Greg and Libby's marriage began its slow decline three years ago with the death of their twelve year old daughter, Lacy. Unable to heal from Lacy's death, they eventually grew apart--Greg no longer knowing how to reach Libby and Libby no longer wanting to be reached. When Greg didn't return from a solo canoeing trip in the Canadian wilderness, the authorities' assumption was he had decided to leave their marriage. Needing to know for sure he'd abandoned her, Libby, Frank (Greg's Father), and Jen (her best friend) decided to retrace Greg's path through the wilderness in hope of discovering if he'd left her or if he's dead. As they began their trip, Libby's not sure which she'd prefer. Would she rather him have left her or died? Honestly she's having a hard time caring, especially since, she was planning to leave him.
They Almost Always Come Home is not so much of a story as a journey. It's a trip through the past and the present searching for hope in the future. This journey of hope is in the midst of grief combined with fragmented relationships and unfailing friendship. There are infinite amounts of material in this book to praise from its simple beauty to its haunting emptiness. This is not a book to be read and set aside, but rather absorbed and contemplated or perhaps discussed among friends or in a group setting. It is a deep, rich book and one I highly recommend.
I've read several books that include the death of a child and they typically attempt to capture the strain on a relationship in the depths of the parent's grief. They also try to help the reader feel the agony of the parents as they weep for the child they've lost. Some are able to accurately capture those moments and present them to the reader. This is one of them. It was pure in its emotions and simple in its presentation. Until experiencing the death of a child, one can never really understand it, but this book came pretty close to immersing the reader into those agonizing moments.
Thankfully Ruchti included a healthy dose of humor. From subtle comments to blatant remarks, this is a story that takes the edge off the situation through humor. Much of the humor will be appreciated by women more than men. In fact, this book in general is definitely geared towards women. I'm not sure many men could identify as easily with the interworking of Libby's mind. It felt feminine all around and worked very well in that regard.
Central to They Almost Always Come Home is hope. Hope they will find Greg, but also hope Libby can reconcile to God. Grief often is accompanied by a rift from God. All those questions that one would like answered often gets in the way of seeing things the way God does. This book doesn't offer answers, which I appreciate. Instead it takes the reader through the journey of one woman's struggles with God. It was the perfect approach for this novel and executed perfectly.
This is a great book, there's no question about it. It was beautiful in numerous ways and a pleasure to read. From the opening scene where Libby is planning her husband's funeral through the gut wrenching agony of the unknown, this is a magnificent story. To quote the ever insightful Larry the Cucumber, "I laughed. I cried. It moved me Bob."