Long Road Home

Long Road Home

4.6 73
by Danielle Steel
     
 

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From her secret perch at the top of the stairs, Gabriella Harrison watches the guests arrive at her parents' lavish Manhattan town house. At seven, she knows she is an intruder in her parents' life. Later, hiding in a closet, the click, click, click of her mother's high heels will strike terror in her heart. Gabriella believes, as she is told, that she is to blame for… See more details below

Overview

From her secret perch at the top of the stairs, Gabriella Harrison watches the guests arrive at her parents' lavish Manhattan town house. At seven, she knows she is an intruder in her parents' life. Later, hiding in a closet, the click, click, click of her mother's high heels will strike terror in her heart. Gabriella believes, as she is told, that she is to blame for her mother's rage - and her father's failure to protect her. When her parents' marriage collapses, Gabriella is given her first reprieve, as her father disappears, and then her mother abandons her to a convent. There, Gabriella's battered body and soul begin to mend. Amid the quiet safety and hushed rituals of the nuns, Gabriella grows into womanhood in a safe, peaceful world. Then a young priest comes into her life. Father Joe Connors never questioned his vocation until Gabriella entered the confessional and shared her soul. Confession leads to friendship. And friendship grows dangerously into love. Like Gabriella, Joe is haunted by the pain of his childhood consumed by guilt over a family tragedy, for which he blames himself. With Gabriella, Joe takes the first steps toward healing. But their relationship leads to disaster as Joe must choose between the priesthood and Gabriella, and life in the real world where he fears he does not belong, and cannot cope. Exiled and disgraced, and nearly destroyed, Gabriella struggles to survive on her own in New York. There she seeks healing and escape through her writing again, this time as an adult, and her life as a writer begins. But just when she thinks she is beyond hurt, Gabriella is once again betrayed by someone she trusts. Brought to the edge of despair, physically attacked beyond recognition and belief, haunted by abuse in her present and her past, she nonetheless manages to find hope again, and the courage to face the past. On a pilgrimage destined to bring her face-to-face with those who sought to destroy her in her early life, she finds forgivene

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Scandal, betrayal and treachery do little to animate this dreary saga from the prolific Steel (The Ghost). By the time she's six, Gabriella Harrison has known nothing but torture at the hands of her battering mother, Eloise, a socialite who hates childrenespecially her own. Gabbie's alcoholic father is incapable of dealing with the madness that rules the mansion and soon escapes with another woman. Then Eloise decides she's tired of mothering and abandons 10-year-old Gabbie at St. Matthew's convent. Gabbie blossoms at the nunnery, where she finds unconditional love from the sisters, a talent for writing and, later, illicit passion in the arms of a priest. When discovered, the affair leads to the priest's suicide and Gabbie's eviction from the convent. Always one to make lemonade of life's lemons, however, Gabbie assuages her grief with new friends, a new lover and her burgeoning talent as a writer. Still, tragedy tails her like a lost puppy, and her monstrous mother casts a long shadow over her triumphs. Steel's latest attempt at a redemption story falls flat because of repetitious prose and two-dimensional characters. The inevitable happy ending, when it finally arrives, can't make up for a plodding narrative lacking in any real suspense. (May)
Kirkus Reviews
Steel (The Ranch, 1997, etc.) actually manages to minimize child abuse in this saccharine take on tragedy. Poor little Gabbie is not only a victim. She is the Victim's Victim. Her wealthy mother Eloise feels jealous of her: She abuses Gabbie almost daily for the first decade of her life. She starves her, smashes her dolls, and breaks her ribs every Christmas. She bruises her kidneys and cuts up her face. But Gabbie's emotional wounds are even worse, for Eloise has persuaded her that everything wrong with the family is her fault. Meanwhile, Gabbie's father is a prodigious weakling who drinks to forget his terrible home life, eventually deserting both daughter and wife. In what is probably an act of mercy, Gabbie's mother runs off with another man and abandons the girl at a Manhattan convent. To protect herself from a malevolent world, Gabbie decides to become a nun. But the world has other plans for this girl whose tribulations make those of Job look like chopped liver. She falls in love with a priest and becomes pregnant (after all, what do priests know about condoms?). The priest then commits suicide; after a painful miscarriage, Gabbie almost dies. To top it off, the church forces her out of the convent with only $500 and two badly tailored dresses to her name. She's seduced by a con man, then robbed and beaten within an inch of her life. At this point, Gabbie decides to be a victim no longer. She tries to find her mother, visits her father, and conveniently meets a nice young doctor. After her bruises heal, the physician (unsurprisingly) falls in love with her. Steel goes to battle with yet another worthy cause, but her good intentions this time fizzle in a sea ofber-melodrama.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307566959
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/25/2009
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
448
Sales rank:
11,303
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt


Eloise had been pretty then, and young, something of a beauty, and there was a coolness about her that drove him into a frenzy. He begged, he pleaded, he courted, he wanted desperately to marry her, and the more he pursued her, the more aloof she was. It took him almost two years to convince her to become his wife. He had wanted children almost immediately, had bought her a lovely house, and he was so proud of her he almost crowed every time he introduced her. But it took him nearly another two years to convince her to have a baby. She always said she needed more time. And although she never said it openly, having children wasn't really what she wanted. Her own childhood had been so unpleasant, she wasn't particularly attracted to the idea of having children. But it meant so much to John, that eventually she relented. And regretted it almost immediately after. She had a difficult pregnancy, was violently ill almost to the very end, and the delivery was a horror she knew she would never repeat and always remember. In Eloise's mind, despite the adorable pink bundle they placed in her arms the next day, it simply wasn't worth it. And it annoyed her right from the first to see how much attention John lavished on the baby. It was the kind of passion he had once had for her, and suddenly all he seemed to think about was Gabriella . . . was she warm enough . . . was she cold . . . had she eaten . . . had someone just changed her diaper . . . had Eloise seen how sweet she looked when she smiled. . . . He thought it was remarkable how much she looked like his mother. Just listening to him, Eloise wanted to scream every time she saw her daughter.

Shewent back to her own activities rapidly, shopping, going to tea parties in the afternoon, and having lunch with friends. And more than ever, she wanted to go out every evening. She had absolutely no interest in the baby. She admitted to several of the women she played bridge with on Wednesday afternoons, that she found the child incredibly boring and quite repulsive. And the way she said it always amused them. She was so outspoken they thought it was funny. If anything, she was less maternal than she had ever been. But John was convinced she would come to it slowly. Some people just weren't good with babies, he told himself, each time he saw her with Gabriella. She was still very young, she was twenty-four, and very beautiful. He was sure that when the baby started doing more interesting things, she would rapidly conquer her mother. But that day never came, not for Eloise, or for Gabriella. In fact, when Gabriella started crawling everywhere, pulling at things, standing up next to the cocktail table and throwing ashtrays on the floor, she nearly drove her mother crazy.

"My God . . . look at the mess that child makes . . . she's constantly knocking things down and breaking things, and some part of her is always dirty. . . ."

"She's just a baby, El . . ." he said gently, scooping Gabriella up into his arms and hugging her, and then blowing raspberries on her belly.

"Stop that, that's disgusting!" Eloise said sternly, looking at him in revulsion. Unlike John, Eloise hardly ever touched her. A nurse they had early on had figured it all out easily and shared her thoughts with the baby's father. She said that Eloise was jealous of the baby. It sounded ridiculous to John, but in time even he began to wonder. Every time he talked to the child, or picked her up, Eloise got angry. And by the time Gabriella was two years old, Eloise slapped her hands every time she reached out to touch something in their living room or their bedroom. She thought Gabriella should be confined to the nursery, and said so.

"We can't lock her up in there," John objected when he found her in her room, whenever he came home from the office.

"She destroys everything," Eloise would answer, as usual looking angry. But she was even more so when John commented on what pretty hair Gabriella had, what lovely curls. It was the next day that Gabriella got her first haircut. Eloise took her to Best and Co. with the nurse, and when they returned, the curls had vanished. And when John expressed surprise, Eloise explained that having her hair cut was healthy for her.

The rivalry began in earnest when Gabriella spoke in sentences and would run down the hall squealing to see her father. Sensing danger near at hand, she generally steered a wide berth around her mother. Eloise could barely contain herself while she watched John play with her, and when he finally began criticizing Eloise for how little time she spent with the child, a chasm began to grow between Eloise and her husband. She was sick of hearing him whine at her about the baby. She thought it was unmanly, and frankly disgusting.

Gabriella's first beating occurred when she was three, on a morning when she accidentally knocked a plate off the breakfast table and broke it. Eloise had been sitting uneasily beside her, drinking her morning coffee. And without hesitating, the instant the plate fell, she reached over and slapped her.

"Don't ever do that again . . . do you understand?" Gabriella had simply stared at her, her eyes filled with tears, her face a mask of shock and sorrow. "Did you hear me?" she shouted at the child again. Her curls had reappeared by then, and the huge blue eyes stared back in confusion at her mother. "Answer me!"

"I sorry, Mommy. . . ." John had just entered the room and saw what was happening with disbelief, but he was so shocked, he did nothing to stop it. He was afraid to interfere, and make things worse. He had never seen Eloise so angry. Three years of anger, jealousy, and frustration were erupting from within, like a long-overdue volcano.

