I saw this book on netgalley, and you know I’m a sucker for roadtrip books, so obviously I had to request it. I was expecting a poignant book about life, loss and roadtrip fun, but I was a little disappointed. I enjoyed some aspects of the book, but overall this was not entirely for me.
After the loss of her mother, Harley can barely handle her grief. But the start of summer marks new beginnings, and Harley leaves for a cross-country road trip to scatter her mother’s ashes with Dean, her friend (with benefits). The two ride by motorcycle, reconnecting with people who knew her mother along the way.
But it’s not long before Harley realizes she’s pregnant…with Dean’s child. And as Harley learns that her mother faced similar choices during her own pregnancy, Harley must come to terms with her mother’s past to make a difficult decision about her own future.
I received a free review copy of this book (thanks Sourcebooks Fire!). This does not influence my opinion in any way.
The Long Ride Home is about Harley, a girl who just lost her mother in a fire and is now trying to deal with the aftermath. She’s staying with a close family friend, but when summer comes she decides to go on a cross-country roadtrip with her best friend/love interest Dean to spread her mom’s ashes.
Let’s talk about the good things first. I liked the book’s focus on Harley’s relationship with her mother and how devastating it was for Harley to lose her. Harley was traumatized and not doing too well, which sounds depressing, but it’s a pretty depressing thing to go through, so I liked that the author didn’t shy away from that. Harley’s voice was fairly distinct and snippets from her past were revealed throughout the book.
Now to the things I enjoyed less, of which there are a little more. I didn’t particularly like the book’s stance on taking medicine when you’re not feeling okay. Harley doesn’t take them, which is obviously fine, and she does say to each their own, but it just seemed a little too judgemental for me overall. Harley does use a method she learned in therapy when she starts to panic, but therapy overall isn’t depicted in the best way possible either, and Harley was even suicidal at some points in the book. I would have like a more positive and inclusive approach to therapy and meds.
At the beginning of the book, Harley doesn’t believe in god, but then later on there are more and more Christian themes, and Harley thinks her mom is watching from above. Obviously a lot of people do find solace in religion and maybe I’m being disrespectful, but it all kind of seemed a bit… too easy at the end? I just didn’t expect the book to take this route, and I felt like it let the beginning down. I can totally understand believing your mom is watching out for you, but suddenly Harley saw all these signs, and I don’t know… If it had been a serious discussion of belief, I expect I would have felt different, but it was all hastily thrown in towards the end, and it just didn’t really work for me here.
Sadly, I also didn’t enjoy the romantic aspect of the book. If the book hadn’t mainly been about Harley’s struggle with grief, I would have stopped reading after chapter two. Dean was bland and perfect without at least offering anything that would have made it entertaining to read about him. In fact, reading about him from Harley’s perspective was taxing. I was happy that she had something good going on in her life, but I honestly couldn’t have taken more schmoop. To be fair, their relationship becomes slightly more interesting later on, but still. Meh. I would have been so much more involved if we had seen their relationship develop from the beginning and Dean had been more of an actual person.
Some parts of Harley’s journey were glanced over too quickly. I don’t want to spoil anything, but there are some pretty major life events that the author just skims over. It does make sense that everything else takes a backseat to Harley’s pain over losing her mother, but I’m not talking papercuts here – these were really intense experiences. They would have been interesting to read about, but we didn’t get to see any of them in detail. It would have been fine to not have these elements in the book, but as it is the story seems all over the place.
This just wasn’t a me book. It’s not horrible, but it’s not great either. It’s somewhere in the lukewarm middle: I didn’t hate it, and I was even touched by some aspects, but overall this is not going on my favorites shelf. If the description sounds interesting to you, you might want to check it out anyway though.