Almost Home – Valerie Fraser Luesse

Almost Home Valerie Fraser Luesse
Almost Home by Valerie Fraser Luesse
Also by this author: The Key to Everything, Under the Bayou Moon
Published by Revell on March 5, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Historical
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With America's entrance into the Second World War, the town of Blackberry Springs, Alabama, has exploded virtually overnight. Workers from all over are coming south for jobs in Uncle Sam's munitions plants--and they're bringing their pasts with them, right into Dolly Chandler's grand but fading family home turned boardinghouse.
An estranged young couple from the Midwest, unemployed professors from Chicago, a widower from Mississippi, a shattered young veteran struggling to heal from the war--they're all hoping Dolly's house will help them find their way back to the lives they left behind. But the house has a past of its own.
When tragedy strikes, Dolly's only hope will be the circle of friends under her roof and their ability to discover the truth about what happened to a young bride who lived there a century before.
Award-winning and bestselling author Valerie Fraser Luesse breathes life into a cast of unforgettable characters in this complex and compassionate story of hurt and healing.

The year is 1944. Dolly Chandler’s last hope to same the generational family home is to turn it into a boarding house for those coming to Blackberry Springs to work in the munitions plant. They’ve been down on their luck for a while, but this may be where the Chandler family can turn it all around, but to do so they’ll have to open up their family to a number of strangers. And so they come: a struggling young married couple, unemployed professors from Chicago, a widower, and a wounded war veteran. Each of them with their own stories. Each of them with their own trauma. Each of them here in Blackberry Springs to start a new chapter in their lives.

Almost Home is a character-driven story about different people from different walks of life all finding solidarity under one roof. They each go through their own challenges and struggles. They open up to each other about their pasts. And they come upon an old secret that they’re determined to unravel. At its heart, Almost Home is a relational novel of people making new friends, renewing old relationships, and even finding love.

The trouble with a novel like this—with many characters and compelling storylines—is balancing everything out. As soon as I settled in with one character, Valerie Fraser Luesse would change the storyline to another. Add in the storyline of the past and you end up with a piecemeal novel that never quite satisfies on any front. Indeed, I would have rather the entire novel just been about the past storyline! When the primary drive of your main characters is to discover the story of secondary characters—when they find another story more compelling than their own—the secondary story should be the focus.

The mystery of the past storyline also came together way too neatly. The mystery was a plot device, not a true mystery. It was there to bring characters together and add a layer to the novel, but there was never are true suspense or drama behind it. Even the character’s investment in the past storyline is only their own curiosity. Nothing bad will happen if they don’t figure it out. That lack of weight takes a good story and absolves it of any real depth or drama.

That lack of conflict is also apparent in the main storyline. Whatever conflict there is finds itself easily resolved. Plot point moves on to next plot point without much to really push or drive it that way. And I’m finding that might be purposeful on Luesse’s part. It’s a simple, clean, Hallmark Channel type of story that’s only meant to give you the feel-goods and not much else.

Almost Home is reasonably well-written, but the plethora of characters and lack of depth just don’t compel me to move forward in the story. It’s a fine book, but there were points where it could have been such so much better. Go back and give me a novel about the past storyline and you’ll draw me back in.