It is 1987 and a small Irish community is preparing for the wedding of two of its young inhabitants. They’re barely adults, not so long out of school and still part of the same set of friends they’ve grown up with. As the friends head home from the beach that last night before the wedding, there is a car accident. Three survive the crash but three are killed. And the reverberations are felt throughout the small town.
Connor, the young driver of the car, lives. But staying among the angry and the mourning is almost as hard as living with the shame, and so he leaves the only place he knows for another life. Travelling first to Liverpool, then London, by the noughties he has made 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 meet his past.
Home Stretch is an interesting, touching and sweet novel about family, secrets and the way one moment – and one person – can change someone’s life forever.
I found the writing in Home Stretch to be really powerful – the characters are convincing and feel like they could be real people. I don’t have any Irish family but I know a lot of people who do, and the descriptions of Ireland and family life there really conjured up a real picture in my mind.
The story starts with a fateful night where a group of young people – and their families’ – lives change forever. A car accident the day before a young couple are due to be married results in their death and the shame on Connor, who was driving, and his family. He escapes (or more accurately, is driven out of) the small town of Mullinmore and we follow his life in Liverpool, London and New York – and also see the aftereffects of the accident on his family and the rest of their small community. I loved reading about these places during the 80s and found this really interesting.
I don’t want to give too much away about the storyline but sexuality and the idea of how important it is to truly be yourself is a key theme in Home Stretch. The difficulties of being gay during the 80s in a small Irish community is laid bare. Secrets and surprises come out as we learn more about what really happened all those years ago, but this book isn’t really about the ‘big reveal’ but rather the way the characters deal with them – or don’t…
The story is mainly focused on Connor but we also follow various other characters and because we see so many years of their lives it really feels like we get to know them. By the end I didn’t really want want to finish reading about them. The ending felt right to me (although I admit i wanted a certain character to be punished more obviously than he was!)
Home Stretch is a charming and also thought-provoking read. It’s a bit of a slow burner in some ways but it never feels dull or boring – I enjoyed every word. Graham Norton is a great storyteller and there’s plenty to discuss in here. Now￼ I’d like to read his other novels as well￼!