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The Shortest Way Home: A Novel

The Shortest Way Home: A Novel

4.0 14
by Juliette Fay

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Sean has spent twenty years in Third World war zones and natural disaster areas, fully embracing what he’d always felt was his life’s mission. But when burnout sets in, Sean is reluctantly drawn home to Belham, Massachusetts, the setting of Fay’s much-loved



Sean has spent twenty years in Third World war zones and natural disaster areas, fully embracing what he’d always felt was his life’s mission. But when burnout sets in, Sean is reluctantly drawn home to Belham, Massachusetts, the setting of Fay’s much-loved Shelter Me. There, he discovers that his steely aunt, overly dramatic sister, and quirky nephew are having a little natural disaster of their own. When he reconnects with a woman from his past, Sean has to wonder if the bonds of love and loyalty might just rewrite his destiny. Completely relatable, The Shortest Way Home is another perfect serving of a slice of life from the irresistible Fay.

Winner of the Library Journal Award for Best Women's Fiction

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Three decades ago, Sean Doran’s mother died at 33 of Huntington’s disease, and his father, a merchant marine, left Sean and his two siblings in the care of their cold and distant Aunt Vivian. Though the siblings grow up aware of the threat of Huntington’s, they’ve never been tested; Sean’s sentiment, “I didn’t take it. I didn’t want to know,” is shared by all. Sean, now 44, has spent years exploring the world as a nurse, from one war-torn region to another. But when his brother, Hugh, dies of pneumonia, his sister, Deidre, puts her acting career on hold to care for Hugh’s son, Kevin, and their aunt, who she says has “lost it.” Sean returns from Africa and assumes the parental burden, a responsibility for which he is ill equipped. Soon, he reconnects with Becky, his childhood friend, but their budding romance is threatened by Sean’s pathological reluctance to put down roots, and he has to finally decide what’s most important to him. Fay’s third novel (after Deep Down True) is a touching exploration of a damaged family working to repair itself, with universal appeal in Sean’s reluctance to assume responsibility. Agent: Theresa Park. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
Praise for The Shortest Way Home:

“Fay is one of the best authors of women’s fiction, and her novels are not to be missed. A moving, introspective look at what it means to be family, and to be truly home.”

Library Journal, starred review

“Fans of Fay’s first novel, Shelter Me (2009), will spot a familiar face in Sean’s hometown, and readers old and new will fall in love with the flawed, endearing cast of characters. A beautifully written novel infused with Fay’s generous spirit.”


“Fay’s third novel (after Deep Down True) is a touching exploration of a damaged family working to repair itself, with universal appeal.”

Publishers Weekly

“Full of humorous and tender moments as well as subtle revelations, The Shortest Way Home is a quietly powerful exploration of one man's journey back to himself.”

The Shortest Way Home is as complex and full of surprises as the well-examined life. This is one beautiful novel, rich with depth and heart.”
—Julianna Baggott, bestselling author of Pure

The Shortest Way Home is Juliette Fay’s best yet and shows us that loving the people in your life can be as exciting, as daring, as difficult an adventure as any.”
—Marisa de los Santos, New York Times bestselling author of Falling Together and Love Walked In

The Shortest Way Home is full of heart and of understanding about the often awkward collection we call ‘family.’”
Meg Waite Clayton, bestselling author of The Wednesday Sisters

“If you’ve ever thought you or anyone in your family might be just a bit less than perfect, read this book.”
—Nancy Thayer, author of Summer Breeze

“With trademark wit and grace, Juliette Fay portrays a man forced to rescue his family as he reaches for his own freedom. She keeps you turning the pages, even as you want to stop and admire her writing.”
—Randy Susan Meyers, author of The Murderer’s Daughters

“Insightful, funny, and tender-hearted…full of truths about family, falling in love, and finding out who we are meant to be.”
—Amy Hatvany, author of Best Kept Secret and Outside the Lines

“A touching and engrossing story about the lengths to which we’ll go to avoid where we’re meant to be, and the way the heart leads us gently back.”
Nichole Bernier, author of The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.

“A smart, sincere look at the meaning of home, the complicated nature of family ties, and how the things we run from are often what we need the most."
—Allie Larkin, author of Why Can’t I Be You

“Heartfelt... Juliette Fay does a wonderful job creating this quirky, lovable cast of characters finding their way in life and love.”

