The Long Walk Home

( 19 )

Overview

When forty-four year-old Fiona Edwards answers the door of her farmhouse bed and breakfast, she discovers a tall, middle-aged man shouldering a hulking backpack. He is unshaven, sweat-soaked ... and arrestingly handsome. What neither of them knows at this moment is that their lives are about to change forever.
American Alec Hudson has carried the ashes of his late ex-wife, Gwynne, all the way from his arrival at London's Heathrow Airport to this valley amid the mountains of ...
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The Long Walk Home

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Overview

When forty-four year-old Fiona Edwards answers the door of her farmhouse bed and breakfast, she discovers a tall, middle-aged man shouldering a hulking backpack. He is unshaven, sweat-soaked ... and arrestingly handsome. What neither of them knows at this moment is that their lives are about to change forever.
American Alec Hudson has carried the ashes of his late ex-wife, Gwynne, all the way from his arrival at London's Heathrow Airport to this valley amid the mountains of North Wales. He is honoring her request that he scatter her remains atop Cadair Idris, a towering mountain they had climbed years before, the mountain behind Fiona's farm. But the weather is vicious and, as he waits for it to moderate, Alec and Fiona realize they are drawn together by mutual loss and longing. Fiona is married, and her husband, a sheep farmer who has been poisoned by an agricultural chemical and lives like a recluse in a distant part of the farm, has become frighteningly unstable.
When Alec finally summits and scatters Gwynne's ashes, he is caught in a blinding hailstorm. As he searches for the route down, he comes upon the body of a man he recognizes from a photo at the farm: Fiona's husband, David, who is close to death.
Will North's debut novel is a story about good people struggling with the agonizing complexities of fidelity: to a spouse, a memory, a moral code, and finally to a passion neither thought would ever reappear in their lives. By turns lyrical and gripping, set amid a landscape of breathtaking beauty and unpredictable danger, this is a story you will not soon forget.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“[Will North is] a strong, vivid writer with a romantic’s heart.”
Patricia Gaffney, NY Times Bestselling Author of Mad Dash and The Goodbye Summer

“With its exploration of love at midlife, this novel will remind readers of the megahit Bridges of Madison County.”
Booklist

“North’s knack for characterization creates a memorable cast across generations.”
Seattle Times

[The Long Walk Home is a] lyrical first novel about love and loss.”
Publishers Weekly

“Witty exchanges and fascinating descriptions... a joy to read.”
Library Journal

“North deftly creates an enchanting and touching love story.”
Booklist

“A brilliantly realized romance.”
The Strand Bookstore

Seattle Times
“The Long Walk Home movingly conveys the life-changing effects of love between two middle-aged people.”
—Seattle Times
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“…bittersweet, romantic…”
—Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Library Journal
“[W]itty exchanges and fascinating descriptions… absorbing from the very first. A joy to read.”
—Library Journal
Publishers Weekly
“[A] lyrical first novel about love and loss. . . North offers vivid descriptions of the Welsh countryside, capturing its local dialect, flora and fauna, and wild weather. . .”
—Publishers Weekly
Jacquelyn Mitchard
“Genuine, tender, and affecting…” Jacquelyn Mitchard, New York Times Bestseller and Oprah selection novelist
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781620151716
  • Publisher: Libertary Co.
  • Publication date: 11/27/2013
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 274
  • Sales rank: 285,690
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Meet the Author

Will North came to fiction late in his career and almost by accident, when an event in his own life led to a story, which led to a book—The Long Walk Home—which received enthusiastic national reviews. Another acclaimed novel, Water, Stone, Heart, followed the next year. Both are set in the British countryside which has always felt like home to him. His latest novel, Seasons’ End, is set on an island in Washington’s Puget Sound near Seattle where he lives with his wife and their Shepherd/Lab rescue dog, Baxter.

A fourth novel, Harm None, the first in a series of murder mysteries, will be published in early 2014. Set in the ancient and magical county of Cornwall, England the new series features Detective Inspector Morgan Davies and Scene of Crimes manager Calum West. The second book in that series, Too Clever By Half, will be published in the fall of 2014.

