Almost Home: A Novel

Almost Home: A Novel

by Valerie Fraser Luesse

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780800729639
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/05/2019
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 158,009
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Valerie Fraser Luesse is the bestselling author of Missing Isaac and is an award-winning magazine writer best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she is currently a senior travel editor. Specializing in stories about unique pockets of Southern culture, Luesse has published major pieces on the Gulf Coast, the Mississippi Delta, Louisiana's Acadian Prairie, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Her editorial section on Hurricane Katrina recovery in Mississippi and Louisiana won the 2009 Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Anna Williams leaned out the truck window and let the wind blow her damp auburn hair away from her face. She remembered her grandmother's parting words: I fear Alabama will suffocate you. With each warm gust of wind, Anna felt a fresh wave of loneliness. The family she had left behind in Illinois seemed a million miles away right now. She had yet to see her new home but already missed the old one so much she could hardly bear it.

"Need to stop?" her husband asked without taking his eyes off the road.

"I'm alright." She took a sip of the soda he had bought her at a Texaco station just outside of Birmingham. It wasn't ice-cold anymore, but it was better than nothing. A quick glance in Jesse's direction told her nothing had changed — not yet, anyway — but she was hoping and praying.

Jesse had what radio newsmen at the front called "the thirty-yard stare" — a vacant, somber gaze. It had settled onto his face like a heavy fog and hovered there for the past year. Even though her husband wasn't a soldier — flatfeet and hardship had kept him out of the service — he was fighting a battle just the same.

Some men collapse under the weight of a failing farm, but Jesse had stood firm — sadly, for both of them, by turning to stone. Now he had decided that the only way to revive their farm was to leave it behind, at least for a while. He was driving them away from everything and everybody they loved, but Anna was determined not to cry in front of her husband. She had to believe that somewhere deep down, he still had a heart, and she didn't want to break it by letting him know just how desolate she felt.

She looked out her window and took in the countryside. Alabama was so green — a thousand shades of it. Everywhere you looked were towering pines, their branches thick with needles that faded from deep olive to sage to pale chartreuse at the very tips. With the truck windows down, Anna could occasionally catch the heady fragrance of honeysuckle, which draped the fence lines and mounded so heavily in spots that it threatened to take down the barbed wire and liberate the cows. The lush pastures made a thick carpet of grass that looked like emerald velvet. You couldn't look at grass like that and smell its perfume without wondering what it would be like to stop the truck, strip off your sweaty clothes, and lie down in a bed of cool, green sweetness. That had to be a sin. And it would likely stampede the livestock.

Anna thought to herself that this Southern landscape didn't so much roll as billow, like a bedsheet fluttering on a clothesline, as the mountains and foothills of Tennessee sank into flatlands around Huntsville, only to soar up again just above Birmingham. The pickup was headed down a two-lane highway that had carried the couple straight through the Magic City — that's what the radio announcers called Birmingham, though Anna had no idea why — and now she and Jesse were getting their first glimpse of rural Shelby County, where they would be living for the next couple of years.

"Help me watch for a dirt road off to the right." Jesse was turning off the Birmingham highway and onto a county blacktop. "It's supposed to have a sign by it that says 'Talmadge Loop' or something like that."

They drove past several white clapboard churches and what Anna guessed were cotton fields. She spotted a soybean field or two — at least that much was familiar.

"There it is," she said, pointing to a crooked wooden sign nailed to a fence post.

Jesse followed what did indeed appear to be a big loop — more a half-moon of a road, really, connected to the county highway at each end. It was sprinkled with houses, some noticeably nicer than others. Anna saw a yard full of children — colored and white — playing around a tire swing in front of a rickety little house. The walls looked as if they would collapse like a line of dominoes if you so much as leaned against them.

"I thought they didn't believe in mixing down here," she said absently, though she knew Jesse wouldn't answer. Sometimes she felt as if her husband had an overwhelming need to pretend she wasn't there.

Jesse pulled into a narrow driveway that led to a stately white two-story house surrounded by oaks and pecan trees so imposing that they had to be a hundred years old. As she stepped out of the truck and felt a breeze, Anna did her best to fluff out her skirt and loosen her sweaty blouse, which was sticking to her like wet tissue paper.

She took in her surroundings. Weathered and in need of fresh paint, the old house still had an air of grandeur about it. Both stories had deep, L-shaped porches with scrolled bannisters wrapping around the front and southern side of the house. The windows were at least six feet tall and flanked by dark green shutters.

Across the road was a long, narrow building that looked a lot like a barn, except for a gigantic side porch big enough to hold a row of Adirondack chairs. Steps led from the porch into a hole almost as big as a football field. Nailed to one of the few pines left standing was a plywood sign that read, "Future Home, Lake Chandler."

"What do you make of that?" Anna asked, pointing to the sign. "How do you build a lake?"

