They Almost Always Come Homeby Cynthia Ruchti
When Libby’s husband Greg fails to return from a two-week canoe trip to the Canadian wilderness, the authorities soon write off his disappearance as an unhappy husband’s escape from an empty marriage and unrewarding career. Their marriage might have survived if their daughter
Finalist - 2011 Carol Award and 2010 RT Book Reviews Reviewers' Choice Award
When Libby’s husband Greg fails to return from a two-week canoe trip to the Canadian wilderness, the authorities soon write off his disappearance as an unhappy husband’s escape from an empty marriage and unrewarding career. Their marriage might have survived if their daughter Lacey hadn’t died . . . and if Greg hadn’t been responsible. Libby enlists the aid of her wilderness savvy father-in-law and her faith-walking best friend to help her search for clues to her husband’s disappearance…if for no other reason than to free her to move on. What the trio discovers in the search upends Libby’s presumptions about her husband and rearranges her faith.
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Read an Excerpt
They Almost Always Come Home
By Cynthia Ruchti
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2010 Cynthia Ruchti
All right reserved.
Chapter OneFrom the window [she] looked out. Through the window she watched for his return, saying, "Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why don't we hear the sound of chariot wheels?" -Judges 5:28 NLT
Do dead people wear shoes? In the casket, I mean. Seems a waste. Then again, no outfit is complete without the shoes.
My thoughts pound up the stairs, down the hall, and into the master bedroom closet. Greg's gray suit is clean, I think. White shirt, although that won't allow much color contrast and won't do a thing for Greg's skin tones. His red tie with the silver threads? Good choice.
Shoes or no shoes? I should know this. I've stroked the porcelain-cold cheeks of several embalmed loved ones. My father and grandfather. Two grandmothers-one too young to die. One too old not to.
The Baxter Street Mortuary will not touch my husband's body should the need arise. They got Lacey's hair and facial expression all wrong.
I rise from the couch and part the sheers on the front window one more time. Still quiet. No lights on the street. No Jeep pulling into our driveway. I'll give him one more hour, then I'm heading for bed. With or without him.
Shoes? Yes or no? I'm familiar with the casket protocol for children. But for adults?
Grandma Clarendon hadn't worn shoes for twelve years or more when she died. She preferred open-toed terrycloth slippers. Day and night. Home. Uptown. Church. Seems to me she took comfort to the extreme. Or maybe she figured God ought to be grateful she showed up in His house at all, given her distaste for His indiscriminate dispersal of the Death Angel among her friends and siblings.
"Ain't a lick of pride in outliving your brothers and sisters, Libby." She said it often enough that I can pull off a believable impression. Nobody at the local comedy club need fear me as competition, but the cousins get a kick out of it at family reunions.
Leaning on the tile and cast-iron coffee table, I crane everything in me to look at the wall clock in the entry. Almost four in the morning? I haven't even decided who will sing special music at Greg's memorial service. Don't most women plan their husband's funeral if he's more than a few minutes late?
In the past, before this hour, I'm mentally two weeks beyond the service, trying to decide whether to keep the house or move to a condo downtown.
He's never been this late before. And he's never been alone in the wilderness. A lightning bolt of something-fear? anticipation? pain?-ripples my skin and exits through the soles of my feet.
The funeral plans no longer seem a semimorbid way to occupy my mind while I wait for the lights of his Jeep. Not pointless imaginings but preparation.
That sounds like a thought I should command to flee in the name of Jesus or some other holy incantation. But it stares at me with narrowed eyes as if to say, "I dare you."
Greg will give me grief over this when he gets home. "You worry too much, Libby. So I was a little late." He'll pinch my love handles, which I won't find endearing. "Okay, a lot late. Sometimes the wind whips up the waves on the larger lakes. We voyageurs have two choices-risk swamping the canoe so we can get home to our precious wives or find a sheltered spot on an island and stay put until the wind dies down."
I never liked how he used the word precious in that context. I should tell him so. I should tell him a lot of things. And I will.
If he ever comes home.
* * *
With sleep-deprived eyes, I trace the last ticks of the second hand. Seven o'clock. Too early to call Frank? Not likely.