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Read an Excerpt

One
In a life lived long enough, there are strange symmetries that we recognize only later, if we recognize them at all--moments when an experience or a perception has a parallel moment in another time, a balancing echo, years in the future, or perhaps years in the past, a moment when it feels as if a circle is closing, encompassing and completing something infinitely precious.
Often this circle begins, or ends, or sometimes begins anew with a slight disturbance in the world of the senses--a sound, a smell, a glimpse of something, an inkling vibrating just below the level of conscious thought. This is a world we civilized people have been taught to dismiss. When the French philosopher Rene Descartes wrote "Cogito, ergo sum" in 1637, those three words of Latin--I think, therefore I am--ushered in an era historians call the Enlightenment. In a sense, we still live in it today; it is a world in which the mind is elevated above the senses, where rational thought is judged superior to feelings. And yet, and yet . . . things happen in our lives that challenge this conceit: slight shifts occur in the firmament of everyday existence, the turning world hesitates imperceptibly, the known constellations of experience inexplicably blink--and everything is changed. These are moments that do not lend themselves to rational thought; they are entirely sensual.
For Fiona Edwards, this is how the circle began: out of the corner of her eye one Saturday evening in early spring, Fiona, who was standing at her kitchen sink at the time, sensed a flash of color--blue--down at the main road, by the gate leading to the long, sinuous lane that wound up the hill to Tan y Gadair Farm. The farm had been named, centuries earlier, after the mountain whose cliffs reared up from its back pasture: Cadair Idris--"the chair of Idris," a mythological Welsh giant. The window above the sink faced away from the mountain and offered a panoramic view of the pastoral vale far below the farm. This April evening, with the setting sun low in the west, the meadows glowed a nearly neon green, and the ancient stone walls that edged Fiona's lane seemed burnished with gold. This was her favorite time of year, the long-awaited end to the dreary, wet days of winter, a time of possibilities. Besides the view, though, Fiona liked the fact that she could see her guests coming and be outside to greet them when they arrived.
Ah, she said to herself, that will be the Bryce-Wetheralls, at last. Year after year, Fiona Edwards's sixteenth-century stone farmhouse bed-and-breakfast had won awards from the Welsh Tourist Board, the Royal Automobile Club, and the Automobile Association, and one reason was the warmth of her welcome. Guests at Tan y Gadair often wrote in her guestbook that she made them feel as if they'd "come home" to a place they'd never been before.
The Bryce-Wetheralls were a couple from Manchester. They'd called earlier to say they were having car trouble and might be late. Her other guests had already checked in, had tea, and gone into town for supper. An unusual patch of warm weather at the end of March had started the tourist season early this year.
Fiona didn't hurry. The farm lane was nearly half a mile long. It rose and dipped and twisted around granite outcroppings and through oak copses and was out of sight from the farm for much of its length. She finished tidying up the afternoon tea dishes, put aside her apron, and walked through the old house toward the front hall. In the mirror above the sideboard in the dining room, she checked her appearance and frowned. A petite forty-three-year-old, she still had her looks, but there were unmistakable wrinkles now--especially since David's illness: two worry furrows between her brows, crow's-feet at her eyes. And there were random, coarse strands of gray hiding in the naturally blond hair that fell just to the base of her neck. She parted it in the middle and had it cut so that it curved around toward her chin on each side, a little trick to hide the fact that her jaw was losing a bit of definition. On this particular evening, she was wearing a simple white cotton blouse tucked into a pair of snug blue jeans her daughter had nagged her to buy. Her husband hated them; made her look like a hussy, he'd said. Good, she'd thought, maybe you'll be more interested.
Reaching the front hall, she retrieved a pair of garden shears from the basket on the floor by the umbrella stand, threw a paisley wool shawl around her shoulders, and stepped out into the fading evening light to cut narcissus and grape hyacinth from the border garden while she awaited her late arrivals. The garden was her pride and joy. The house stood on gently sloping ground, facing west. In the far distance, between two rocky foothills, you could see a sliver of the Irish Sea and the reed beds and sand of the Mawddach estuary. She'd had fill hauled in to create a level forecourt and had it surfaced with pea gravel so guests could park close to the house. The new forecourt was supported by a low stone retaining wall and it was just three steps down to a broad lawn and the gardens she'd created from a former sheep meadow. A gnarled old apple tree anchored one corner. The western exposure wasn't ideal, but in the summer the southern sun got high enough that it cleared the crest of Cadair Idris by midmorning and her flowers flourished. Because of the warm spell, the crocuses had bloomed and were already fading, but the daffodils and narcissus were thriving, the hyacinths were out, and the tulips would soon bloom as well. In a few more weeks, if the weather kept on like this, the border garden would be a riot of herbaceous flowers: spires of delphinium in several shades of blue and white; pastel columbine; multicolored lupines; pale pink oriental poppies, their blossoms like crepe paper at a party; ground-hugging tufts of alyssum and dianthus; clusters of scarlet Sweet William; sprawling clouds of lavender, and much more. Behind them all, where now there were only bare canes, there soon would be vigorous, old-fashioned ivory-pink "New Dawn" roses, intertwined with the saucer-sized blue blossoms of clematis, clambering over the stone wall that surrounded the garden and protected the tender plants from storms off the Irish Sea.
It took only a few moments for Fiona to gather a bouquet for the table. While she waited for the Bryce-Wetheralls in the garden, she looked back at the house. When she and David moved in--what, nearly a quarter century ago now--her father-in-law had let the place run down. Hard not to, really: one old man trying to keep a hill farm going. The original farmhouse had been built with massive oak timbers. The beams holding up the ceiling on the ground floor were more than a foot thick and blackened with age. The exterior was built of huge blocks of hard, igneous rock, quarried from the slopes of Cadair Idris. The second story huddled under a steeply pitched slate roof punctuated by three gables. Squat stone chimneys were attached at the south and north faces of the original building like bookends. The inglenook fireplace in the dining room was so big you could stand up inside it--at least she could--and even with your arms fully spread you still couldn't touch its sides. Afternoon sunlight flooded through the big casement windows set into the thick stone walls of the front rooms. Smaller windows nestled under the three gables on the upper level.
