Unlike what seems to be the case for a lot of readers, it was not the cover of Will North’s The Long Walk Home that initially drew me to the novel. The cover is certainly well-designed and attractive to the eye but in itself it would not have been enough to get me to pick up the book. Rather, it was the fact that the book is set in Wales, one of my favorite parts of the world, that got the money out of my wallet. A quick glance through the book convinced me that rural Wales was a key element in North’s debut novel and I figured to rekindle a few old memories while reading it.
The book’s main character, Alec Hudson, a former speech writer for Jimmy Carter, has walked from London’s Heathrow all the way to mountainous Wales where he plans to dispose of his ex-wife’s ashes in the place and manner she requested. Arriving at a remote bed and breakfast facility only to find that all the rooms are already spoken for, Alec is able to convince the B&B’s owner to allow him to pitch his tent on the grounds rather than force him to make the long walk back to the nearest town. And, truth be told, Fiona, who owns the B&B with her husband is so attracted to him that she is thrilled to keep him around for a bit.
Alec, when the weather takes a turn for the worse and forces him to stay in Wales longer than he had anticipated, quickly comes to the realization that he is equally attracted to Fiona. But despite their mutual attraction, both are well aware that Fiona is a married woman (her husband suffers from pesticide poisoning and is forced to live in a separate building on their sheep farm property) and for a while they limit themselves to some mild flirting. However, when circumstances change enough to seemingly justify it, they wholeheartedly begin a physical relationship.
Alec faces several moral dilemmas along the way, all centering on his illicit relationship with Fiona, and few of which are of the black and white variety. David, Fiona’s husband, may not be much of a husband to her, but he is her husband and he needs her. David and Fiona’s college-student-daughter deeply loves her father and has no idea that her mother might be even remotely capable of having an affair with another man, especially some American who just wanders up to her front door one day. And, just as importantly, Fiona has a reputation and image in her community that should not be tainted by any selfishness on Alec’s part.
This tale is probably starting to sound a bit like a romance novel to you. All too soon, it began to sound that way to me, also, not something that I would normally read. But what saved The Long Walk Home for me was the effective way that Will North used its setting to keep me reading. I was intrigued by the sheep farming lifestyle in that part of Wales and the details and insights that North offered throughout the book regarding those who live that lifestyle today. And, just as I had hoped going in, the book brought back some great memories of my days hiking alone in that beautiful country. I suspect that this one will appeal to a variety of readers for lots of different reasons.
Rated at: 3.0