I reach to punch the MEM 2 key sequence on the phone. Miss the first time. Try again.
One ring. Two. Three. If the answering machine kicks in-
"Frank's Franks. Frankly the best in all of Franklin County. Frank speaking. How can I help you?"
I bite back a retort. How does a retired grocery manager get away with that much corny? Consistently. One thing is still normal.
"Frank, it's Libby. I hate to call this early but-"
"Early?" he snorts. "Been up since four-thirty."
Figures. Spitting image of his son.
"Biked five miles," he says. "Had breakfast at the truck stop. Watered those blasted hostas of your mother-in-law's that just won't die. Believe me, I've done everything in my power to help them along toward that end."
I don't have the time or inclination to defend Pauline's hostas. "I called for a reason, Frank."
"Sorry. What's up?"
I'm breathing too rapidly. Little flashes of electricity hem my field of vision. "Have you heard from Greg?"
"He's back, right?"
"Not yet. I'm probably worried for nothing."
He expels a breath that I feel in the earpiece. "When did you expect him? Yesterday?"
"He planned to get back on Friday, but said Saturday at the latest. He hates to miss church now that he's into helping with the sound system."
"Might have had to take a wind day. Or two."
Why does it irritate me that he's playing the logic card? "I thought of that."
"Odd, though." His voice turns a corner.
"What do you mean?"
Through the receiver, I hear that grunt thing he does when he gets into or out of a chair. "I had one eye on the Weather Channel most of last week," he says.
What did you do with the other eye, Frank? The Weather Channel? Early retirement has turned him into a weather spectator. "And?"
"Says winds have been calm throughout the Quetico. It's a good thing too. Tinder-dry in Canada right now. One spark plus a stiff wind and you've got major forest fire potential. They've posted a ban on open campfires. Cook stoves only. Greg planned for that, didn't he?"
"How should I know?" Somewhere deep in my brain, I pop a blood vessel. Not my normal style-not with anyone but Greg. "Sorry, Frank. I'm ... I'm overreacting. To everything. I'm sure he'll show up any minute. Or call."
From the background comes a sound like leather complaining. "Told my boy more than once he ought to invest in a satellite phone. The man's too cheap to throw away a bent nail."
"I know." I also know I would have thrown a newsworthy fit if he'd suggested spending that kind of money on a toy for his precious wilderness trips when I'm still waiting for the family budget to allow for new kitchen countertops. As it stands, they're not butcher block. They're butcher shop. And they've been that way since we moved in, since Greg first apologized for them and said we'd replace them "one of these first days."
How many "first days" pass in twenty-three years?
His precious wilderness trips? Is that what I said? Now I'm doing it.
Frank's voice urges me back to the scene of our conversation. "Hey, Libby, have him give me a call when he gets in, will you?" His emphasis of the word when rings artificial.
"He always does, Frank." My voice is a stream of air that overpowers the words.
"I'll have him call."
The phone's silent, as is the house. I never noticed before how loud is the absence of sound.
* * *
It's official. Greg's missing. That's what the police report says: Missing Person.
I don't remember filing a police report before now. We've never had obnoxious neighbors or a break-in. Not even a stolen bike from the driveway. Yes, I know. A charmed life.
The desk sergeant is on the phone, debating with someone about who should talk to me. Is my case insignificant to them? Not worth the time? I take a step back from the scarred oak check-in desk to allow the sergeant a fraction more privacy.
With my husband gone, I have privacy to spare, I want to tell him. You can have some of mine. You're welcome.
I shift my purse to the other shoulder, as if that will help straighten my spine. Good posture seems irrelevant. Irreverent.
Everything I know about the inside of police stations I learned from Barney Fife, Barney Miller, and any number of CSIs. The perps lined up on benches along the wall, waiting to be processed, look more at ease than I feel.
The chair to which I've been directed near Officer Kentworth's desk boasts a mystery stain on the sitting-down part. Not a chair with my name on it. It's for women with viper tattoos and envelope-sized miniskirts. For guys named Vinnie who wake with horse heads in their beds. For pierced and bandanaed teens on their way to an illustrious petty-theft career.
