground. As a boy, he had a brief, transcendent religious epiphany; as a man, bitter experience seems to strip that away. Not much more can be said without spoiling the plot but the story does manage to be about saintliness without being twee or oppressively religious.
It is written from Clare’s perspective, starting with an incident that sits later in time then flashing back to the beginning and irresistibly pulling forward. Having reached the scene that came at the beginning it then continues to catapult forward to resolution. The structure works effectively in outline and in the details of different strands being woven together, disappearing, resurfacing and reflecting each other.
Despite my initial impression, it is not all about rock music. Having a good vocabulary for the scene (in particular, the iconography of The Ramones) probably stands the reader in good stead but the book gives enough clues so that is not a prerequisite.
Ultimately, the book is a fantastic work of art, pulling on many emotional strings to create a complex, gripping and moving composition, ultimately reaching a hope-affirming conclusion. If the book were a gig, you would come away feeling almost drained and perhaps with a slight ringing in your ears but you would want to come back for more.
Want to add something? Please join the conversation about this posting (nb. Flickr or Yahoo! account required).