Slow Way Home

Slow Way Home

by Michael Morris

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On the surface, Brandon Willard seems like your average eight-year-old boy. He loves his mama, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and G. I. Joe. But Brandon's life is anything but typical.

Wise beyond his years, Brandon understands he's the only one in this world he can count on. It's an outlook that serves him well the day his mama leaves him behind at the Raleigh bus station and sets off to Canada with "her destiny" -- the latest man that she hopes will bring her happiness. The day his mother leaves, Brandon takes the first step toward shaping his own destiny. Soon he sends himself spending pleasant days playing with his cousins on his grandparents' farm and trying to forget the past. In the safety of that place, Brandon finally is able to trust the love of an adult to help iron out the wiry places until his nerves are as steady as any other boy's.

But when Sophie Willard shows up a year later with a determined look in her eye and a new man in tow, Brandon's grandparents ignore a judge's ruling and flee the state with Brandon. Creating a new life and identity in a small Florida town, Brandon meets the people who will fill him with self-worth and self-respect. He slowly becomes involved with "God's Hospital," a church run by the gregarious Sister Delores, a woman who is committed to a life of service for all members of the community, black and white, regardless of some townsfolk's disapproval.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061900259
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/07/2009
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 30,100
File size: 697 KB

About the Author

A fifth-generation native of Perry, Florida, a rural area near Tallahassee, Michael Morris knows southern culture and characters. It is the foundation and inspiration for the stories and novels he writes.

Upon graduating from Auburn University, Michael worked for U.S. Senator Bob Graham and then became a sales representative for pharmaceutical companies. As a sales representative, Michael decided to follow a life-long desire and began writing in the evenings. The screenplay he penned during this time is still someplace in the bottom of a desk drawer.

It is when Michael accepted a position in government affairs and moved to North Carolina that he began to take writing more seriously. While studying under author Tim McLaurin, Michael started writing the story that would eventually become his first novel, A Place Called Wiregrass. The novel was released in April, 2002 and is currently in its third printing. A Place Called Wiregrass was named a Booksense 76 selection by members of the American Independent Booksellers Association as and is part of the southern literature curriculum at two universities. Michael's latest novel, Slow Way Home, will be released by Harper Collins on September 23 and his work can be seen in the southern anthology Stories From The Blue Moon Café II.

Michael and his wife, Melanie, reside in Fairhope, Alabama.

Read an Excerpt

Slow Way Home

Chapter One

Nana always said the Lord works in mysterious ways. Every time she would say that, I would think of Darrell Foskey. If it hadn't been for Darrell, I don't know where I might've ended up. Probably tossed around in a system of Foster homes just like the clothes did in the dryer the night we first met Darrell. He came into our lives thanks to a jammed quarter at the Laundromat. As the night manager, Darrell saved the quarter and won my mama's heart all at the same time.

I was eight that summer day in 1971 when he moved to the apartment with us. The window air conditioner made a rattling sound as it fought the heat that Darrell let through the door. He put down a water-stained box filled with records long enough to snatch the G.I. Joe figure from my hands. The smell of his soured tongue rolled over me the same way he rolled G.I. Joe's head between his fingers.

"Boy, what you doing playing with dolls?" Red lines outlined brown pupils and when he smiled I saw the chipped tooth that he claimed was a sign of toughness. "Hey, just kidding, big guy." When Darrell flung the action figure, I jumped to avoid being hit by G.I. Joe. Little did I know then how I'd keep on jumping to avoid Darrell.

Mama was as shocked as I was seven weeks later when Darrell quit his job at the Laundromat and announced he was taking us out for supper. "Daddy, that's what I love about you. You just go with the gut," Mama said. She nibbled his ear and talked in that baby way I hated. "That man said he'll be at JC's party tonight with a new stash. Let's go on down there, Daddy."

They didn't see me roll my eyes big as Dallas right in front of them. He sure wasn't her daddy, and I'd throw up before I was fixing to call him any such thing. Before I could ease out of the beanbag and make it to my room, I heard Mama giggle.

"Boy, go on in there and get ready," Darrell yelled. "You gonna get yourself a steak dinner tonight."

