A gripping read that will have you all in your feels, Home Stretch is a thoughtful story that cements Graham Norton as a phenomenal writer. Check out our review of Home Stretch below ⬇️
Shame and longing can flow through generations, but the secrets of the heart will not be buried for ever.
It is 1987 and a small Irish community is preparing for a wedding. The day before the ceremony a group of young friends, including bride and groom, drive out to the beach. There is an accident. Three survive, but three are killed.
The live of the families are shattered and the rifts between them are felt throughout the small town. Connor is one of the survivors. But staying among the angry and the mourning is almost as hard as living with the shame of having been the driver. He leaves the only place he knows for another life, taking his secrets with him. Travelling first to Liverpool, then London, he makes a home – of sorts – for himself in New York. The city provides shelter and possibility for the displaced, somewhere Connor can forget his past and forge a new life.
But the secrets, the unspoken longings and regrets that have come to haunt those left behind will not be silenced. And before long, Connor will have to confront his past.
Graham Norton’s powerful and timely novel of emigration and return demonstrates his keen understanding of the power of stigma and secrecy – with devastating results.
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What did I think?
Home Stretch takes place in a small Irish town where prejudices run rampant and an unexpected tragedy changes the trajectory of more than one mans life.
In 1987, a group of young friends gather on the beach a day before a wedding. What is supposed to be a moment of celebration quickly changes for the worst when an accident leaves 3 people dead while 3 survive. It’s a horrific event that leaves the small community of families grieving and invariably changes all of their lives for decades to come. Connor, the driver at the centre of the accident is left with a weight on his shoulders as he faces blame for the accident and in-turn, brings an almost unbearable shame to his family.
Needing a change, Connor makes the decision to leave his hometown where he finds himself in London. Still reeling from the accident, Connor is surprised to find that the move has an unexpectedly positive effect on his life because for the first time, he is able to live openly as a gay man. Finding the power to be himself for the first time, Connor moves to New York where he becomes even more estranged from his family. As the years pass, Connor finds ways to move forward with his life until a meeting in a bar has him returning home to Ireland, a place that houses some of his darkest memories.
As the story unfolds, Home Stretch dives deep into my favourite themes of secrets and deception whilst also exploring the power of survival, sexuality and community prejudices. Readers will feel a range of emotions as Connors journey continues and while you’ll inevitably feel disgust towards some of the characters, Norton has done a fantastic job of bringing the story full circle to a compassionate end.
While this was the first book of Norton’s I’ve read, it certainly won’t be the last. A thoughtful read that pulls at your heartstrings, I really enjoyed how complex the characters were and how wonderfully Norton explored the societal judgements that sometimes come with a small-town mindset; particularly for the time period.
A great Christmas gift idea, if you or someone you know enjoys a more thought-provoking book, don’t pass up the chance to read Home Stretch.
4 out of 5 stars
Grab your copy here.
Written by Monique Renee
Usually barefoot and deep in wanderlust mode, Mon loves binging Netflix, cuddling babies and stalking through Instagram looking for boho decor inspo and hotties with man buns. You’ll usually find her on holiday, planning a holiday or thinking about holidays.
Favourite Instagram to follow: @hotdudesreading