Running a bed-and-breakfast had been her idea. David had the farm and she wanted something of her own to manage. David balked at first, but raising hill sheep is a marginal existence, even with the government subsidies, and Fiona's business started making money right from the beginning. The first thing she'd done was have all the leaky old windows replaced with double glazing; there was nothing atmospheric about drafty rooms. Then she upgraded the bathrooms and managed to rearrange the upstairs so that her two spare bedrooms had their own bathrooms. A few years ago, they'd been able to build a two-story addition on the northern end of the house, creating a luxury bedroom and bath upstairs and a new sitting room for her guests downstairs. Then, as they were able to take in more guests and charge more for the luxury of the accommodations, she'd had the new kitchen built in a one-story shed addition overlooking the valley and the approach to the house. She'd had the masons use old stone for the walls of both additions and oak for the lintels above the windows, to match the old part of the house. Another winter or two of weathering and you wouldn't be able to tell old from new.
She had been standing there, feeling a bit "house proud" for several minutes, but still no car had arrived. Odd, she thought; probably just someone turning at the gate. People were forever getting turned around coming out of Dolgellau, the small market town a few miles down the valley. It was situated at the point where the Mawddach and Wnion rivers joined before meandering west to the estuary and the sea. A seven-arch stone bridge was built in 1638 across the Wnion, and the town's growth was fueled first by the wool industry in the eighteenth century and then by a brief gold rush in the nineteenth. The town revived again in the Victorian era when vacationers flocked to the mountains to pursue a new fad, hill-walking.
The name Dolgellau, a typical Welsh tongue twister, baffled English speakers: "How do you pronounce this place?" they'd ask. The answer, roughly, was "Dol-geth-lie," though even that wasn't quite right. Welsh is a Celtic language full of consonant pairs and combinations that don't sound anything like they look. Awkward-looking on the written page, Welsh is musical when spoken; it sounds a bit like water flowing over rocks in a fast-moving stream. It had taken Fiona, who was English, years to master it after she married David, who had been born and raised in this valley. Even now, she sometimes had to struggle to keep up with native speakers.
Almost as twisting as the town's name were its narrow, one-way streets and alleys, squeezed between old stone town houses, shops, and hotels built long before anyone envisioned cars or buses. Strangers often found themselves heading west up Cadair Road toward Fiona's farm when they meant to be going east toward England.
Fiona gathered up the flowers and returned to the kitchen sink to trim them . . . whereupon the blue color reappeared beyond the window, not as a car but in the form of an enormous royal blue knapsack attached to the shoulders of a lanky, middle-aged man who was now striding up the lane toward the farm. Fiona was used to seeing walkers; one of the tracks to the mountain's summit went right past the farm. But most British walkers and climbers didn't carry backpacks as big as this one, and anyway Cadair Idris was a day hike. What's more, while the mountain was within the boundaries of Snowdonia National Park, it wasn't really on the way to anywhere, so she didn't imagine he was a through-walker. That the man had fetched up here was puzzling--all the more so when he ignored the signpost for the trail to the mountain and carried on right into her courtyard.
She finished arranging the flowers, placed the vase on the table in the breakfast room, and went to the front of the house, arriving just as the walker knocked. She opened the door to a man who filled the doorway, and then some. He was well over six feet tall, lean, and very fit. She could tell this because, given the warm weather, he wore very little: sturdy and well-worn hiking boots, abbreviated khaki hiking shorts, and a sleeveless black T-shirt made of some lightweight material. His longish brown hair was sun-streaked blond, and he was very tan. Sweat drenched his shirt, and he looked like he hadn't shaved in several days. Despite this, he was arrestingly handsome.
He bent slightly at the waist, leaned on his walking stick, which had a curved handle made of ram's horn, flashed a shy grin, and said, "Hi. Are you Mrs. Edwards?"
"I am, yes . . ."
"I saw a picture of your farmhouse in the window of the Tourist Information Center in Dolgellau and I wondered if you might have a single room available tonight? Well, actually, two nights."
"I'm afraid I don't," Fiona said. "Didn't they tell you?"
"The Information Center was closed when I got there. Wasn't supposed to be, according to the posted hours."
"That Bronwen!" Fiona said, shaking her head. "Whenever she has marketing to do, she just closes the Information Center early and off to the shops she goes. It's disgraceful." And it was; she had caused Fiona trouble more than once. Because of all the awards Fiona had won, the Tourist Information Center featured her farmhouse in their window, but the truth was that once the season started, Tan y Gadair was almost always booked solid. She'd had to turn a lot of people away.
Fiona was trying to place the man's accent. Clearly not British. North American, she guessed, but where?
"You're Canadian, then?" she asked.
"American."
"Really! We don't get many Americans way out here."
"Been here before. Stayed across the river, at Ty Isaf."
"With Graham and Diana? They've moved away now, you know."
"So I discovered."
"Only to be further misled by our esteemed Tourist Information Center. Look, I'd love to have you, but I'm completely booked. I have a room available tomorrow night--Sundays are often slow--but not tonight."
"I understand," the walker said.
"Look here," Fiona said, "why don't you step inside and I'll just call Janet, at Rockledge. Perhaps she has a room tonight; then you could come here in the morning."
"That's very kind."
"No trouble at all; I'll just be a tick."
The man watched her go. She was nearly a foot shorter than he, but she carried herself in a way that made her seem taller. Her hair swung like a silk curtain across the nape of her neck as she walked. He guessed her to be several years younger than he, and he noticed, with an ache of longing that surprised him, how good she looked in those tight jeans.
Fiona scurried into the kitchen and dialed her neighbor, a mile back down the road. After several rings, Janet finally picked up.
"Dolgellau 531," Janet said, using the old way of answering. Janet was getting on in years and hadn't taken to all-numerical telephone numbers. She was also hard of hearing.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 19 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 19 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A deep character study