Jesse just shrugged and motioned for her to follow him to the house. He pulled the cord on a small iron bell mounted beside the front door and waited.

Standing on the porch, Anna realized that the only thing separating inside from outside was screen wire. The front door and all the windows of the house were wide open, but there were screens nailed over all the windows and a screen door at the main entrance. Anna had heard horror stories about the mosquitoes down South and prayed she could get back home without catching yellow fever.

She could hear a distant female voice singing "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition." Jesse looked agitated, shifting his weight and running his fingers through his hair again and again. He gave the cord another yank. The singing abruptly stopped, and a woman who looked to be about fifty came hurrying through the house in a fusillade of footsteps.

"Can I help you?" she said with a smile as she reached the screen door.

"Name's Williams," Jesse said. "Here for our room."

Anna knew he had never rented a room from anybody in his whole life. When they married, they were so excited about the farmhouse he had inherited from his grandparents that they spent their honeymoon there. Last night she had slept in the cab while he slept on a quilt in the truck bed. They just pulled off the road and parked till they were rested enough to keep moving.

"My land!" the woman exclaimed, opening the door and ushering them inside. "I bet y'all are burnin' up. Come on in here and cool off." She led them to a worn but elegant Victorian settee in front of tall windows in an octagonal parlor, where two rotary fans aimed manufactured breezes all over the room.

"Now you two just sit there and collect yourself while I go get you some tea."

"There's no need —" Jesse tried to stop her, but she was long gone.

Soon their host returned, carrying a tarnished silver tray with two goblets made of fine etched glass. They were filled with iced tea, each with a big wedge of lemon on top. "Here you go," she said. "Are y'all hungry? Supper's not till six, but I can get you a slice o' pound cake or make you some sandwiches with the roast beef I had left over from supper last night. Would you like just a little bite o' somethin' to tide you over?"

"No," Jesse said.

"Are you sure? Because it wouldn't be a bit of trouble. I could just —"

"Ma'am, we really just want —"

"We appreciate it, we really do." Anna interrupted her husband for fear he might be outright rude. "But we had lunch on the way down."

"Well, alright then. You just let me know if you change your mind."

"We will — and thank you, really. I'm Anna. This is my husband, Jesse. Could you tell us how we might meet the owner of the house and get settled?" Anna thought it best to relieve Jesse of any need for conversation. He sat slumped on the settee, cupping the tea goblet as if he needed an anchor to cling to.

The woman, who had taken a seat opposite the two of them, looked startled. "You want to meet the — oh, honey, you just did! I mean, I'm her. You'll have to forgive my bad manners. I've been runnin' around here like a chicken with its head cut off, tryin' to get my latest boarders situated, and when y'all went to ringin' that bell, I got so flustered I plain forgot myself. I'm Mrs. Josiah Chandler, but you can call me Dolly, and you can call my husband Si — if you ever see him, that is. He's so busy workin' on the lake, I've about forgot what he looks like."

"It's nice to meet you," Anna said. She smiled at her host and took a sip of tea.

Dolly was petite, with what Anna's grandmother would call a "feminine frame." Her chestnut bob was slightly curly, with just a few streaks of gray, and that dark hair made her periwinkle eyes look all the bluer. She wore a cotton shirtwaist dress in a yellow floral print.

"I like your tea," Anna said. "I've never had any quite this sweet."

"All my boarders comment on my tea," Dolly said with a smile. "The secret is lettin' the sugar melt while it's hot and then quick-chillin' it with ice. I just hope we can keep it sweet with all this rationin'. Oh, well, that's why Si keeps bees. If we run outta sugar, we'll just switch to honey. How long have y'all been on the road?"

"Two days," Anna said.

"Mercy!" Dolly shook her head. "My back hurts just thinkin' about it."

"Is it always this hot in April?"

"Oh, no," Dolly said. "In fact, it can get downright chilly. I thought we were just havin' a little heat wave, but Farmer's Almanac is predictin' an early summer — it mighta done started. Believe you me, it's gonna get a lot worse before it gets any better. July and August are always scorchers. That's how come we're hurryin' to get the lake done. Si didn't come up with the idea till February, so that put us in a bind to get it done by summer. We always have a big fish fry on the Fourth o' July, and since ever'body on the loop and quite a few folks from church will come, Si figured that was as good a time as any to promote our new business. He says we're entrepreneurs. I say we're poor as Job's turkey and sellin' everything but the family silver to stay afloat!"

Anna and Dolly laughed together while Jesse stared into his tea.

"What will you charge to swim?" Anna asked.

"Fifty cents, but you only have to pay once a day, and we're plannin' to stay open till five o'clock in the evenin', so you can swim till you prune up if you want to. We'll be closed on Sunday, o' course. As long as I've got my right mind, there will be no money changin' on the Sabbath Day."

"What's that building next to the hole — next to the lake, I mean?"

