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A Long Way from Home


A Long Way from Home

When petite, speed-loving Irene Bobs first encounters her new neighbor, Willie Bachhuber, she says of him, “I saw the sad fond way he had with the kids and I thought it might be a bad idea to be too kind to him, for everything in life begins with kindness. We had no plan to take advantage of him.”

And so begins this rollicking tale of the brutal Redex Trial race in 1954 that circumnavigated the entire geography of Australia but embraced so much more. The story unfolds in alternating chapters that are narrated by the principal characters, Irene and Willie.

When Irene and Titch Bobs move into their modest home in Bacchus Marsh near Melbourne, Australia, Willie has just been fired from his teaching job for dangling a second form student from a window for a rude remark. Irene’s husband, Titch, is a Ford Motors driving instructor with aspirations of owning a Ford dealership. After several rejections, an offer to open a General Motors dealership to sell Holdens, an Aussie manufactured automobile, is dangled. Titch, always the grand idea man, comes up with a plan to enter a Holden in the Redex Trial in order to gain publicity to further his budding relationship with General Motors. There is no prize money, but the notoriety will help to make his grand scheme a reality.

"[Peter Carey] provides his readers with delight, sorrow, humor, pathos and awareness of fully developed characters, no matter how minor they may be to the story."

If Irene will sell the house she and her sister inherited, invest every penny they have to enter the grueling 1,100-mile, 18-day race through every climate known to man and beast on the Australian continent, their dream of owning their own auto agency will come true. Irene and Titch are experienced drivers, but they need a babysitter and a navigator. Irene’s sister is persuaded to move into their house to take care of their children. They discover that the unemployed Willie, whose experience with wheels is limited to bicycles, happens to be a whiz at map reading, so they sign him on as a navigator. And off they go on the adventure of a lifetime.

First published in its native Australia, A LONG WAY FROM HOME has been cheered by Aussie reviewers for its authenticity, humor, outback idioms and powerful sense of place. The novel is really two books in one. The first is the world in which whites dwell during post-World War II Australia, which is similar to early America, where settlers and immigrants populate an ancient world inhabited by indigenous peoples. It relates a joyous, adventurous tale of inclement weather, undeveloped roads and mechanical breakdowns. Seemingly undefeatable problems present the ingenious drivers with methods that bring hilarious new meaning to the concept of jerry-rigging as they cannibalize the smoldering cadavers of cars that have succumbed to the elements, left like dying creatures along the wayside.

The story becomes more somber as events unfold, uncovering revelations to Irene and Willie of long-buried ugly, callous truths that lead to a stunning conclusion that left me breathless.

Peter Carey is one of only three two-time winners of the prestigious Man Booker Prize. He provides his readers with delight, sorrow, humor, pathos and awareness of fully developed characters, no matter how minor they may be to the story. A LONG WAY FROM HOME is among the nominees for the Pulitzer Prize, and Carey’s long and prestigious collection of novels, essays, short stories and articles finds him frequently mentioned as Australia’s choice for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Reviewed by Roz Shea on March 9, 2018

A Long Way from Home
by Peter Carey

  • Publication Date: February 5, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • ISBN-10: 0525435999
  • ISBN-13: 9780525435990