"Please have a seat." The officer has said that line how many times before?
Officer Kentworth peers through the untidy fringe of his unibrow and takes my statement, helping fill in the blanks on the Missing Person form. All the blanks but one-Where is he? The officer notes Greg's vehicle model and license plate number and asks all kinds of questions I can't answer. Kentworth is a veteran of Canadian trips like the one from which Greg has not returned. He knows the right questions to ask.
Did he choose the Thunder Bay or International Falls crossing into Canada? What was your husband's intended destination in the Quetico Provincial Park? Where did he arrange to enter and exit the park? Did he have a guide service drop him off? Where did he plan to camp on his way out of the park? How many portages?
I should have sent Frank to file the report. He'd know. Greg probably rambled on to me about some of those things on his way out the door seventeen days ago. My brain saw no need to retain any of it. It interested him, not me.
Kentworth leans toward me, exhales tuna breath-which seems especially unique at this hour of the morning-and asks, "How've things been at home between the two of you?"
I know the answer to this question. Instead I say, "Fine. What's that got to do with-?"
"Had to ask, Mrs. Holden." He reaches across his desk and pats my hand. Rather, he patronizes my hand. "Many times, in these cases-"
Oh, just say it!
"-an unhappy husband takes advantage of an opportunity to walk away."
His smile ends at the border of his eyes. I resist the urge to smack him. I don't want to join the perps waiting to be processed. I want to go home and plow through Greg's office, searching for answers I should have known.
Greg? Walk away?
Not only is he too annoyingly faithful for that, but if anyone has a right to walk away, it's me.
* * *
I thought it would be a relief to get home again after the ordeal at the police station, which included a bizarre three-way conversation with the Canadian authorities asking me to tell them things I don't know. We won't even mention the trauma of the question, "And Mrs. Holden, just for the record, can you account for your own whereabouts since your husband left?"
Home? A relief? The answering machine light blinks like an ambulance. Mostly messages from neighbors, wondering if I've heard anything. A few friends and extended family-word is spreading-wondering if I've heard anything. Our pastor, wondering if I've heard anything.
I head for the bedroom to change clothes. The cotton sweater I wore to the station smells like tuna and handcuffs. Or is that my imagination?
Quick census. How many cells of my body don't ache? You'd think I'd find this king-sized bed and down comforter impossible to resist. But it's another symbol that something's missing. Something's wrong and has been for a long time. Moving from our old queen-sized mattress to this king represented distance rather than comfort. For me, anyway. I needed a few more inches between us. A few feet. I guess I got my wish.
I throw the sweater in the wicker hamper, which ironically does not reek of Greg's athletic socks today. On the way from the hamper to the closet, I clunk my shin on the corner of the bed frame. The bed takes up more of the room than it should. Old houses. Contractors in the 1950s couldn't envision couples in love needing that much elbow room. My shin throbs as it decides whether it wants to bruise. That corner's caught me more than once. I ought to know better. About a lot of things.
I pull open the bifold closet doors. Picking out something to wear shouldn't be this hard. But Greg's things are in here.
If he were planning to leave me, couldn't he have had the decency to tidy up after himself and clear out the closet? For the ever-popular "closure"? How long do I wait before packing up his suits and dress shirts?
One of his suit jackets is facing the wrong way on the hanger. Everyone knows buttons face left in the closet. Correcting it is life-or-death important to me at the moment. There. Order. As it should be. I smooth the collar of the jacket and stir up the scent of Aspen for Men. The boa constrictor around my throat flexes its muscles.
With its arms spread wide, the overstuffed chair in the corner mocks me. I bought it without clearing the expenditure with Greg. Mortal sin, right? He didn't holler. The man doesn't holler. He sighs and signs up for more overtime.
Maybe I'll find comfort in the kitchen. This bedroom creeps me out.
* * *
Greg has thrown us into an incident of international intrigue. Melodramatic wording, but true. We're dealing with the local authorities plus the Canadian police.
Staring out the kitchen window at the summer-rich backyard proves fruitless. It holds no answers for me. I'm alone in this. Almost.