"Why, that's the skatin' rink," Dolly said. "It's been open for a whole year now. Got a dance floor in there too, and Ping-Pong tables down on the far end o' the porch. The concession stand's right by the front door. It costs a quarter to skate if you bring your own, fifty cents if you need to rent a pair o' ours. Ping-Pong's a dime a game, but we don't charge folks anything to dance or sit on the front porch and visit. We figure they'll end up feedin' nickels into the jukebox or buyin' a Co-Cola if they stay long enough, and we can't see any point in bein' greedy. Ever'body needs a little enjoyment right now, don't you think?"

"Yes," Anna said. "I think you're absolutely right."

"Now listen," Dolly went on, "I know you're a long way from home and prob'ly missin' your mama already. But don't you worry. You'll make it back to Illinois. Alabama's just a little stop on your journey. And there's nice people here and good churches to go to. And if you need anybody to talk to, why, I've been told I'm a pretty good listener, so you just feel free."

"Thank you, Dolly." Anna was trying hard not to blink as her eyes began to sting. It's strange, she thought. Sometimes, when you're so sad that you're barely holding yourself together, it's the kindness of another person — a simple gesture from someone trying to bring comfort — that unleashes the tears. And she knew that Jesse, as usual, was far too preoccupied with his own frustration to notice that she too had reached a breaking point.

"If we could — if we could just get our room," he said, standing up and holding out the tea goblet.

"Why, of course," Dolly said politely as she took it from him. "I'll do whatever I can to make you comfortable. You're a guest in my home."

"About time," Jesse mumbled as she left the room. "Can't she see that we just want to get this over with?"

Anna knew he was prepared to go on and on about Dolly wasting their time and meddling in their business — and she knew she couldn't stand to listen to another word of it. But just then he turned to look at her, perched on that elegant settee, wearing the clothes she had slept in, and for once he was struck silent.

She could guess why. All these months, all this time, she had worked hard to make sure she never showed any sign of disappointment in him — not a hint of frustration, let alone anger. But what she felt now — and what she was sure he could see on her face — was an unsettling mix of fury and disgust.

For the first time since their downward spiral began, Jesse actually tried to explain himself. "Anna, all I meant was —"

"I don't care what you meant," she said without raising her voice. "What she meant, in case you missed it, is that she doesn't have to put up with any nonsense. You saw all those caravans coming down here. Dolly's probably got a waiting list a mile long. My father said all I have to do is make one collect phone call and he'll send me a bus ticket home."

Dolly came back into the parlor and could no doubt see that she had interrupted something. "Well then, let's get y'all settled," she said. "Come on upstairs, and I'll show you where everything is."

She led them up a sweeping staircase that opened into a spacious sitting area on the second floor. Bookcases big enough for a library lined the walls. The floors were covered with tapestry rugs that looked a little threadbare. There was a settee like the one in the parlor, along with a couple of armchairs and a rocker. Between two tall windows overlooking the lake-to-be was a door that opened onto the upstairs porch. Unlike the one below, it was screened. Anna thought how lovely it would be to sit here and read a good book or embroider on a rainy afternoon. Narrow hallways led from the sitting area to what she imagined were bedrooms.

"The porch there is a nice place to pull up a rockin' chair and have your mornin' coffee or a glass o' tea on a hot summer day," Dolly said. "And it's here for ever'body, so just make yourself at home."

As Dolly walked them through the upstairs, Anna watched her straighten lampshades and make quick swipes with her hand to clear any dust that she spotted. "Now, the two bedrooms on the opposite side there — one belongs to a Mr. and Mrs. Hastings. Actually, Dr. and Dr. Hastings. They were both college professors up in Chicago, but I guess times are hard there too. Both of 'em lost their jobs, which is a cryin' shame, if you ask me. They're the nicest people — and all that knowledge just goin' to waste. He works at the plant, and she substitute teaches over at the high school from time to time. 'Course, it won't be long till school lets out for the summer, so I imagine we'll be seein' a lot more o' her."

Dolly let out a tired sigh as she pointed to the room in the back corner of the house. "That room there belongs to the Clanahans from Reno, Nevada. They're out for the afternoon. Both of 'em work the early shift at the plant, so you'll only see 'em at suppertime, and that'll be plenty. I'll confess it right now — those two try my patience and test my religion."

