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Reviewed by John Thornton for Readers' Favorite
The Road Home (The Letter Series Book 2) by Kathleen Shoop is a very well written and engaging book. I am a fan of historical novels, and The Road Home is a well-told yarn that held my attention and gave me a wonderful reading experience. Kathleen Shoop can paint vivid pictures with her words. I got the feeling of being immersed in the culture, the times, and the characters’ lives. Emotionally, this book hooked me.
The plot involves twins Katherine and Tommy Arthur but is in no way constrained to just them. The author weaves the tale of their lives and brings in supporting characters as needed to keep the flow of the story moving along at a steady and page turning pace. The opening situation with the twins’ mother is unforgettable, and in a way that dramatic event casts its shadows over the rest of the book. Life in the late nineteenth century and into the early years of the twentieth century was not easy, and those times are well described. So many things done by hand, and so much hard and long work.
The characterization is one of the stronger elements in The Road Home as each characters has his or her own quirks. Some are quite lovable, and some are people I felt like yelling at. Some characters are religious in a good way, some are spiritually abusive to others, and that accurately reflects reality, not only in times a hundred plus years ago, but also today. I found myself thinking about this story as I went about my daily life, more than I usually do with books I read (I read a lot).
The chapters are set up with a date, name, and location. I found this personally meaningful for I live in the areas described (my home is Sioux Falls). The setting and feel for these places rang true. There are 45 chapters. At first glance I felt this might be an issue, keeping track of the changing flow, but the author did a superb job weaving all the threads together to tell a tightly knit story. Dialogue was excellent. Phrasing and idioms sounded real to the era (although I am not a history teacher), and I did not find any anachronisms. The story truly felt like circa 1900. I liked the way the author used some varied points of view (consistent within each chapter) to tell the tale. That was done very effectively.
There are a number of different families, all with their own flavor, and the characters move in and out of the interactions with those families. That plays an important role in the relationships between the characters. This too was effectively done, and none of the people seemed too much like a card-board cutout. Even the minor characters had depth. A well told story, with quality dialogue, vivid descriptions, and an accurate feel for an historical setting.