No sooner is Shawn Collins home from the fighting in Europe than he is called upon to serve his country in another wayas a speaker on the war bond tour. While other men might jump at the chance to travel around the country with attractive Hollywood starlets, Shawn just wants to stay home with his son Patrick and the aging father with whom he has finally reconciled. When Shawn taps Katherine Townsend to be Patrick's nanny while he's on the road, he has no idea that she will be the key to his future happiness and the mending of his heart.
This heartwarming story of tender love and fresh starts will capture readers.
About the Author
Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of several books, including The Dance and The Promise with Gary Smalley, as well as The Unfinished Gift, The Discovery, and The Reunion. Winner of three Carol Awards, he is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, and served as a pastor for twenty-five years. He lives with his wife in the Daytona Beach area. Visit www.danwalshbooks.com for more.
Read an Excerpt
The HomecomingA NOVEL
By DAN WALSH
RevellCopyright © 2010 Dan Walsh
All right reserved.
Chapter OneJanuary 4, 1944
Shawn looked down at the empty seat beside him, trying to imagine Elizabeth there. He tried to remember the smell of her hair, the sound of her voice, one of her smiles. It all seemed just out of reach.
She wasn't there. She would never be there again.
He came here, in part, thinking some time alone might help. He was tired of pretending to be fine. It was exhausting. Pretending to see scenes out the window, pretending to read a book, pretending to listen. Elizabeth preoccupied his every waking moment. Shawn had known a depth of love with her he'd never imagined possible, a love he was sure most men would never see, not in a lifetime.
"Care for another cup?"
Shawn looked up toward the sound. "Excuse me?"
"A refill on the coffee? It's on the house." The waitress, all smiles.
"No, thanks. I've got to be going."
He stood up to pay the bill. The Corner Room Restaurant hadn't changed a bit. If he closed his eyes, he could almost see their old college friends, all sitting in their proper spots. He'd gotten a room at the hotel upstairs but wasn't ready to turn in for the night. Too much left to do. The main reason he came back was to remember her, to reclaim moments of time, conversations they'd shared, places they'd visited. He wanted to see and feel all these things again. To do anything that helped him see and feel all these things again.
Before it got too late, he decided to call Patrick. He walked toward the back by the restrooms to use the pay phone.
"That you, Shawn?"
"You get in all right? everything okay?"
"I'm fine, Dad."
"I suppose you want to talk to Patrick. I'll get him."
His father never did like to talk on the telephone. He heard him yell Patrick's name, heard Patrick shout some loud, happy thing in the background. Shawn smiled. At least he still had Patrick.
"Hey, little man, how ya doing?"
"I'm fine. You at your college?"
"I sure am."
"When you coming home?"
Shawn must have told him three or four times he would only be gone a night. But after all Patrick had been through, Shawn didn't mind telling him again. "I'll be home tomorrow, before dinner. You be good for Grandpa till I get there."
"I will. Wish I could be with you."
"Is everything all right? Is Grandpa treating you okay?"
"Yeah. I just miss you. You were gone so long before."
"I know. But I'll be home before you know it."
"You still going to do what you promised?"
"Uh ... yes ..." Shawn tried to remember what he apparently had promised.
"You know, you said when you got home you'd tell us about how you escaped from those Germans after your plane crashed."
"That's right, I did. Yep, I'll tell you all about it tomorrow."
"Mrs. Fortini wants to hear it too. Is that okay?"
"Also, Miss Townsend wants to hear it. Okay if I invite her? You know the lady who ate Christmas dinner with us? The one who took care of me?"
"I remember her. But I don't think she'd really want to drive across town to hear some war story. She sounds like a pretty busy lady."
"I know she would. Don't you remember she asked you about it Christmas night? Can I just call her and see?"
Shawn didn't want to say yes. He sighed. "okay, I guess you can call her."
Chapter TwoKatherine Townsend stared down at her typewriter, reading the last paragraph over and over again. There was just no good way to say it. If she said what she wanted, she could forget about putting this job down on any future resume. If she kept it professional, she'd hate herself for letting her creep of a boss, Bernie Krebb, get away with forcing her out of this job. Not to mention treating every woman around this place like they were part of his personal harem.