Darrell was still going on about Canada and all the good jobs he could get working the pipelines. The pretty waitress reappeared and put another drink before him. Although I couldn't bring myself to look her directly in the eye, I liked the way she smiled and winked at me. Darrell licked the juice remaining on the steak knife and washed it down with a loud smack.

More than usual I was nervous around Darrell tonight. Not so much because of his erratic behavior -- I was getting used to the outbursts. But the restaurant was too much. Casting my eyes across the room, I watched a group of women Nana's age laugh while one of them opened brightly wrapped gifts. I couldn't help wondering how they would take Darrell if he got on one of his "spells," as Mama called them.

The more glasses of gold liquid Darrell consumed, the more he bragged about all the gold he could find in Canada. "There's an ol' boy who used to work with me already up there. They tell me he's making fifteen dollars an hour on that pipeline." Darrell licked the excess from the A-1 bottle top and slammed it on the table. I flinched and looked over at the ladies, who were so caught up admiring a gift of crocheted dinner mats that they didn't notice.

The pretty waitress appeared again and poured tea into my glass. "Boy, you best leave off the tea and go to studying your plate," Darrell said with a point of his knife. The waitress glanced at Darrell and then smiled back at me.

"Go on, Brandon, and eat your steak now," Mama said. She lit a cigarette and gazed across the restaurant. "Don't start no problems."

Picking at the slab of meat surrounded by pink juice, I rested my case. Mama knew I wanted chicken. But Darrell was determined and ordered steak for all of us. "I'm not very hungry."

"I'm not very hungry," Darrell whined and squinched up his ruddy face. "What's the matter, this place ain't good enough for you? Not good enough for the little king?"

I stiffened my back and dug my nails into the vinyl seat. Trying to gauge how to respond, I looked at Mama, but she was staring at her reflection in the tinted window and flicking the ends of her newly blonde hair. "Just eat the steak, Brandon."

"We ain't leaving until you eat ever bit of that steak, you hear me." Elbows planted on the plastic red-and-white tablecloth, Darrell enforced his message with another point of the knife.

"It's got icky stuff coming out of it." I followed the tip of the knife up to the brown eyes. It was that look. The same vengeful stare that Mama excused as the dark side in each of the two men she officially met at the Justice of the Peace plus the four she had let in without signed papers. The same dark side that made Darrell throw plates, punch holes in our apartment wall, and kick in my bedroom door.

Mama blew cigarette smoke at the plastic gold lamp dangling above the table. "Brandon, just don't, okay."

Darrell threw his napkin on the plate and steak juice stained the once white material. "Most kids'd be happy to eat at a nice restaurant, but no, not you. Not the king. You little no good piece of ..."

"Oh, Daddy, don't. Don't get all riled up. Not tonight. He's just being a kid." Mama leaned into Darrell and whined, "Come on, shug ..."

Slow Way Home. Copyright © by Michael Morris. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

Lee Smith

“Slow Way Home is a gem — both gritty and heartwarming at once. A wonderful, emotional read.”

Lynne Hinton

“Master storyteller Michael Morris has delivered another stunning novel….touching, truthful, and beautifully written. It is not to be missed!”

Tim Farrington

“A gentle story suffused with brutal truths, almost fable-like in its resonant simplicity.....a journey well worth taking.”

Silas House

“In a remarkably consistent narrative voice, Morris takes us along for a moving, funny ride...”

Anne Rivers Siddons

“Slow Way Home is a novel for the heart. It is pitch perfect and the character Brandon is going to linger in a lot of minds. The opening chapter is one of the most poignant and poweful I have ever read. This is a fine book.”

Homer Hickam

Slow Way Home is a warm, witty, fresh, and innovative novel.
author of October Sky

Donna M Butts

“Morris’ insightful book gives voice to the struggle millions of grandparents and the grandchildren in their care face everyday.”

Richard Paul Evans

“Slow Way Home is a journey of the human spirit and its themes... make it a novel for the ages.”

Southern Scribe

“[E]motional and fast-paced . . . the social issues covered make this an intelligent book for debate.”