"Why?" Anna asked.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Almost Home"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Valerie F. Luesse.
Excerpted by permission of Baker Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Almost Home: A Novel 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
Donna172 5 days ago
Almost Home documents the lives of a group of strangers living through difficult post World War II times who all end of living in Dolly's boarding house. Jesse and Anna, a young married couple; Daisy, a young war widow; and Reed, a wounded veteran; and Evelyn and Harry, all end up living at Dolly and Si's boarding house. There lives become entwined as they live through daily personal and financial struggles in the boarding house as they all go from being strangers to becoming the best of friends. The plot was slightly predictable but as it became a story within a story the plot thickens and keeps the reader wondering. The characters become enthralled with the tale about a man (Andre) who people claimed was a pirate and the local minister's daughter's (Catherine) disappearance many years beforehand. When they discover Catherine's journals, they intend to solve the mystery of her disappearance. This book was like a breath of fresh air! The character's were simple and lovable. None of them had a bad bone in their bodies and I loved them all. This is a book about the goodness inside of people and how that kindness can spread despite the difficulties of a time period. All it takes in one person to be the spark! Thank you to Bookish First for the advanced reading copy!
RobinWillson 6 days ago
"We don’t get to see the whole map. We just have to cover our stretch o’ the road best we can .” Christian Historical set in Alabama during the war. A couple lives near an Army plant in a big old house where they took in boarders to help pay their taxes. Money and jobs were in short supply but there was work at the Army plant. These people, mainly three couples, came together in this big old house, living as best they could. This story is full of wonderful Southern warmth, charm and humor. You'll just love these people who are all struggling in their own way, trying to get by, putting a good face on it and learning from each other in the long run. The bond that they form is very strong. This is a new author for me - I'm a fan now. "We both like tendin’ to our own knittin’ and don’t get on each other’s nerves.” Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher and NetGalley book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” #AlmostHome #NetGalley #BooksYouCanFeelGoodAbout
sandralb 8 days ago
This was a story that kept me guessing until the end. And left me wanting more. What a wonderful description of how a group of strangers became friends and all survived the depression and the second world war. The story takes place in Blackberry Springs, Alabama. You will genuinely care for Ms. Luesse's characters. We have a wonderful mix of people, who have all suffered lose and find themselves at Dolly's boarding house. It would be hard to pick a favorite. We have an unemployed couple of professors from Chicago, an estranged young couple from the Midwest, a widower from Mississippi, and a shattered young veteran struggling to heal from the war. There are a couple of outstanding neighbors as well, a young widow named Daisy and a special older blind neighbor named Lillian. There is so much to this book. You will learn what it means to help your neighbor. How to be a true friend. And how sharing helps the load grow lighter. This could have been a dark and sad novel, but I loved the way this author was able to draw hope out of the darkness. I enjoyed this story so much and I would definitely recommend it. I received a copy of this book from Revell through NetGalley. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.
valet 12 days ago
Almost Home was jam packed with love stories, a great mystery (hidden treasure), PTSD, grief, some great action, and trust in a loving God who helped them along the way. Listen, there was a lot of heart breaking grief that flowed through these pages but there were also some happy and wonderful moments entwined in their lives. The first feeling that this book might be a little different was a shocker. It had me laughing and it woke me right up. I couldn't wait to read more to see what was in store. There are so many great love stories included in Almost Home. Of course, I wanted details about each one and thankfully was not disappointed. I especially loved to hear about Si and Dolly. As a older couple with they gave gentle tidbits of wisdom and guidance to the younger ones. They remained my favorite characters throughout the book. A wonderful, wonderful read that's a keeper! This book was given to me by Revell and I gave my honest opinion
twhitehead 15 days ago
Full of southern hospitality, a story of love and friendships, along with a little mystery. Times are tough during World War II but a mixture of couples from different places converge onto Dolly's boardinghouse. Dolly turned her family home into a boardinghouse to help make the tax payments. Si, her husband, has added a rink and now a lake, to help get paying customers. A young couple from the Midwest, a war veteran suffering from injuries (both physical and mental), struggle to find their way but the house holds its own secrets. When tragedy comes to the property, the clues could lead Dolly, Si, and their tenants to solve the mystery. I loved this book! So full of southern hospitality and love. Took me back to growing up and sitting on the front porch with my grandparents. Wonderful memories and times. If you love sweetness and comfort in a book, this one is for you!
Moonpie72 29 days ago
I am classifying this as a cozy, warm fuzzy read! The people, the setting, the story filled me with nostalgia. I was transported back to a difficult but simpler time, before technology invaded life. Being a southern girl I totally related to the hospitality, kind spirits and sweetened ice tea!! Add to all this mystery and you have a 5 star read! Dolly and Si live in Alabama in a 100 year old home out in the “boonies”. They have turned it into a boarding house to make ends meet. It is WW2 and people have been wounded by the war in many ways. Families who have lost loved ones, soldiers returning with emotional and physical wounds, those who have lost jobs, homes, and finances. Everyone is hurting in some way. Dolly’s home was the perfect place for the eclectic mix of wounded hearts. They became a family and Dolly and Si like loving parents. Her big southern breakfasts and home cooked meals brought everyone together around the table to share burdens and encourage one another, like in times past. Basking in her love and kindness I was delighted to see each of the characters to heal in their own way and time. Their individual stories were so varied that I found myself immersed in each of their lives. I loved Dolly’s and the elderly neighbor’s homespun wisdom! I have marked the pages and am going to write them down to remember! Dolly’s homey letters to her sister Violet were delightful. It made me feel a bit like I was reading someone else’s mail! (No I don’t do that but I did enjoy it!) One strong thread that ran throughout the book was faith in God and waiting upon Him. I was so sad to have this book end. It was as if my visit was over and I had to leave Dolly and her wonderful home. I cannot wait to read more of Ms. Luesse’s books! I received this book from Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have stated are my own.
Britney_Adams 30 days ago