"You don't see him anywhere, do you?" she whispered loudly to Shirley O'Donnell, a redheaded co-worker in the cubicle next door.
Shirley stood up and scanned the perimeter offices, all glass and mahogany and all occupied by men. She took another quick glance at the small sea of cubicles in the center, all occupied by women. "Uh-oh," said Shirley. "Here comes Krebb. Quick-"
"What?" Katherine looked up. "Where?"
Shirley peeked over the cubicle wall. "Gotcha."
"Don't do that."
"Relax. Krebb ain't back from lunch yet. It's only 1:15. You got a half hour easy. Why do you care, anyway, aren't you writing your two weeks? What's he going to do, fire you?"
"I wouldn't put it past him," Katherine said. "I'm going to need every day of those two weeks. I don't have any savings or anything else lined up yet."
"You really got on his bad side over that last case. You know the one I mean, just before Christmas."
"I know the one."
"Really, Kath. You need to lighten up. I get nervous just looking at you."
Katherine had been tense lately. Her only breaks from the tension were the moments she lapsed into total depression. But these dips weren't about Bernie Krebb or even about losing this lousy job.
"Know what you need?" Shirley asked.
"Let me guess ... a man?"
"That's right, you need to start saying yes to all those good-looking guys keep asking you out."
"All of them?" Katherine asked. It seemed like Shirley's custom.
"All right, then some of them, one of them. I haven't seen you date anybody the whole time you been here. What are you waiting for?"
"I don't know ... I'm just not like you," Katherine said.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I mean I don't like dating just for the fun of it. It's not fun for me. I wind up getting hurt too easy."
"Well," Shirley said. "The way I handle that is ... you gotta be the one that does the hurtin'. Dump them before they dump you."
"See, that's what I mean. That's so easy for you. I could never do that."
Shirley sat down again. "Then you better take up knitting or something, start putting that pretty hair of yours in a bun."
Shirley's telephone rang. She sat down to answer it. "Hello, Child Services, Shirley speaking. We deal in family tragedies, one right after the other."
Katherine laughed. That about sized up this job, and her love life too. She was twenty-six years old, had never been married, and, after two years at this job, had pretty much decided she could live without the joys of wedded bliss. Her previous experiences with men only reinforced this view. First there was Charlie, a guy she'd dated out of high school. They'd even gotten engaged. Then she found he'd been cheating on her with one of her girlfriends. A year later she began seeing a sailor named Gregg, and dated him for almost a year before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Out of the blue he got his orders, and without even saying good-bye, shipped out, leaving her a note saying not to wait for him. It had been fun.
Fun ... was that what they had been having?
But her pathetic love life wasn't the source of her gloom. It was the case Shirley had mentioned a moment ago. The one that had put Katherine on Bernie Krebb's bad side. The case of little Patrick Collins. Krebb said she'd gotten way too personal on this case and spent way too much company time.
But Katherine couldn't help it. Just thinking about him brought an involuntary smile.
Patrick had lost his mother in a car accident. Katherine was assigned to help him get situated with a grandfather he'd never met, while the army tried to locate his father in England. The grandfather had been perfectly horrible about the whole thing and treated Patrick terribly. But Patrick never whined or complained. He endured the tragedy of the loss of his mother better than any adult she'd ever known.
She didn't heed Krebb's warning for one reason: she was entirely smitten.
But too soon, it was all over. Once Patrick's situation had mended, she had no reason to stay connected to the Collins family. But being with them, especially Patrick, was the only thing she thought about now. What had he been doing since then? Was his grandfather still treating him well? Did the old man and Patrick's father ever reconcile? Did Patrick ever think about her anymore? How do you just turn off thoughts like these, shut down the emotions that followed? She couldn't find the switch.
The phone rang, breaking through her thoughts. "Hello, Child Services, Katherine Townsend speaking. How may I help you?"
That voice ... it couldn't be. "Patrick? Is that you?"