—Shilpi Somaya Gowda, New York Times bestselling author of Secret Daughter

"Powerful, beautifully written, and at times heartbreaking… a meditation on the impossibility and the inevitability of finding our way home.”
—Julie Buxbaum
, author of After You

Praise for Deep Down True:
"Sincere, powerful and heartfelt, Deep Down True will resonate with women everywhere . . . I loved Fay’s true-to-life characters and her ability to portray the intricate dynamics of friendship and family in such an immediately recognizable way."
Emily Giffin, New York Times bestselling author of Heart of the Matter and Where We Belong

"I love Deep Down True for its intensely human characters and for the way the author grants them their flaws as generously as she celebrates their daily decencies, their persistent hopefulness, their moments of personal grace."
Marisa de los Santos, New York Times bestselling author of Falling Together and Love Walked In
“Enormously readable and hugely relatable!”
Kelly Corrigan, New York Times bestselling author of The Middle Place and Lift 
"Engrossing, touching, and immensely satisfying. The truth shines on every page. I’d almost be willing to go back to junior high if I could sit at Juliette Fay’s lunch table!"
Beth Harbison, New York Times bestselling author of Thin, Rich, Pretty and When in Doubt, Add Butter
"Fay deals honestly with Dana’s emotional journey . . . and gives readers a believable cast, from the daughter struggling with the wolf-pack mentality of middle school to Dana’s sometimes obnoxious yet fiercely loving sister. It expertly walks a heavily trodden path."
Publishers Weekly 
"Fay imbues Dana with the smarts and insecurities that war within most of us. Highly recommended for fans of women’s fiction featuring resilient heroines.”
Library Journal 
"Heartwarming, funny, well-penned . . . a solid page-turner, right through to the touching end."
"Tackles a host of serious issues in a remarkably thoughtful fashion . . . What’s more, it’s just a genuinely good story."

Praise for Shelter Me:
“Fay keeps the reader engaged with a vivid descriptive palette evoking the little details of life in a small town. She also does a beautiful job capturing the ebb and flow of single motherhood, from small miracles and little annoyances to the big ordeals.”
The Boston Globe
“A wise and inspirational debut. Readers will be charmed.”
Publishers Weekly
“What a gorgeous paradox of a book: a deep, thoughtful exploration of a young mother’s first year of widowhood that is as much a page-turner as any thriller. The translucent beauty of the writing and the sheer humanity of the characters pulled me along.”
Marisa de Los Santos, New York Times bestselling author of Falling Together and Love Walked In
“Juliette Fay can hit the high notes of emotion with unexpected moments of redemption and wry humor.”
Jacqueline Sheehan, author of Lost & Found
“A richly told story. Fay writes with vivid dialogue and conjures up characters that feel real enough to be sitting in your kitchen.”
Lee Woodruff, New York Times bestselling author of In An Instant

Library Journal
Fay once again draws readers into an absorbing world of domestic complications and heart-tugging characters. Sean's family life was rocked by Huntington's disease, which took his young mother's life. After being raised by his prickly aunt, he fled Belham, MA, to work as a nurse in various war-torn countries. Twenty years later, he is called home when his aunt shows signs of decline. Both Sean's sister and his recently deceased brother's 11-year-old son need his help. But how easily can Sean step out of his African life and into parenting a young boy and caring for his failing aunt? When his sister moves away, Sean faces with a difficult decision; then he rekindles a relationship with an old friend from high school. Fay deftly handles the intricacies and emotions of family life while keeping the pace brisk. She also incorporates characters from her previous novel, Shelter Me, and these glimpses into their future are a joy. VERDICT Fay is one of the best authors of women's fiction, and her novels are not to be missed. A moving, introspective look at what it means to be family, and to be truly home. Recommended for public libraries.—Beth Gibbs, Davidson, NC

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Juliette Fay’s first novel, Shelter Me, was a 2009 Massachusetts Book Award Book of the Year. Her second novel, Deep Down True, was short-listed for the Women’s Fiction Award by the American Library Association. She received a bachelor’s degree from Boston College and a master’s degree from Harvard University. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and four children. The Shortest Way Home is her third novel.