Reading Group Guide

An Introduction to Slow Way Home

On the surface, Brandon Willard seems like your average eight-year-old boy. He has an obligatory love for his mama, peanut butter, and GI Joe. But Brandon's life is anything but typical.

Brandon is wise beyond his years and able to look at the world around him with an understanding that he's the only person he can count on. It's an outlook that serves him well the day his mother leaves him behind at the Raleigh, North Carolina, bus station and sets off for Canada with the latest in a series of men she hopes will bring her happiness. Soon Brandon finds himself on his grandparents' farm spending carefree days playing with his cousins and fighting to forget the past. It is there, with the hard work and love of his grandparents, that Brandon finally allows the love of an adult to seep into his pores and iron out the wiry places until his nerves are as steady as any other boy's.

When his mother shows up a year later with a new man in tow, Brandon's grandparents ignore the law and flee with Brandon rather than return him to the daughter they deem unfit. Creating a new life and identity in a small Florida town, Brandon meets people who empower him with self-worth and self-respect. He slowly becomes involved with "God's Hospital" -- a church run by the gregarious Sister Delores, an African-American woman who serves members of the community both black and white. Yet Sister Delores's outreach doesn't exactly inspire everyone. When a violent act threatens to rip the town apart, Brandon and his grandparents are put in a perilous situation that will forever change the course of their lives.

Discussion Questions

  1. Brandon Willard longs for a close-knit extended family, and yet it is the people in the community who become his key allies. Do you have people outside of blood relatives you consider to be "family"?

  2. Slow Way Home addresses custodial rights of grandparents. Should grandparents have a legal right for custody of their grandchildren? What are your feelings about the legal system upholding custodial rights of parents when abuse or abandonment are involved?

  3. Throughout the novel, Brandon is searching for a place to call home. Do you think he ever found it? What is your definition of home?

  4. Sophie, Brandon's mother, repeatedly tells Brandon that she loves him. How do you think Sophie would describe love? What obstacles do you think the "working poor" have today as single parents?

  5. Do you think that Brandon's grandparents, Pearl and A.B., fled with Brandon to protect him or to satisfy the guilt over their failure with Sophie? Do Pearl and A.B. ever come to terms with their past mistakes? Does Brandon help Sophie come to terms with her own past?

  6. How does Sister Delores's church in Abbeville differ from Brother Bradley's church in Raleigh? How did Pearl come to terms with the crisis in her faith?

  7. Why did Brandon's friend Beau need to gain acceptance from Mama Rose and her son Alvin? Did Beau ever come to terms with Alvin's role in burning God's Hospital?

  8. Racism is portrayed in the novel as both overt, such as Alvin's role in the Ku Klux Klan, and hidden, as in the case with A.B.'s concern about Brandon attending a minority church. What changed A.B.'s attitude toward Sister Delores? Which type of racism do you see in your own community?

  9. When Sister Delores visits Brandon at the foster home he tries to kiss her, but she pulls away from him and cautiously watches the neighbor across the street. Why do you think Sister Delores responded in such a manner?

  10. When Brandon goes to live with Gina Strickland, he enters a world he has never known, one of wealth and privilege. In what ways did Brandon help Gina come to terms with her own past?

  11. Gina Strickland joins forces with Brandon's attorney, Nairobi, and together they lobby to reduce Pearl and A.B.'s sentences. What long-term effects do you believe this allegiance had on Gina's politics? How would you describe Nairobi's relationship with Brandon given the issue of race and the culture of the early 1970s?

  12. Winston and Brandon first meet at a party manners school hosted by an aging socialite. What impact did this training have on Brandon? Do you think such a school was part of the Old South or do you believe the formal training still has a place in today's society regardless of region?

  13. Esther, Gina Strickland's longtime housekeeper, is extremely allegiant to Gina's welfare. Do you think the relationship went beyond that of class structure, or was it merely based on the way Esther viewed her job as caretaker? How would you describe Esther's relationship with Gina?

  14. At the end of the novel, what do you think will happen to the section of the farm that Brandon purchased? Where do you envision him taking Pearl?