"It's me, Miss Townsend. How are you?"
"I'm ... I'm fine, Patrick. I've missed you so much." She realized she was talking loudly; she could barely contain her joy.
"I've missed you too. A whole bunch. How come I don't see you anymore?"
He still wants to see me, Katherine thought. "I wish I could, Patrick. You don't know how much." How could she explain? "See, now that your daddy is home and your grandfather is treating you better-is he still treating you nice?"
"Yeah, he's been pretty nice since my daddy came home."
"Well, now that you're safe and sound, the way my job works, I have to-" She couldn't say the words "let you go." "I have to work with other kids who need help. Do you understand?"
"Does that mean you can't come over anymore?"
"Well, kind of. At least not as part of my job."
"Could you come for dinner? like tomorrow night?"
Katherine smiled. "Patrick, I'd love to, but you can't just invite me over to dinner. Your dad or your grandfather would have to do something like that."
"My dad is inviting you, well, sort of. He said it was okay if I called you to come over."
"Why isn't he calling me himself?"
"He's not here. He went away for one day and one night to the college he went to before I was born. But I just talked with him on the phone, and he said you can come to dinner tomorrow night. Mrs. Fortini's gonna be there and my grandfather. He's going to tell us the whole story about how he escaped the Germans after his plane crashed. Can't you please come? Please?"
"Are you sure your dad said it was okay?"
"Is there anything I can bring?"
There is nothing in this world that could stop me, she thought. "Yes, I would love to."
Katherine laughed. "Do you know what time? No, don't worry about that. I'll call Mrs. Fortini and get the details."
"I'm so glad you're coming," said Patrick. "Remember how to get here?"
"Of course I do."
"I can't wait."
"Me neither. I'll see you tomorrow then?"
"Okay, bye." And he hung up.
Just like that.
And just like that, Katherine felt alive again.
Chapter ThreeAs a rule, snow improves the scenery of most settings.
But not graveyards, Shawn thought.
Graveyards were cold, hard places on the best of days. The snow just made the entire scene colder and bleaker. The white erased all color from view. Headstones and monuments peppered the landscape, condensing entire lives down to a few words or a phrase. Even the trees didn't help in their wintry, skeletal stage. They looked more like dead sticks stuck oddly about the perimeter. No wonder children were afraid of cemeteries. Shawn certainly didn't want to be here.
It was mid-afternoon. He had just arrived after making the five-hour drive back from Penn State. His last stop had been the theater along West College Avenue. So many dates with Elizabeth had begun there. Dinner and a movie. She loved the movies. He'd thought about stopping in to catch the afternoon matinee, but Gung Ho was playing, starring Randolph Scott. The last thing Shawn needed was some Hollywood rendition of a war movie. He just sat across the street for a while, reliving some pleasant memories.
But Shawn knew this stop-his last stop before heading home to see Patrick-would be anything but pleasant. He hadn't visited Elizabeth's grave since he'd come back into town on Christmas Day. It was an appointment he knew he must keep, but one he'd been dreading, even the thought of it, every time it crossed his mind.
He walked through the main iron gate and looked for the cemetery caretaker. The woman in the office said he shouldn't be too far away, maybe just up the first hill. Shawn noticed a man wearing a gray overcoat and carrying a shovel, coming down the nearest walkway. He walked toward him, but before Shawn could say a word, the man saluted. Instinctively, Shawn returned the salute.
"Sergeant in the last war," the man said, smiling. "Couldn't be prouder of you fellas and what you're doing over there."
"Thank you," Shawn said. He mentioned why he had come and whose grave he'd come to see.
"I remember that day very clearly," the caretaker said. "Just a few weeks before Christmas. Personally dug the grave myself, a week later set the headstone."
"I appreciate that, sir. Could you take me to it?"
"Be happy to." He started walking back the way he came. "I remember reading about the car accident a few days before in the paper. Read about the little boy being left behind. Your boy, I guess. Talked about you being in England, a bomber pilot, if I recall."
"Yeah," Shawn said. "I flew a B-17."