Almost Home is a tender tale that transports readers to Blackberry Springs, Alabama, amid World War II. The time period and setting are vividly portrayed, as is the community that surrounds Dolly Chandler’s family home. The cast of characters is delightfully engaging, and I was moved by their individual stories and struggles. Their heartache and healing bring emotional depth to this sweet, southern story, and its lyrical writing makes it a pleasure to read. I thoroughly enjoyed Almost Home and look forward to reading more from Valerie Fraser Luesse. I received a complimentary copy of this book. No review was required, and all thoughts expressed are my own.
KayleesKindofWrites 3 months ago
Genre: WWII, historical, Christian fiction. My Rating: 4 stars. My Recommendation: 16 up. My Favorite Character/s: Each of the characters is one of a kind, and I love following each of their stories. I can't say I have a favorite though since each one made the other better. They were people bonded into a family by tragedy, friendship and an eternal Love. My Thoughts: This story opened on an easy to follow and mesmerizing description of what life was like during WWII. I loved this story, it was so interesting and a new look at WWII for me. The whole book was so deep and the characters' struggles so real that the book just kept me swiping from one page to the next. Warnings: There are suggestions of . . . not ghosts but I'm not sure really what to say what but like the house was "living". Which made me uncomfortable. I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest review, and I am truly happy to provide it!
Virginiaw 3 months ago
This story will make you laugh and cry. I did not want to put this book down. This is the type of story that shows how people take care of other people during crises. These were people’s that didn’t know each other but who grew to love one another. They grew to be a family even when they were not related. I loved the characters and how they interacted. I received a copy of this book from Revell for a fair and honest opinion that I gave of my own free will.
ARS8 3 months ago
There is just something lyrical in the way author Fraser Luesse writes. I thoroughly enjoyed Missing Isaac and I was not disappointed in Almost Home. The story takes place during World War 2 and many people are out of work, displaced, and finding their lives completely different and turned around. Dolly and her husband Si have turned their home into a boarding house for those folks needing a place to stay to work at the munitions plant. There was quite an array of characters and I enjoyed watching them all become a family under not only Dolly’s and Si’s roof but also under their care. There are ups and downs as everyone is adjusting to a new normal but the love and friendship they develop was certainly a blessing. There are a couple of love stories, my favorite was the young married couple falling back in love again and sharing their troubles instead of shutting one another out. The ladies of the house have become quite interested in an old legend of the previous owners from about a hundred years ago. What happened to the young couple on their wedding day: was it murder or did they run away from the town? Who was the mysterious husband who came into town and married the preacher’s daughter? I was riveted right along with Dolly, Anna, Evelyn, and Daisy as they worked to uncover this story’s beginning and end. This was a fantastic read of people becoming family even in the hard times and even a hundred year old mystery to solve. I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. I was not required to post a positive review and all views and opinions are my own.
JLYoung 3 months ago
I felt relaxed the entire time I read this book. It has a lyrical pace that is great for the setting. If you can picture what it would be like to read something that has the feel of sitting out on a huge porch with a sweet tea on a summer afternoon, that's what this book feels like. Lovely cast and setting. I love how the characters become so intertwined and they form a wonderful community together. Beautiful descriptions and writing style in general. The book has a reflective feel to it. That being said, I did find it a little hard to stay engaged. I would have liked just a little bit more action. I found it confusing that the first half of the story was kind of left by the wayside when the story moved to the 2nd half. I wonder if the story would have progressed better and kept more solid to the end if the stories would have run concurrently instead of back to back. I gave the book 3 stars. It was a nice story to read once... but it's not one I would read a 2nd time. I received a copy of this book from the publisher. I was in no way required to write a positive review. All thoughts are my own.
JuneMJ 3 months ago
I enjoy historical Southern fiction, so when this book came up for review I knew I wanted to read it. I am so glad I did! This author is simply a master storyteller. The words of her narrative and the characters' dialogue is seamless, realistic, and engaging. I spent a many of my childhood summer vacations surrounded by people who were in the various age groups of this ensemble of characters. This story is set in Alabama; my family was raised in Louisiana and Mississippi. Reading the vocabulary and idioms used by the characters in this novel was like attending a family reunion. {A lifetime favorite saying of mine which is included on page 66 of this manuscript is: "It's time to fish or cut bait."} There are two stories going on simultaneously in this book. The present-time story set in 1944 and the legend of Catherine and Andrew set a century earlier in the 1840s. The women of the present-day ensemble--Dolly, Anna, Daisy, and Evelyn--become entranced by Catherine and Andrew's love story as they read Catherine's journals. Another unique and treasured character is an elderly blind woman, Lillian, who is a neighbor on 'the loop' -- the rural neighborhood where the story takes place. Miss Lillian offers her keen insight and advice to the younger characters. She seems to have an intuition about people and love which astonishes those with whom she comes in contact. I don't want to spoil the story, so I won't give any more details about how the plot progresses or which secrets are revealed as the women delve into the journals and discuss the contents. Suffice to say this is a beautifully-written story whose characters and plot I will be pondering for a long time to come . . . I look forward to reading more work by this author, including her previous award-winning novel entitled, 'Finding Isaac'. This book is highly-recommended to fans of historical fiction, WWII fiction, Southern fiction, women's fiction, and inspirational romance. ******************* Disclosure from reviewer: I received a paperback copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review to be posted on my blog and on retailer sites and Goodreads. I received no compensation for my review or posts here or on any other site. # # # # #
Cortsreads 3 months ago
Dolly and Si run a boardinghouse down in Alabama. People all over the country have came down south for jobs in Uncle Sam's munitions plants. Opening your house to people to try and make ends meet, but you just never know who will get. Almost Home is a story about loss and healing. You learn how a war can affect everyone and how damaging it can be. You get to meet all the characters who are struggling in their own ways. Friendships are made, marriages start to heal, and people come together when tragedy strikes. I fell in love with Dolly right away, and her need to mother her tenants. This story was written so beautifully. Valerie did such an incredible job of intertwining all these people from different places and backgrounds. This is a book that you will enjoy from start to finish.
Changed-by-Christ 3 months ago