  15. According to the latest census, 2.5 million grandparents are raising grandchildren in the United States. What are some of the benefits that such a household can provide? Are there drawbacks to grandparents raising their grandchildren? What type of impact does this have on the children, the grandparents, and the community in general?

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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Slow Way Home 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 47 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The pages of this story blanketed me and I could not put this book down. Caught in a custody battle between his grandparents who have raised him and the mother who left him, the boy in this story is a memorable character. What I thought would be a 'sad' story instead touched my heart and left me inspired. One of the best books that I read last year.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mike dedicated this novel to his H.S. English Teacher. Only 60 years old, she passed away three months ago of brain cancer. She had the opportunity to read the book before she died, and was very touched by Brandon's story. As her daughter, I felt her critque should be mentioned as she cannot be here to commend Mike herself. She was very proud of Mike. Enjoy!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having enjoyed this author's first novel I could not pass the new one up. Even though I liked the first one, this story is one for the heart and in my opinion better written. Slow Way Home left me moved and wanting to know more about the characters. I feel like I know them. This novel is a great balance between the literary and good old fashioned storying telling. Our club will discuss it in two months - I can't wait.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book on the sales rep's recommendation. I think this is great literary fiction with rich prose. Brandon's character is well developed and so well drawn I seemed to feel his emotions too. This is the first I've read of this author, but I'm looking forward to reading his first novel. A great book club book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This has to among the best books I have read since I got my nook. I laughed, cried and got angry. I actually found myself hating, yes, hating the boy's mother and his aunt. Both of them should have been covered in honey and tied down over a red velvet ant hill. I loved the grandparents. They gave up a lot for love of their grand child. This book did not contain sex, cursing or gore. There was various kinds of abuse, including incidences by the KKK against African Americans. Several people died as a result of accidents and drug abuse. I wish the ending could have peaches and cream, but then it would not have been as realistic a novel. This well edited book was about 260 pages long. It was a delight and a tear jerker. Ages 14 and up would enjoy this book. Geared more to the female sector. AD
GVS330 More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book down!!  It will touch your heart!  Tho I could just slap the taste out of Brandon's mother!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I discovered this novel when the Atlanta Journal Constiution listed it as one of the year's best in southern fiction. I have to agree with the paper. This one has some of the most complex and memorable characters that I've come across in ages. I'd never heard of this author before I saw the newspaper article. I look forward to reading more from him.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Slow Way Home is a wonderful journey. Its characters transport you in time and place so you feel the very heartbeat of Brandon, the little boy at the story's center. Like 'A Place Called Wiregrass,' Morris creates strongly empathetic characters whom you grow to care about deeply. It's a moving and beautifully told tale. For me, Slow Way Home was over much too quickly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
229 pages- very good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Don't let the headline stop you from reading. I liked it but be prepared for some heavy material. Not a light read to get done in one day. All the characters really drew me in and made the book come alive. The closer it got to the end the more curious I became about how it would end. I was pleased.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldn't put this book down and couldn't believe it only cost $2.99. An excellent read with engaging characters and a story line that touches your heart.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book. Very good book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great detail puts you in the lives of the characters. It was difficult to put the book down.
COOKIE-CRC More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didn't expect for the book to be really good but it is. The characters are engaging and realistic and so is the story. It is a compelling read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bless your heart.You're few and far between and it only took a few seconds.Thank you soooooo much for letting us know how many pages.My cut off point is about 300 pgs.which means I'm goin' for it!!!
Wally11 More than 1 year ago
Good Story and writing. Sad.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just finished this book. I enjoyed it very much.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Carson-Rogers-Conway More than 1 year ago
I read this writer's other book, Man in Blue Moon, and wanted to read his others. This one is so different than the first one I read. This is a heart-touching story that reminds us of the love between grandparent and grandchild. An emotionally charged story that also gives insight into racial strife during the early 1970s. It is a great southern story. Loved it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book will rip your heart out with the honest and heartwrenching voice of it's eight year old main character. I smiled and laughed at his view of his world and cried at the reality of it. A Christian book that doesn't give the pat answers to life's tough questions but is still strong on faith. Read this book! You won't regret it!
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