Shame and longing can flow through generations, but the secrets of the heart will not be buried for ever.
It is 1987 and a small Irish community is preparing for a wedding. The day before the ceremony a group of young friends, including the bride and groom, drive out to the beach for one last hurrah before all their lives change for good. There is an accident. Three survive, but three are killed.
The lives of the families are shattered and the rifts between them are felt throughout the small town. Connor is one of the survivors. But staying among the angry and the mourning is almost as hard as living with the shame of having been the driver. He leaves the only place he knows for another life, taking his secrets with him. Travelling first to Liverpool, then London, he makes a home – of sorts – for himself in New York. The city provides shelter and possibility for the displaced, somewhere Connor can forget his past and forge a new life.
But the secrets, the unspoken longings and regrets that have come to haunt those left behind will not be silenced. And before long, Connor will have to confront his past.
In his compelling new novel, Home Stretch, comedian, presenter and bestselling author Graham Norton, demonstrates his keen understanding of the power of stigma and secrecy – with quietly devastating results.
Norton’s previous two novels, Holding and Keeper, became instant bestsellers in the UK and Ireland, won a slew of awards and earned him dazzling review coverage in the literary community. Despite all this buzz about his previous books, and though I’m a big fan of Norton’s – and a regular watcher of The Graham Norton Show – I’d never actually picked up one of his novels. I’m so glad I finally did. Norton is a fantastic writer, and Home Stretch is a powerful and moving tale about shame, grief and the search for identity.
Set predominately in the small Irish town of Mullinmore, and told over three decades, Norton goes to great lengths to demonstrate how an entire community was forever altered by one tragic accident. Home Stretch is, at its heart, a character-study, and each of the characters within this community is brought to life so vividly that I felt as if they were real people rather than fictional creations.
Amid all the character-work and fine detail, one question above all others stuck in my head as I frantically flipped through the pages: What really happened that day at Barry’s roundabout? And Norton takes his time answering this; from the very first page, a slow-building suspense draws you in, demands your attention, and doesn’t let up until those final telling chapters.
Thought-provoking, character-driven and so very compelling, Home Stretch establishes Norton’s reputation as a serious writer, and I cannot wait to see what he delivers next. I’m off to check out his backlist, and if his previous novels are half as good as Home Stretch, I’ll be in for a real treat.