Review published on August 18, 2017.
I love Kay Langdale’s writing. Her last book, The Comfort of Others, was one of my top reads of 2016 and so I was obviously very keen to read The Way Back to Us. I have to say that I don’t think I have enough superlatives to do a review justice but I’ll give it a go!
The Way Back to Us is about a family in crisis: Anna, Tom and their children, Isaac and Teddy. Five year old Teddy has spinal muscular atophy (SMA) type 2 and the diagnosis sent the family into a spin. Anna is defensive and prickly, trying to keep her children as safe as they can be but she’s pushing Tom away and this book is about finding a way back to the love and respect that they had for each other before. Whether they can achieve it or not I will leave you to find out for yourself.
The story is told by the four family members in chapters from their point of view. This worked brilliantly and was a great device to show just how each character felt. Kay Langdale proved with The Comfort of Others how adept she is at writing from a child’s point of view and once again she has hit exactly the right note. Both Isaac and Teddy are perfectly drawn with Isaac having to be the responsible older brother and therefore being older than his years.
I don’t very often mark passages in books but I marked several in this one and I’d like to share one or two with you. This first passage is one which stood out because of the beautiful descriptiveness of the writing.
“He smells of otherness: of soap wrapped in waxed paper in a Swiss hotel room; of the lemon flannel given to him on the plane; of the stale air of the train home; and faintly, so faintly, of snow, of a clear, bright sprinkling of coldness.”
It’s a breadth of description that I don’t often come across in the books that I read.
Anna is so caught up in caring for Teddy that she has little room in her life for anybody else, apart from Isaac that is. So when she meets another mum who tries to be friendly, Anna thinks:
“From the corner of my eye, her mouth is like a mollusc, latching onto my skin, keen for purchase. It’s unbearable”.
I just love how observant and astute Langdale is. I really could wax lyrical about her writing. I found myself empathising with a character and then in the next chapter, narrated by a different character, I could see it from their point of view too. There’s no wrong or right, just a slow fracturing of a family.
I rarely cry at books but this one got me, right near the end. I’d invested so much in the characters that I really felt right there in their lives. The Way Back to Us is stunning and beautiful and moving. A triumph!
Nicola Smith 5/5
The Way Back to Us by Kay Langdale
Hodder & Stoughton 9781473618367 pbk Aug 2017
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