    American Alex Hudson promised his former wife Gwynne that he would scatter her ashes from the top of Cadair Idris Mountain in Wales that they once climbed together. Thus he hikes the path to Fiona Edwards¿s renowned Tan y Gadair Farm bed-and-breakfast at the foothill of the peak he must ascend.----------- However, the weather is nasty so he waits for a lull at Fiona¿s B&B. She, like him, is lonely as her spouse David ails and hides from the world including her. The two middle age souls fall into each other¿s arms as much for solace as for lovemaking. When a break in the weather occurs, Alec climbs to the summit to complete his quest. However, before he can climb down, a hailstorm makes the descent dangerous. Still he treks downward towards Fiona¿s B&B when he comes across the near dead body of David. Alex ponders to be or not to be as he debates trying to save him yet also considers leaving him to die so he can have Fi for himself rationalizing there is no way to bring David down the mountain in this weather alone vs. looking at himself while shaving.------------- THE LONG WALK HOME is a modern day morality play as Alex struggles with his beliefs. He does the right thing by Gwynne, but finds he wants David to die so that Fi is free as much for him as for herself. David is an apropos allegorical name as it conjures up biblical King David sending Urias to die so he could marry the widow Bathsheba. Will North provides a deep character study in a vivid rugged locale that readers will appreciate.------------- Harriet Klausner