"Great plane. Call it the Flying Fortress, right?"
"Tell you one thing," he said as they climbed a small stone stairway. "I'll never forget your boy, the way he handled himself at that funeral. Would have made you proud."
Shawn tried not to let the images form. He needed to keep his composure intact, at least a few minutes longer.
"At first I thought it must be a military funeral, when I saw the little boy standing next to that brunette. Usually is these days, you see a woman that age with a child. Then I saw there weren't any soldiers around, no flags or anybody playing 'Taps.' Just that woman, your boy, and a few friends. A very impressive young man, your boy."
"Thank you," Shawn said.
"I'll take real good care of things for you. This place will be a lot nicer to visit in the spring."
"It's right over there," he said, pointing. He turned to go then reached out his hand. "I'm honored to do anything I can for you fellas. And ... very sorry for your loss. Glad you're home to look after your boy. They gonna give you any time off?"
"Not sure how much. We're working on that now," Shawn said.
"Well, you have a nice day, take all the time you need."
He had escorted Shawn to within fifty feet of Elizabeth's grave then headed back down the hill.
* * *
Twenty minutes later, Shawn was still standing there, fifty feet from Elizabeth's grave, still staring at the headstone.
"Elizabeth, I don't think I can do this." Tears began to roll down his face.
In his hand, he held the last letter she had written him, written on the day she died. He hadn't read it yet but knew its basic message. His dad had actually cried explaining it. From Shawn's childhood until that moment, he couldn't recall ever seeing his father cry. Knowing the hostility his father had previously felt for Elizabeth, Shawn knew this must be a powerful letter indeed.
He wanted to pray for the strength to close these last fifty steps, but he found it hard to pray about anything lately. Really from the first moment he'd gotten the news of her death back in England. Shawn knew he needed God's help, probably more now than at any other time in his life. His struggle was ironic in a way, because he had been surrounded by death, almost nonstop, for well over a year. Even the death of close friends. Then he prayed constantly. Many times he'd felt the power of God's sustaining grace and would have told anyone who asked that it was only the comfort he'd received through prayer that had kept his sanity intact.
But this was different. This was Elizabeth.
Elizabeth was supposed to be off-limits to harm or danger. Shawn was the one they had both worried about making it through this war alive. They'd talked about it many times. What Elizabeth should do if Shawn didn't come back, what she should do with Patrick, what she should do financially, and so on.
There was no plan for this.
Shawn vividly remembered the last conversation they'd had on the subject, sitting in a Horn and Hardart's Automat in downtown Philly, an unusual restaurant that functioned more like a huge vending machine. It was all he could afford at the time. She was eating macaroni and cheese, he a chicken potpie. At least the food was fresh.
Excerpted from The Homecoming by DAN WALSH Copyright © 2010 by Dan Walsh. Excerpted by permission.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The story was truely gripping from beginning to end. It showed a heart felt love and devotion to family. There is so much to be said about the good old days, as we suffer through this present microwave world. I cherish the opportunity to escape to a time when our morals were still in place and true love can easily be identified.
The Homecoming is a continuation of the Unfinished Gift. For those who read the first book, you will love seeing the fulfillment of all your hopes and dreams for Patrick and his dad. Kathleen Townsend, Patrick's social worker, is back as well as his Grandpa and Italian neighbor. But where the first book is Patrick's story, this one is his father Sean's. Through the pages, you will experience the war through his eyes. Everything from being shot down over Europe to traveling with USO stars throughout the eastern US and back to England in time for the second blitz. You get to experience the further healing of his relationship with his father, but wonder if you will make good decisions in all areas of his life. I hesitate to tell you more, because this is a book you should read. The characters are rich and three-dimensional. The author's writing will transport you to World War II and its impact on the homefront. And through it all you will close the book with a contented sigh, sorry to leave the characters behind, but richer for your journey with them.
