TGIF! Today I have a review of a new family saga, The Distance Home, by debut author, Paula Sanders.
I am drawn to family sagas, and I never tire of them. The dynamics and character analysis always have great potential. The Distance Home is a moving story of family set in 1960s rural South Dakota.
I was struck first by the atmospheric setting: cattle farms and the natural beauty of the west in South Dakota in contrast with the grittier aspects of this family’s home life. Included in the family of five are the mother, father, older son, and two daughters.
The parents each have their preferred child as family dynamics sometimes predict. The difference is that the preferences result in psychological turmoil. The son wants to be a ballet dancer, and the father wants no part in that, while he is pleased one of his daughters is a dancer. The mother is more protective of the son in response and is harsh and critical towards one of the daughters. Both children are deeply affected by the treatment of their parents, positive and negative, and develop negative coping strategies to escape.
Paula Saunders writes beautifully, and the characters are fully-developed, except for the youngest daughter. She is present in the book, but did not add or detract from it. The Distance Home revolves around the day-to-day life of this family at a time when gender roles and American culture were drastically changing. There is a somber tone within these pages without the book being heavily emotional.
Overall, The Distance Home is a story about what could be anyone’s family. It is at times funny while equally tragic, and although there is intense tumult in this family, there is also love, and in striking that shifty, shaky balance, there is honesty in this portrayal.
Thank you to Random House for the complimentary copy. My opinions are my own. The Distance Home will be published on August 7, 2018.
A “riveting family saga” (Mary Karr) set in the American West, about sibling rivalry, dark secrets, and a young girl’s struggle with freedom and artistic desire.
This moving debut novel is a profoundly American story. Set in a circa-1960s rural South Dakota–a hardscrabble place of cattle buyers, homegrown ballet studios, casual drug abuse, and unmitigated pressure to conform, all amid the great natural beauty of the region–the book portrays a loving but struggling young family in turmoil, and two siblings, Rene and Leon, who opt for different but equally extreme means of escaping the burdens of home. By turns funny and tragic, lyrical and terse, Paula Saunders’ debut examines the classic American questions: What is to become of the vulnerable in a culture of striving and power? And what is the effect of this striving and power on both those who dominate and those who are overrun? It is an affecting novel, in which the author’s compassionate narration allows us to sympathize, in turn, with everyone involved.