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Raine St. James grew up in Darlington, a small Illinois town, where being a lesbian was not only frowned upon, but was unheard of. At 17, Raine escaped the town to make her way in the big world. She became a successful writer and lecturer by telling her story of growing up in the farming country of the midwest.
Now, a decade later, her story is old news, and her articles are no longer selling and no one wants to hear her coming of age story again. Her agent tells her that he has a job for her. She has no choice but to accept it because she is about to be evicted from her apartment in Chicago. There’s a problem, though: the job is as a guest lecturer in Darlington. She reluctantly returns to the town that caused Raine to reinvent herself, to deal with the pain of small-town homophobia. Once on campus, she meets a woman she remembers from high school, Beth, who is all grown up now and irresistible. She reconnects with her high school friends who seem happy to see her.
Not everyone is happy to see her, though. There are still small-minded people in Darlington.
Beth tries to tell Raine that not everyone in town has a problem with her. But Raine can’t believe that. Slowly, but surely, Raine begins to accept that her friends are really her friends. There is a growing attraction between Raine and Beth, but Beth is with another woman in a very closeted relationship.
Rachel Spangler’s third book, The Long Way Home (Bold Strokes Books), explores how we remake ourselves and the consequence of not being true to our real selves. In the case of Raine, her perceived notions of small-town life may have been tainted by being 17. The reality of what she finds when she returns as an adult surprises her and has her wondering if she’d been wrong about her home town, her parents, and her friends.
Spangler’s story will have you staying up very late as you near the end of the book. Will Raine be able to look at her life now and give up her 17-year-old persona or will she continue to be the town’s most infamous daughter, the bad-girl who trashed an entire town to make her reputation? Will Beth be a part of that journey back to herself?
While Spangler has a tendency to be repetitious, and you might be tempted to skip those parts, don’t. It’s all part of trying to make decisions by both Raine and the woman she doesn’t want to love, Beth.