Dan Walsh has outdone himself in his new book, Homecoming! I'm so thankful to have received a review copy of a story taken from a slice of American life when the world was so torn up and forever changed by war. The Unfinished Gift, the first book by this author, has Shawn Collins missing in action and his son Patrick goes to live with his estranged Grandfather. Homecoming starts at the same place the Unfinished Gift leaves off. Everyone is waiting for Shawn's homecoming. I loved how the author put me back in WWI. Dan made the time period come alive as his characters go through different aspects of the war in England and the States. Dan's description of what Shawn, Patrick and Katherine went through was riveting. I felt their highs, their lows and the heart breaking blows of war, like I've never experienced before. I rejoiced with these characters triumphs, felt tears in my eyes and a knot in my throat when they shared tender moments in the middle of uncertain times. I enjoyed this story written mainly in Shawn Collin's point of view and all he experienced in and out of war. Shawn survived a plane crash and was sent home for some rest. The media made him out to be a hero-he didn't feel like one, he was a guy just doing his job like anyone else. Then the next thing he knows he's on a USO Bond tour away from his family again, and in the spot light, the one place he didn't want to be. I enjoyed how Dan Walsh showed the affects of the war from many different angles. I felt I was there, seeing what happens to families and how it plays havoc with their faith in God. I enjoyed Patrick, Shawn's son so much and was thrilled by his relationship with Katherine. I admired Shawn and all he went through to do his duty and try to be there for his family as much as the government would let him. I can't wait to read another story by this author. His characters and story touched my heart deeply. Nora St.Laurent The Book Club Network www.bookfun.org Finding Hope Through Fiction www.psalm516.blogspot.com
I first saw The Homecoming on the publisher's website and thought it sounded like a great book . And from what I had heard, It was full of details of WWII and a sweet romance story. But, I thought, wait! A man writing romance?This I had to read. So when Revell was offering this up for review, I had to sign up. The Homecoming is the sequel to The Unfinished Gift, and centers around the return of the, now widowed, Patrick Collins. I love WWII novels and I liked the insight I got when I read The Homecoming but, I think I would have enjoyed the book so much more, if I had read the first book, The Unfinished Gift. I felt detached from the characters and I didn't fully understand their background with each other. I also felt like their was un-important dialogue between the characters and that we never really get "inside" the main character's head and understand things from that character's POV. Although I would have liked the romantic relationship between Shawn and Kathrine to be stronger, again I have the feeling that had I read the first book, I could have understood it all better. But, besides all that, I loved the mini history lesson I got, plus the exciting WWII action and that little dash romance added in. Overall, if you love WWII, I think The Homecoming would be the perfect read, I just highly recommend you read the first book in the series, The Unfinished Gift, first:) *Many thanks to Donna Hausler @ Revell Books for sending me a review copy of The Homecoming. The review is my honest opinion on this book and is no way influenced by the publisher and/or the author.*
The Homecoming by Dan Walsh is the sequel to his novella, The Unfinished Gift. Shawn Collins has returned from World War II, a decorated pilot with a compelling story of escaping Nazi hands after his plane was shot down over the Channel and saving most of his crew. But his wife, Elizabeth, isn't waiting for him when he gets home. She was killed in a car accident shortly before Christmas, leaving their son Patrick with Shawn's father Ian. Ian and Shawn have had a rocky relationship over the years, but Patrick has brought them back together. When the army decides to send Shawn on a War Bond tour, he has to leave Patrick again, so he asks former social worker, Katherine Townsend, to work as a nanny. Katherine and Patrick had bonded after the death of Elizabeth. Katherine has fallen head over heels with Patrick, and she soon finds herself doing the same for his brave and handsome father, but Shawn is struggling with guilt over Elizabeth's death. Walsh does a wonderful job of recreating wartime America with its passion for stars and heroes, and the deep sacrifices everyone was willing to make for the soldiers. His description of the dogfight is harrowing and incredibly real; I could see the action happening as the planes dodged and shot each other. That scene alone makes the book fascinating, but the sweet romance between Katherine and Shawn and their shared faith make the book a must read.
Good story about family and friends and being spiritual. Touching at times and real most times because of actual life changing news and world events . Great read and moving.
Interesting story but at times it was slow for me. This is written by a Christian author. It was worth the download.