Frank's my personal liaison with the Canadians-border patrol, Quetico Park rangers, and Ontario Provincial Police, the latter of which is blessed with an unfortunate acronym-OPP. Looks a lot like "Oops" on paper. I can't help but envision that adorable character from Due North, the Mountie transplanted into the heart and bowels of New York City. Sweetly naive as he was, he always got his man. Will these get mine?
Frank will be much better at pestering them for answers. My mother-in-law would be better still. Pestering. Pauline's gifted that way.
I'm no help. Big surprise. When I spoke with the north-of-the-border authorities, I either tripped over every word and expressed my regrets for bothering them or shouted into the phone, "Why aren't you doing something?"
They are, of course. They're trying. Analyzing tire tracks. Interviewing canoeists exiting the park. Looking for signs of a struggle. The search plane they promised is a nice touch. Under Frank's direction, they'll scan Greg's expected route to check for mayhem.
While I wait for yet another pot of coffee to brew, I brush toast crumbs-some forgotten breakfast-off the butcher shop counter into my hand. Now what? I can't think what to do with them.
The phone rings.
It's Greg's district manager again. He's the pasty-faced, chopstick-thin undertaker hovering just offstage in a lame Western movie.
No, no word from Greg yet. Yes, I'll let you know as soon as I hear something. Yes, I understand what a difficult position this has put you in, Mr. Sensitive, I mean, Mr. Stenner. Can we request a temporary leave of absence for Greg or ...? Of course, I understand. Not fair to the company, sure. Only have so much patience, uh huh. God bless you too.
Oh, and thanks for caring that my life is falling apart and my husband is either muerto or just fine but not with me and either way he's a dead man.
I slam the phone into its base station, then apologize to it.
The sweat in my palm reconstituted the bread crumbs during the call. Wastebasket. That's what one does with crumbs.
How long will it take me to figure out what to do with the crumbs of my life?
And where will I find a basket large enough for the pieces?
Excerpted from They Almost Always Come Home by Cynthia Ruchti Copyright © 2010 by Cynthia Ruchti. 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.
Meet the Author
Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed in hope. She’s the award-winning author of 16 books and a frequent speaker for women’s ministry events. She serves as the Professional Relations Liaison for American Christian Fiction Writers, where she helps retailers, libraries, and book clubs connect with the authors and books they love. She lives with her husband in Central Wisconsin. Visit her online at CynthiaRuchti.com.
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Lets get past the formatting issues and get to the heart of this story. Loved lt from the beginning to the end. Look forward to reading her next book.
I might have given this 4 stars but the formatting is the WORST I've seen so far in an ebook. Hyphens where they aren't needed and missing where they are needed. The author's name and the name of the book show up randomly in the middle of the page throughout the book. It was bad enough that it took away from the story for me. That being said, the story was really good, and I would read more by this author. The characters were well developed and believable, and the couple's struggle with grief and guilt seemed very true to life.
Very, very difficult to read as ebook. Formatting done by an ape as far as I can tell. The story was good, told by both the husband and wife's points of view. I was able to put up with the crappy formatting because I wanted to see what happened. Unfortunately the author must have gotten bored or something because the book basically just ended very quickly. I think I got it as a free book, but I wouldn't pay much for it if I had to buy it.
I really enjoyed reading They Almost Always Come Home by Cynthia Ruchti. It was a different style of book than I usually read but really, really GOOD! Many thanks to KCWC for sending me this book to review. The author created characters that were really believable and the emotions throughout this book just tugged and tugged at my heart strings. The scripture quoted was beautiful and very meaningful. At times, the chapters seemed to be a bit wordy but they are important to the whole of the book. The sub-plots and twists in this book really kept me engaged and I kept saying, "okay, I'll just read one more page and then go do the dishes". Well, the dishes didn't get done till I finished this book! :)
It is not surprising that this book is a finalist for the 2011 Carol Award from American Christian Fiction Writers. Cynthia Ruchti's writing is gripping. The strong, irreverent voice of a woman who "would leave her husband if she could find him" draws the reader in immediately. Ruchtie understands the stresses even Christians feel as they confront tragedy and events beyond their understanding. There are no easy answers here, but there is a rock bottom assurance of God's presence. I could have done without the extra complications introduced in the epilogue, but Libby's thoughts on miracles and half miracles, waiting and trusting, are perfect. I highly recommend this book. It is adventure more than romance, internal struggle in the midst of major external challenges, spiritual reality told in a powerful way. And the setting is spectacular.
