#bookreview – The Way Back to Us by Kay Langdale @kaylangdale @HodderBooks
Public warning! This is a gushy review and I make no apologies!
First of all, I just wanted to post a picture of my copy of the book to show how I have marked some of the passages. I very rarely do this but I felt compelled to do so with this book and as I was often reading it on the bus I shoved my bus tickets in there.
Secondly, I have quoted a couple of passages in my review but I just wanted to share this one as well. It made me smile as it’s basically what I say to my partner – this is from the point of view of the husband.
I read somewhere that women sometimes just want to say something to give it air, like sheets pegged out on a line and pulled taut by the snap of the wind. They don’t want to be offered solutions, changes or options; they just want to be heard.
Spot on, right ladies?!
So, what’s the book actually about?
Since their youngest son, Teddy, was diagnosed with a life-defining illness, Anna has been fighting: against the friends who don’t know how to help; against the team assigned to Teddy’s care who constantly watch over Anna’s parenting; and against the impulse to put Teddy above all else – including his older brother, the watchful, sensitive Isaac.
And now Anna can’t seem to stop fighting against her husband, the one person who should be able to understand, but who somehow manages to carry on when Anna feels like she is suffocating under the weight of all the things that Teddy will never be able to do.
As Anna helplessly pushes Tom away, he can’t help but feel the absence of the simple familiarity that should come so easily, and must face the question: is it worse to stay in an unhappy marriage, or leave?
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. 5 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!
I’ve written seven novels, all of which focus on the heart and hearth. My next novel is THE WAY BACK TO US, publishing in August.
I write about marriage, the ties that bind us, what a child needs, and what being a parent means. Thematically, my books explore social issues like surrogacy, adoption, and the complexities of modern family life. I’m a fan of the seemingly quiet story, and I like writing about people’s frequently unexpressed emotional hinterlands.
Readers ask which book of mine I like most, and I can never answer. I think it’s a bit like being asked to choose between your children. The book which feels the most present and immediate is obviously the one I am about to write, or am writing. It’s a process I liken to carrying a tray of glasses on my head. It all feels very precarious until I have a complete draft on paper. Bound proofs are always lovely. Even if I would like to carry on editing and refining, the finish line has been crossed.
And then the process starts all over again; the rather wonderful waiting for a story to make itself known. Inexplicable as it seems, and unpredictable as it is, one morning it’s there; a clutch of characters, stepping hesitantly into view, ready to begin to be tacked to the page.
Author bio and photo taken from the author's Amazon page