"If you ever do that again, Gabriella, I'll spank you!" Eloise said ominously, shaking the child by both arms until her teeth shook. "You're a very, very naughty girl, and no one likes naughty children." Gabriella glanced from her mother's face suffused with rage, to her father standing in the doorway, but he said nothing. He was afraid to. And as soon as Eloise was aware of him, she scooped the child up in her arms, and took her back to her room, and left her there, without her breakfast. She gave her a sharp slap on her bottom before she left. Gabriella was lying on her bed, whimpering, when her mother left her to go back to breakfast.

"You didn't have to do that," John said quietly when Eloise came back to the breakfast table for another cup of coffee. He could see that her hands were shaking, and she still looked angry.

"If I don't, you'll wind up with a juvenile delinquent on your hands one day. Discipline is good for children." His own parents had been kind to him, and he was still startled by Eloise's reaction. But he was also well aware that their daughter made her extremely nervous. Eloise had never been quite the same since Gabriella was born, and nowadays she was always angry at him about something. His hopes for a large, happy family had long since vanished.

"I don't know what she did to upset you, but it couldn't have been that awful," he said calmly.

"She threw a plate on the floor intentionally, and broke it. I'm not going to put up with tantrums!" Eloise said sharply.

"Maybe it was an accident," he said, trying to mollify her, and succeeding only in making the situation worse. There was nothing he could ever say to defend their daughter. Eloise simply did not want to hear it.

"Disciplining Gabriella is up to me," Eloise said through clenched teeth. "I don't tell you how to run your office," she said, and then left the table.

Within six months, "disciplining" Gabriella became a full-time job for her mother. There was always some fresh crime she had committed that required a slap, a spanking, or a beating. Playing in the garden and getting grass stains on her knees, playing with the neighbors' cat and getting her arm scratched, or her dress dirty, falling on the street and scraping her knees and getting blood all over her dress and socks was a particularly heinous offense that cost her her most serious beating to date, just before her fourth birthday. John knew of the beatings, and saw it happen many times, but he thought there was nothing he could do to stop Eloise, and even comforting the child afterward made it worse, and it became simpler to accept Eloise's explanations of why she had to beat, slap, or spank her. In the end, he decided it was best to say nothing, and he tried not to think about what was happening to their daughter. He tried to tell himself that maybe Eloise was right. He didn't know. Maybe discipline was good for children, if she said so.

His parents had died in an auto accident and there was no one he could talk to, no one he would have dared tell what Eloise did to Gabriella.

Gabriella was certainly a model child, she barely spoke, cleared the table carefully, folded her clothes neatly in her room, did everything she was told, and never answered back to her mother. Maybe Eloise was right. The results were certainly impressive. And when she sat at dinner with them, her eyes were huge in her face, and she remained completely silent. It was only unfortunate that her father came to mistake terror for good manners.

But in Eloise's less generous eyes, Gabriella always fell far short of perfection. There was always something more to scold her about, punish her for, or a new reason to give her a "spanking." Eventually the spankings became longer and more frequent, the slaps seemed to punctuate every exchange between them, the shakings, the sharp blows, the resounding slaps to every part of her body. There were times when John feared that Eloise might seriously hurt Gabriella, but he kept his comments to himself about the way his wife was bringing up their daughter. To him, it appeared that discretion was the better part of valor, and he did his best to convince himself that what she was doing wasn't wrong, and he was careful never to see the bruises. According to Eloise, the child fell constantly, and was so awkward they couldn't let her ride a bike or learn to roller-skate. The deprivations her mother inflicted on her were clearly for her own protection, the bruises a sign that she was as clumsy as Eloise declared her.

And by her sixth birthday, Gabriella's beatings had become a habit, for all of them. John avoided them, Gabriella expected them, and Eloise clearly enjoyed them. If anyone had said as much to her, she would have been outraged. They were for the child's own good, she claimed. They were "necessary." They kept her from becoming more of a spoiled brat than she was, Eloise would have explained. And Gabriella herself knew how truly bad she was. If she weren't, her mother wouldn't have had to hit her . . . if she weren't, her father would have stopped her mother from beating her . . . if she weren't, they might have loved her. But she knew better than anyone how unworthy she was, how truly terrible were her crimes. She knew all of it, because her mother told her.

And as she lay on the floor that summer afternoon, and her mother dragged her off the floor by one arm, and slapped her one more time before sending her to her room, she saw her father watching them from the doorway. She knew he had seen the beating and done nothing about it, just as always. His eyes looked mournful as Gabriella crept past him, and he said nothing. He didn't reach out to comfort her, he didn't try to touch her, he simply looked away, refusing to see the look in her eyes, unable to bear it any longer.

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