This story rings true and although another reader mentioned slow spots, I didn't notice any. Sometimes a book needs a bit of breathing room so tense pacing with a few slower passages make a good read. I'm going to have to figure out how to get Cynthia to be my critique partner. I could learn a lot from her writing skills. Enough said about that. Sometimes when our friends are hit by ill health, death, or financial problems it can tear up a marriage. I was intrigued by how real Libby was. And how her mourning for loss made her unable to see the other persons suffering. I liked reading the story and seeing God work in her life as she searched for her husband . . . or his body. She needed closure and in her angst she wasn't sure which would be the more satisfying ending. If they ever make this into a movie it will be a tear producer. I look forward to Cynthia's next novel.
When I first received my copy of They Almost Always Come Home, I thought it sounded like a good story. When I first started reading it, I was intrigued, for a little while. I soon found the story slow and I started to get bored. I was actually on the verge of giving up and not finishing the book, but a little voice told me to keep going. I mean, I really did want to see how it would send, so I kept reading. I can honestly say that if I had quit reading the book, it would have been a huge mistake. The slow spot passed and I found myself turning pages and not wanting to put the book down. They Almost Always Come Home is a powerful story about love, forgiveness, healing, and God's grace - all the really good stuff! Greg and Libby's marriage was on the brink of disaster and Libby's faith was running on empty when Greg went missing in the wilderness of Canada. Libby gets past her anger at Greg for leaving her, or so she thinks, long enough to go looking for him. What she finds will change her life and her faith forever. This book really had me taking a hard look at my marriage and had me asking questions like, "If my husband were to go missing, would his annoying little habits really seem all that annoying?" and "Would are problems really be that big?" The answer is no. This story puts perspective on those little things that seem like big things at the time. I honestly think this book can do for marriages the same thing the movie Fireproof did for marriages. God has a prominent role in this story as He guides His children where He wants them to go. I thought for a short time that I would not be writing a favorable review for this book, but I'm so glad I did not give up on it. The premise of this story is original and the message will have a huge impact that will stay with you. I highly recommend this book and if you come to the slow spot and feel the same way I felt, please, do not give up on it. It really does not stay slow for long and you will be thankful you read the book.
In the middle of reading the book, I noticed that 133 to 141 are missing... right when it was starting to get good!
This was an amazing book with wretched formatting for Nook. I almost deleted it from my library because it was so diffcult to read due to the formatting, but I kept going due to the captivating nature of the words and story. Once I was able to ignore the title, author's name, and page numbers from the hard copy book that transferred randomly to the ebook as well as same line word hyphanations, I was able to imerse myself into this story. Well done, Cynthia Ruchti! I look forward to more of your work. But please! Be sure that the next book is correctly formatted for the electronic market.
This book is very poorly formatted, thus destroying any reading pleasure for me. I believe, from what little I managed to read of it, that this would be a great book to read but I am not going to waste my reading time on it. I am deleting this poorly formatted book.
Maybe I did something wrong but my copy of this book came out weird. Some sentences are centered and the next line is not, some sentences do not have proper capitalization....sigh. I give up...I am not reading anymore.