My thoughts:
Sweet is the only word I could find to describe this book as I searched my mind for an accurate description after I had finished it. Actually, I think I may have been more like Ohmygosh, it's just so sweet! Anyway, I loved this book.
This was my first ever book by Ms. Luesse, and I do believe I will be reading more of her writing. I wasn't completely sure how I would like it to be honest. It seemed a slightly cliche story line set during the time of WWII, and yet Ms. Luesse made the reading journey so unforgettable and sweet. As soon as I began reading, I was drawn into the characters, which is no big surprise. If you've read any of my previous reviews, you'll know that characters are a HUGE thing to me. I go into the story looking to see how unique and realistic they are, and Luesse's were definitely that.
While this was not a story so full of suspense and thrill that I did not want to put it down, it had a unique unputdownable quality of its own. As I read, I became unaware of the time and often read quite late into the night, which can actually be quite dangerous for a bookworm with little self-control.
So, overall, this book was quite magnificent and sweet. I loved seeing how the characters learned from their experiences and how everyone grew stronger together, and it was an amazing story of friendship that I will not soon forget.

**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and thoughts in this review are my own.**

Changed-by-Christ 3 months ago

My thoughts:
Sweet is the only word I could find to describe this book as I searched my mind for an accurate description after I had finished it. Actually, I think I may have been more like Ohmygosh, it's just so sweet! Anyway, I loved this book.
This was my first ever book by Ms. Luesse, and I do believe I will be reading more of her writing. I wasn't completely sure how I would like it to be honest. It seemed a slightly cliche story line set during the time of WWII, and yet Ms. Luesse made the reading journey so unforgettable and sweet. As soon as I began reading, I was drawn into the characters, which is no big surprise. If you've read any of my previous reviews, you'll know that characters are a HUGE thing to me. I go into the story looking to see how unique and realistic they are, and Luesse's were definitely that.
While this was not a story so full of suspense and thrill that I did not want to put it down, it had a unique unputdownable quality of its own. As I read, I became unaware of the time and often read quite late into the night, which can actually be quite dangerous for a bookworm with little self-control.
So, overall, this book was quite magnificent and sweet. I loved seeing how the characters learned from their experiences and how everyone grew stronger together, and it was an amazing story of friendship that I will not soon forget.