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The Shortest Way Home: A Novel 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
charlottesweb93 More than 1 year ago
The Shortest Way Home was a really sweet, tender family novel. It is rare for a Women's Fiction book to be told from a male viewpoint, but Juliette Fay has done just that. Sean is a good guy who was, first, glad to be home around the familiarity of his past, but then realized just how badly Kevin needed a father figure and how badly Aunt Vivian needed a caretaker. The realization of how badly they needed him was a bit suffocating at first and that is where you can really see the transformation in Sean. Going from this guy who thought he was on vacation visiting family, to this guy who realizes the weight of the responsibility waiting for him. I especially enjoyed the relationship between Sean and Kevin. Kevin is such a unique little boy and I love the way Sean starts to realize just how unique Kevin is and that to leave him alone with Aunt Vivian would do irreparable damage. Bottom line, The Shortest Way Home, is a sweet and tender novel about the ties that bind, family. The story itself is well written and obviously written from the heart. If you are looking for a good novel about the importance of family, no matter what the age, then you simply must read The Shortest Way Home.
constantreaderRM More than 1 year ago
In THE SHORTEST WAY HOME the author shows how family and friends intertwine over the years--how friend become family, how family ties require sacrifice--and all of it written so well that the pages turn until you realize you should have turned the light off hours ago. Juliette Faye is generous with her characters, even when they are acting in the most foolish of ways. A beautiful book.
CB-WI More than 1 year ago
Lovely book with well developed, believable characters, but I did like "Shelter Me" (also by Juliette Fay) a bit better although that may be because I tend to gravitate to stories with a female protagonist over a male. I did like how Ms Fay interwove the concept of being called by the higher power to our life's work but being open to a changing message into the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I honestly could not put Juliette's newest novel down. I was laughing, crying and most of all, thinking. It is a fascinating, moving and heartfelt story. I am counting the days until her next book is published!
PaulineMA More than 1 year ago
I happen to believe that anything written by Juliette Fay is a win. I believed that since I read Shelter Me. She develops characters and shows you the side that is imperfect and impatient, the depth of a character that you don't always get in a contemporary novel. As much as Huntington's was a big piece of this story, the sensory issues that Kevin lived with were so enlightening. I really learned a lot about that. I felt like it tied in well with the whole family dysfunction and dynamics. I'm a nurse, so I identified with Sean in that way. I felt overwhelmed by all the issues he was dealing with for his various family members, in the same way that you might feel overwhelmed in real life. About the time that I was half way through the book...I felt like I wanted to stop. Not because is wasn't good, but just because I wanted to be in the middle of this story for a while longer..I wanted to put the brakes on this story to stay in it. Now I'm done and I'll likely be thinking about it for a long time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Have re-read this book sevrral times and slways enjoy it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was well written and kept my interest.  I loved Shelter Me so much though, I found myself comparing the two constantly. 
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BuriedUnderBooks More than 1 year ago
You might think that a guy who makes his living as a nurse in remote, poverty-stricken countries would be able to come home for a little bit of rest and recuperation from the toll such difficult work has taken on his body. Yeah, not so much. Sean is at a crossroads. He has apparently outrun the likelihood of having inherited Huntington’s Disease from his mother but his body is wracked with constant pain and he seems to have lost some of the drive that has led him to spend years giving service to others in dire need. Home is where he needs to be for a while, especially since things are not so good there, either, with his aunt showing signs of dementia, his orphaned nephew withdrawing from the world and his sister becoming angrier every day that she has had to give up most of her dreams to watch over Aunt Vivvy and Kevin. Sean’s faith is taking a hit, too, and his prayers just don’t seem to mean as much as they used to. Little by little, though, Sean begins to make connections with his past through friends old and new, even with those issues that will probably never be fully resolved, and he finds that the present may not be in such depressing shape as he thought. Coming home started out as an obligation to family as well as an escape from physical pain and emotional bleakness. Could it be that coming home will turn out to be his salvation? Author Juliette Fay has already established herself as a writer who has that special touch with words, who can pull the reader into the story she’s telling, and this book is no exception. Her rich prose and her insight into people’s behavior are what make this true comfort fiction and men will enjoy it just as much as women. One of the pleasures of The Shortest Way Home is a cast of characters that are mostly very likeable and even those who are not so appealing still engage the reader’s interest. In short, Sean and his family and friends are the sort of people you can find in your own surroundings and so they feel “real” for lack of a better word. I was engaged with Sean from the beginning and, as time went on, I found myself rooting for this man who had fled his own uncertain future but had, as a result, become a man dedicated to helping others. Perhaps it’s now Sean’s turn to find happiness and peace. Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2012.
ChevyChaseReader More than 1 year ago
Juliette Fay is at her best in The Shortest Way Home. It's an irresistible read. Bravo for her vivid and quirky cast of characters, her keen eye for interesting details and, most of all, her wit throughout. I highly recommend all of her books, but this one especially warmed my heart!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would NEVER have bought this if I knew it was about Huntington's. I have suffered enough with the disease in my family. What a complete waste of money.