27 June 2012
Review: Coming Home by Karen Kingsbury
Ashley is planning her father's seventieth birthday party, and has the idea of each child writing a letter to him and contributing towards a family scrapbook. (Nice idea. Wasn't that what her mother did for them all before she died? Moving right along… ) So, Ashley calls each of her siblings to invite their families to a surprise barbecue at the Baxter homestead (giving us a nice segue into the information dump of their personal histories). Dayne and Katy will be flying in from LA, and Erin and Sam are going to make the drive from Texas. Erin is pleased to be Coming Home, because the birth mother of three of her adoptive children is out of prison and wanting visitation rights, a touchy subject that she wants to discuss with brother Luke in person.
The first half of Coming Home: A Story of Unending Love and Eternal Promise is like a composite episode of TV series 'Lost' - 22 episodes condensed into one, a roller coaster of emotion, reliving the highlights and tragedies of the early Baxter stories. Although Kingsbury does a good job of reviewing the personal histories of each character, those stories are so extensive that I don't know how easy it would be to keep up with all the characters without having read a good number of the preceding books.
Anyone who has read all the Baxter books is going to find the first half of Coming Home very repetitive (although that does make it a quick read, for anyone who doesn’t want or need to relive the relationship problems of each of the Baxter siblings). I also found much of the backstory to be overly contrived: couples going for a walk and talking about how they got together, as though they didn’t know that.
But, of course, it wouldn't be a Kingsbury novel if everything went right. While the first half of Coming Home dragged with all the repetition, the second half contained the trademark Kingsbury emotion, as a tragedy pulls the Baxter family together and tests their faith as never before. It sounds corny, and it was, but it brought tears to my eyes even as I reminded myself that these are not real people (well, I hope they are not. After all, the last four books have been loosely based on Kingsbury’s daughter, so who knows).
With its themes of faith, life, death and heaven, I’m sure Coming Home will speak to many people. Kingsbury has the gift of being a word in season to many people through her writing, and I commend her for that. But personally, my Kingsbury season is over.
Overall, this was a good novella that was uncomfortably stretched to novel-length through the addition of a lot of repetitive and unnecessary backstory, and a cheesy ending that just made me thankful it was over.
Thanks to Zondervan and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.