**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and thoughts in this review are my own.**

chattynatty 3 months ago
Really enjoyed this read. It takes place during WWII, but it really focused on state side activity during war time. it also brings to light the depression that was occurring in the US during war time. The setting was Dolly and Si's large home, Mama's home (Dolly's mother's house). Dolly and Si to make ends meet open their home to boarders: Evelyn and Harry, Joe, Anna and Jesse, and Reed. These people all bring stories and baggage with them (no pun intended) to their new home. During this story relationships evolve, a mystery involving "treasure" occurs, and the reader gets to feel like he/she is part of the story. I highly recommend this read! Thank you to Revell Reads for sending me this book to review. #AlmostHome, #RevellRead
iamree 3 months ago
An Easy-to-Read, Mostly Sweet Tale: For readers who enjoy the writing of Maeve Binchy, then think of 'Almost Home' as a Binchy-type tale but with a southern USA setting. At first I was afraid that 'Almost Home' might have an overload of good-hearted Southerners spouting 'bless-your-soul' sweet phrases as they served their region's traditional food, but I was proved wrong. There are several characters who experience growth, belief in themselves, and learn a few things about maintaining relationships. In addition, there is a hyppocritical Reverend who loved the power of his position far more than any beliefs in the power of doing good. Then too, any reader will enjoy the self-help reminder that appears in a page 54 conversation when one character tries to help another by saying "what-ifs are big sticks with which we smite ourselves." This book has characters who need to work to make their marriage succeed in light of the depressed American economy, a man who grapples with the guilt of not being drafted when he meets a vet with severe war wounds, and hypocrites who try to cash in on vulnerable war veterans suffering from PTSD (before that label was created.) The characters who struggle to overcome financial debts and heath issues really shine a light on people who see their glass as half empty instead of half full and complain about things such as not being seated at a table with a view for a resort's dinner service. (In the meantime, another guest kills himself.) The book has a touching ending that wraps up the slight hint of mystery in the story. My only criticism is that I wish the character of Si had not helped end the book with his desire to start a circus. That goal did not add anything to the story, and since circuses are a notorious life of torturous training for wild animals, why add even a hint of support for that type of business. While I realize that this book is set in the first half of the 1900's, the circus reference does not strengthen the setting or plot.
Dalai-Momma-Drama 3 months ago
Aaah, that Southern charm. A story of friendship, love, and spirituality. Set in 1944 during World War II we are introduced to Dolly and Si, charming characters running a boarding establishment in their residence in the hopes that they don't have to lose their lovely home to the financial downfalls of the time. Sacrificing space and privacy they take to helping others. This leaves the story the ability to introduce us to a slew of unique and wonderful characters that we meet along the way. There is not much more I can say about the book and still be able to avoid spoilers. It's such a flowing read you find yourself at the end without even realizing. Quaint and beautiful. You'll discover yourself, on several occasion, with a semi-permanent smile on your face that you didn't know you were wearing. Author Valerie Fraser Luesse's writing style is elegant and graceful, uncluttered of words that don't matter. Every single sentence takes you back into a time you might not have ever even experienced in real life but feel like you have. I can see myself revisiting, rereading this book in the near future. Thanks to Bookish and author Valerie Fraser Luesse for win of this book. I received. I read. I reviewed this book honestly and voluntarily.
AngelN1 3 months ago
I really enjoyed this book. Set in Alabama during WWII, Almost Home by Valerie Fraser Luesse has themes of forgiveness and strong characters. I especially enjoyed Anna, Daisy, and Reed, which were well-drawn characters with plenty of depth and growth throughout the novel. The mystery added some fun to the plot, but mostly, this is a story of true friendship. I enjoyed the humor throughout the book, and the variety in the cast of characters. I felt that the varied character stories wove together beautifully. I highly recommend this book. I received a copy of the book from the publisher, Revell, in exchange for writing an honest review, but all opinions are my own.
parmilespages 4 months ago
It’s the spring of 1944 and Dolly Chandler has turned her family home into a boardinghouse. With the beginning of WWII, the town of Blackberry Springs, Alabama has many coming to work in the munitions plants, so Dolly has an eclectic group of people wanting to rent her rooms. As time passes and the boarders share their stories, friendships and new bonds are formed creating a unique and caring family. One of the boarders, Anna, takes a special interest in the history of the house and a story of a young bride from 1844, wondering if the rumors and stories are true or not. As she discovers clues and evidence of it’s past, the truth slowly reveals a special story and treasure. This story was rich with unique characters, many healing from past relationships or the causalities of the war. My favorite aspect was the personalities of each character and how they fit into the whole of the story. Dolly was the glue that held everything together and made everyone feel special. And her husband Si was her cohort in her scheming. I genuinely liked all of the characters, except the villain, of course. And I loved the way the characters interacted and helped each other. There was a sense of the mystical amongst the narrative, as well, with a flutter of the curtains or the slight chime of the chandelier signaling a special or unexpected outcome or happenstance. There was also an appearance of a deceased person in a dream giving a message, which I thought was unnecessary and a little strange; as well as a little girl with prophetic message. The ending was satisfactory for everyone involved, making the reader sigh with contentment. I would highly recommend this historical fiction novel.
Anonymous 4 months ago
