I had received the e-copy of this book from the author in exchange of an honest review and this does not influence my opinion about the book.
This is the first Michelle Schlicher book that I am reading and I would have easily missed this book had not the author emailed me a copy for review. I usually spend most of my time nose deep in classics such that I always miss the works of newer contemporary writers. Fortunately, blogosphere has helped a great deal in this regard by introducing me to the latest and the lesser known works of talented writers. Come This Way was no different. This simple yet beautiful book was so refreshing that it filled me with lot of energy to dive deep into other books by Schlicher. The plot of the book is very female-centric and this was my main attraction towards this novel as I really enjoy reading books with female protagonists.
This novel narrates the story of different women at different phases of their lives struggling to come to terms with the various changes happening around them. Colby and Fern is the mother-daughter duo of the story whose characters are anything but similar. Fern, an outdoor enthusiast and avid hiker, is a strong woman who finds contentment in nature. Her daughter Colby is an indoor person who struggles to understand her mother’s passion for the outdoors. A hiking trip taken by the duo for bonding becomes a nightmare when Fern loses her way in the forest endangering both herself and Colby. Things get complicated between them when Colby’s plans for her future is Fern’s worst fear coming true.
Kara Dawson is a student in her early twenties who is grappling with the truth of her sister’s severe illness. She has withdrawn herself completely and has shunned any interaction with the outside world only to focus on lending emotional support to her sister and parents through this difficult time. Meeting Eric Ford gives her a new perspective of life and brings light to an otherwise morbid life. His love for her helps Kara in letting go of her past and in embracing the future.
Nettie Campbell is an octogenarian completely set in her ways. When a serious injury leads to her hospitalisation and threatens her way of life, she lashes out at her son Nat. She also struggles to accept the life choices of her only granddaughter Tish who is a modern day career woman. Nettie regrets not spending enough time with her granddaughter but soon discovers that their bond runs deep. Along with Nettie, we are introduced to June, a pragmatic and level headed nurse who understands and comforts Nettie in the hospital. June has her own struggles at home as her relationship with her only son keeps getting further complicated. These two women develop an emotional connection and provides each other with much needed support.
The stories of Fern, Kara and Nettie run independently throughout the book. But Schlicher has beautifully linked them together at the end with effortless ease. Through Fern and Colby she has accurately portrayed the typical mother-daughter relationship which is marked with regular fights, blame games and sporadic reconciliations. The story of Nettie Campbell is that of a very strong woman reduced to helplessness due to her physical disability. But even in her eighties, her indomitable spirit that is always burning inside tackles each and every difficulty like an eighteen year old. Nettie is a gutsy character magnificently written by Schlicher incorporating equal measures of weakness and strength.
The most beautiful part of the novel was the reversal of the parental role in the Fern-Colby and Nettie-Nat relationships. Fern, being the mother, is protective of her child and is deeply concerned about her happiness. Nat takes up the role of a caring parent to stubborn Nettie who is unwelcome to changes. The weakest link in the novel was the story of Kara Dawson. Even though brilliantly written, there were many clichés in this story. The most stunning part of the entire novel was the climax of the three stories. The ending was heart-rending and very realistic which elevated this novel to a whole new level!
Come This Way beautifully showcases the intricacies in all relationships be it mother-child, grandmother-granddaughter or siblings. This book makes us think about the thin line between being caring and over-bearing, being truthful and hurtful or being loving and controlling. It takes us through the journeys of the protagonists in a very simple language that is well thought out and beautifully executed. The book is definitely worth a read for all the book lovers out there who love meaningful fiction.
Favourite quote: “Time did that. It made things smaller, changing them from what you knew, but keeping them familiar somehow, too.”
Favourite character: Nettie Campbell
An outspoken octogenarian who is set in her ways and does not mince words. A very strong and well-formed character by Schlicher who will stay in my heart for a long time.
Author’s website : Michelle Schlicher