Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2021
Take Me Home is a story of the search for self and family. Our heroine Elle honours the wishes of her beloved grandmother by taking her ashes to her Scottish homeland, which she left at the age of 15 with a mystery in her wake.
Elle’s life to date has been one of feeling like a square peg in her family. Her siblings have all followed academic paths to successful careers; her mother is a bit of a helicopter, wanting Elle to also follow that expected path. Only her dad and her grandma (his mother) seem to understand that she is of a different ilk.
And thus begins the Scottish adventure to Portsoy and Skye, a discovery of the family left behind all those years ago and inevitably shreds of the story that led to the rift. Elle is curious to find the truth of that life, not the least because her grandmother has verbally materialised after death and is accompanying her for most of the time, issuing a running commentary on Elle’s decisions. They have many and varied warm and believable conversations across the life-death continuum.
In another context this might seem a bit woo-woo, but Karly Lane manages to take us along on this ride – it is after all a manifestation of intimacy and loss. It is also set largely in the rarefied air of the Scottish countryside where myths and folklore seem to make possible all kinds of seeing, all manner of special gifts – including talking to the dead.
As we might expect from a prolific and popular writer of rural romance, there is a love story in the making. It comes rather pleasingly after a lot of other things in Elle’s life are explored and some resolved. We know she needs to sort out fundamental aspects of her life before any romance can take hold. And indeed she does this when her suppressed love of and talent for art is allowed to blossom in the beautiful and historic Scottish landscape.
We follow Elle’s path to self-confidence and strength, her bonding with the Scottish family and her love affair with the landscape – and then the physical and emotional love affair we have anticipated. Happily, she makes no compromises with her need to know herself first.
Karly Lane has drawn on her travels to paint a vivid and affectionate picture of the Scottish countryside and people. She shows respect for the history of place and an understanding of the ways of family love. Her characters are possessed of a ‘realness’ in their behaviour and speech, which makes the writing very accessible. It’s easy to feel we know and like them and to forgive their foibles.
The many rusted on readers of Karly Lane’s books will find plenty of the familiar here to give them comfort and just enough of the different to keep them on their toes and wanting more.
Thank you to Allen & Unwin for the review copy and to Karly for such a delightful chat.