For years Libby Holden has languished in a lifeless marriage. More than anything she longs to escape it. Maybe then her heart will pump breath into her life once again. But then her husband Greg fails to return from a solo canoe trip to the Canadian wilderness. Is he lost? Hurt? Dead? Or did he find a way to escape their marriage before she did? Needing to know the truth, Abby sets out to find him, taking along her father-in-law and best friend. Will the wilderness provide the answers her life desperately needs? ~~~~~ I've actually read this book twice. The first time was several months ago when I received They Almost Always Come Home as an advanced reader copy. I dove into the book and was so intrigued by the storyline that I couldn't put the book down. I simply had to find out what happened to Greg. That's a good thing right? Every author dreams of writing a page-turner. The problem was, by rushing through the story I failed to take time to appreciate Cynthia Ruchti's excellent writing voice. I failed to appreciate the complexity of Libby's and Greg's relationship. So, I had to read it again, and waited for a time when I could savor each carefully chosen word. Cynthia's unique prose is beautiful and befitting of the wilderness she's describing. It's easy to visualize yourself canoeing the Canadian waters. And while you're in the wild, the reader journeys deep inside the character's skins. You feel every sensation, and hear each thought. I love Libby's honesty and I appreciate her sarcastic wit and her confused feelings. On one hand, she's worried about her husband. Is he injured? Will he ever be found? On the other hand, Libby's certain that Greg had the guts to walk away from their dead marriage before she did. She says, "I'm angry that he left me when I was about to leave him." It's a duality of feelings Libby doesn't know how to reconcile. As for her faith, it's very human. Libby's not some "super Christian" with inauthentic faith that leaves the reader rolling their eyes. This may be Cynthia Ruchti's debut novel, but it reads like it was written by a seasoned veteran. I can't wait to read more from her.
Blending humor with heart wrenching angst and with the savvy of a psychologist, They Almost Always Come Home will make you laugh and cry, and then in a heartbeat, do it all over again. As Libby examines her marriage from beneath a star-studded sky, you'll take a new look at your own. A dramatic page-turner, They Almost Always Come Home receives a very high recommendation from Novel Journey/Reviews and me.
Was really hard to get through but some parts were enough to keep me reading. Just ok.
Deb’s Dozen: Canoeing for clarity. Lightning for light? Faith and family are everything! I bought and read Cynthia Ruchti’s book, They Almost Always Come Home, about a year ago after reading an advance copy of and loving All My Belongings—and was equally entranced. Libby’s husband, Greg, is missing. He’s not come back from a wilderness canoe trip. Things were a bit rocky before he left on the trip and she’s left wondering if he’s left her for good. Greg has never gone on a solo trip before—Libby is greatly concerned, and upset, and angry, and all manner of other emotions as she waits to hear something. I’ve always wondered if I would have Libby’s faith and fortitude in similar circumstances. She says, “I don’t know. I want to leave my husband, but I have to find him first.” Libby and Greg’s dad and Jenika, Libby’s best friend, set out on a trek through the wilderness to find Greg. What they learn about themselves on the journey is life altering. Will they survive? Will they find Greg? Is he alive? Why didn’t he come home? How could God allow this? You’ll definitely want to read this one! Description and dialog at their finest, along with action and suspense. 4 Stars! To quote her bio, Cynthia Ruchti is an award-winning author and speaker who tells stories hemmed in hope. They Almost Always Come Back was her debut novel and has recently been re-covered and reissued. She’s authored thirteen more since that one came out (See review for All My Belongings). Find out more about Cynthia at Cynthia Ruchti. Abingdon Press and the Litfuse Publicity Group gave me another copy of this novel for my candid review.
Excellent read, one that won't be quickly forgotten AND No formatting problems that so many reported earlier.
Look past the dismal formatting, please! Because this book is well worth the extra effort required. Several reviewers have mentioned how they don't care for Libby and her "witty" comments but I appreciated them for what they revealed of her: a woman trying to mask a grief that has turned to blame and caustic bitterness which leaks out through her comments. That caustic grief has essentially destroyed Libby's marriage so when her husband fails to come back from a solo canoe trip, she doesn't know whether to be relieved or angry that he ditched the marriage first. What she does need to do is track down what happened to him. The process of retracing his last journey, along with her father-in-law and a supportive friend with troubles of her own, gives her new appreciation of her missing husband and fresh reliance on God to sustain her in her grief. And despite what the above sounds like, it isn't a depressing book....the twists and turns will keep you up reading late into the night. My one complaint (besides the formatting nightmare which is not the author's fault) is the hurried ending. Too much new information introduced in the last few pages leaves one feeling like they aren't really sure where all the characters ended up. I look forward to reading more from this talented writer.