A sweet 1940s story that celebrates the charm of the south, hope, healing, and the power of love and friendship. This was my first book by Valerie Luesse, and frankly, I loved it. She has a knack for dialogue that pulls you effortlessly into the story, and has mastered the art of description that made Dolly, Anna, Reed, and the other characters living on The Loop come to life. Stories set solely on the home front during WWII are rare - and ones set in the South, even more so. The incorporation of the munitions plants and the struggles that people faced was interesting and the historical details were authentic. But if you think it's strictly a WWII story, think again. Reading about Catherine and her mysterious groom a hundred years before was intriguing. I enjoyed discovering how their love story fit into the journeys of the strangers-turned-friends who found home in Dolly's boarding house. But I won't say any more, lest I spoil the story. :) And oh, yes, the romance. It was sweet and pure and based on the Biblical definition of sacrificial love. I loved seeing how Anna and Jesse worked through hard times together, and the blossoming of friendship and love between another certain couple (won't give any spoilers) was perfect. Okay, now for my only disclaimer.There were some "friendly ghosts" (implied by a chandelier tinkling or a door slipping ajar, for instance) and an appearance in a dream by a deceased person. Also some rather interesting prophetic encounters. Personally I think the story would have been fine without this subplot, but it really didn't affect the rest of the story. It may sound odd, but somehow Valerie Luesse manages to make all of that seem light and inconsequential. Overall, a fantastic WWII tale that made me smile, with characters that stayed with me after the last page.
Nicnac63 4 months ago
Almost Home is a slower-paced book, allowing the reader to savor the scenes. I love southern fiction, and adding a bit of history makes it even better. This character-driven story takes place in Alabama where a boom of hiring at the munitions plant brings a myriad of guests to Dolly’s boardinghouse. Dolly is a wonderful hostess, and I enjoyed being a guest. I like the veteran-returning-home aspect of this story, adding so much depth. This story showcases love and loss, and although the times are tough, there’s a solid thread of hope and encouragement. Almost Home is a redemption group of stories entwined together by a past mystery. #PrettyCoverArt #Almost Home First Line (Chapter One): Anna Williams leaned out the truck window and let the wind blow her damp auburn hair away from her face. I received an advance copy of this book. Opinions expressed are completely my own.
SemmieWise 4 months ago
Valerie Fraser Luesse’s newest novel, “Almost Home,” is a delightful tale set in 1944, telling the stories of a group of people brought together during World War II and a mysterious couple who lived 100 years earlier. Dolly and Josiah Chandler have turned their family home, set on an idyllic loop in small-town Alabama, into a boarding house. Harry and Evelyn Hastings are former college professors from Chicago — he now works at the local war plant and she substitute teaches. Joe Dolphus is a widower trying to find himself after losing his wife. And Anna and Jesse Williams from Illinois are trying to overcome the loss of their farm, and the growing divide between them. As they group grows closer together, including war widow Daisy who lives down the loop, hometown resident Reed Ingram returns injured from the war, to stay and find healing at the boarding house. And as friendships grow, so do romances. What follows is a delightful tale of hope, struggle, joy, sorrow, love and loss, offering a revealing look into how life was affected by World War II. The author does such a beautiful job developing these characters that you will fall in love with them, becoming invested in them — laughing when they laugh, crying when they cry. And as the ladies learn about the mysterious and unsolved story of the marriage and disappearance of Catherine and Andre from 1844, the loop residents come together to solve a 100-year-old mystery — and how to save Dolly’s beloved home. “Almost Home” also does reveal some deeper themes, like we must decide whether to float where life takes us, or swim against it; don’t give up on healing — physical, emotional and spiritual; and the act of survival. Although not exactly a time-hop novel, “Almost Home” is a bit reminiscent of novels like Kate Morton, so if you’re a fan of those styles you will enjoy this novel. It’s also filled with a bit of intrigue, with a house that sometimes “talks,” revealing its intention for its residents; Catherine and Andre’s story; and a bit of a whodunnit with some present-day troublemaking. “Almost Home” is a delightful, heartwarming read. Five stars out of five. Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, provided this complimentary copy for my honest, unbiased review.
DixieJudy 4 months ago
This is a book about survivors, some young, some middle aged and some eccentric, makes for an interesting read......It's the 1940s and Dolly Chandler is running a boardinghouse in her family home in Blackberry Springs, Alabama. It is at a time of World War two and some are looking for employment and some of the boarders have brought their painful pasts with them. A young couple having marital problems, but maybe staying with Dolly and her husband and getting to know the other people in the house, will help set them on the path to healing. Dolly is a motherly figure and her old family home is a haven for the boarders. And of course discovering a secret diary from the 1800s will be interesting as well. Reading the diary about a pirate and his marrying the preacher's daughter and the mention of buried treasure and their disappearing on their wedding night has everyone's attention.This is a delightful book and the characters are very interesting.....I was given a copy from the publisher via netgalley and these words are my own.
FayJac 4 months ago
This is an interesting book set in the time of World War II. It is a story of several individuals living together in a boarding house and a house that has a past. There is mystery, romance, and history in this book. The author is a good writer and makes the characters come alive with their pasts and their problems. I enjoyed this book, which shared the struggles of a young couple, an older couple and a young veteran, dealing with his war wound and PTSD. Some of their struggles are with faith and going to church. This is a great book and I highly recommend it. (Please Note: Although a complimentary copy of this book was given to me to review by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing House, the opinions expressed are my own.)