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 24, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Be Kind to Yourself-- read this book!

    This is a very thought-provoking story with lots of morals and values, and moral quandries. And humor--and irony--and delicious cooking ideas. And incredible scenery---and even a special dog. Does it get any better?

    I have a friend, Mary, who is like Fiona, and I only wish she had had the same opportunity to continue to explore life's challenges and rewards. Mary lives in the north of England, she was married to Joe, a sheep farmer for many years, and he died from either effects from Chernobyl, or perhaps now we wonder, the practice of sheep dipping. Joe was barely 60, Mary about 54, and she has spent way too many of the ensuing 20 years alone. A vital woman--smart, funny, accomplished and did I mention quite beautiful? And very very earthy.

    The scenery surrounding their property in Cumbria is amazingly like the descriptions of Wales. This story would make a wonderful movie. The way to handle this moral dilemma encourages us to think,to care about the happiness of others; for all of us who are lucky enough to still be together in a long time marriage---well, we need to cherish it---every day, as we are the luckiest ones.

    We no longer take a bottle of wine when invited out to dinner--we choose to take a favorite book. We keep a bookcase stocked with precious favorites---it's our personal "wine rack." Can't wait to find this "vintage" book to add to our collection.

    Sounds like the author lives in our area, and attends a certain restaurant on Fridays with other authors. It is tempting to show up one Friday, find a great table, and just wait to see what happens. As I am 67, it may be too late to be a groupie..but I do not feel 67, trust me.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A good read

    Very romantic. Kudos for writing believable love scenes for people over 30.
    Good attempt at complexity, but ends just a little too conveniently. Characters very likable but I would like a little more uncertainty or self doubt. They were so SURE of their feelings, which I find is not often true in real life.
    But I thoroughly enjoyed it. Especially for a book I just picked up at random. Nice detail on Wales also.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    England Bed and Breakfast with a Love Story

    A good book. Reminds me alittle of the Bridges of Madison County but much better. Love always prevails. What is love? Read this book and you will find out.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 14, 2009

    A most well written page turner

    Step into Fiona's Inn and you'll never want to leave. Find yourself entwined with the characters of this enchanting story. Mr. North is adept at pulling the reader along - with descriptive passages that will take you on a journey of loss, lonliness and love. From the seemingly insignificant unopened bottle of perfume to the roasted pork tenderloin; from the lambs to the claw footed bathtub - this is a book to be enjoyed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2008

    A deeply moving and unforgettable story

    This story is one that will totally wrap itself around you - unbelievable first novel for the author. Bravo!!!!!!! Please write more -- soon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2014

    Very good read

    I really enjoyed this book. Kept my interest throughout and actually had a satisfying ending.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2014

    Recommend

    A good read. It made me glad I read it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2009

    A Snore

    This got such high ratings plus we read it for our book club, but man, was this book a snore. It was a big chore to get throught the pages. Don't waste your money!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2008

    A Wonderful Story

    What a solid, satisfying book this was! I found it hard to put aside, finishing it in two days. I was surprised that it was the author's first novel, so deft and sure was his writing, especially in characterization. Interestingly, his most vivid and real character was the female Fiona. I felt I was inside her mind. The only flaw was at the end. With Alec's sudden return after six and a half years, everyone seems to slide back into their old relationship with hardly missing a beat. Seems too good to be true.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2008

    Good one!

    I think of this book and I think 'sweet' - it's a nice story -- a bit predictable but somehow it works - I really enjoyed this book. It's a fast read.

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