Home Stretch – Graham Norton

Published by: Hodder & Stoughton
Pages: 368
Date released: 01/10/2020
Date read: 15/10/2020

It is 1987 and a small Irish community is preparing for the wedding of two of its young inhabitants. They’re barely adults, not so long out of school and still part of the same set of friends they’ve grown up with. As the friends head home from the beach that last night before the wedding, there is a car accident. Three survive the crash but three are killed. And the reverberations are felt through the small town.

Connor, the young driver of the car, lives. But staying among the angry and the mourning is almost as hard as living with the shame, and so he leaves the only place he knows for another life. Travelling first to Liverpool, then London, by the noughties he has made 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 meet his past.

Considering this is Graham Norton’s third fiction book, it just so happened to be the first of his I read. After hearing him talk about it on his radio show, I decided I just HAD to read it.

Unfortunately, there is not substantial praise enough for Home Stretch.

I’ll start by saying this is not a happy, uplifting book. Graham manages to keep you enticed, tugs at your heartstrings, makes you laugh, makes you cry, and most importantly, makes you think. It’s somehow heartbreaking and comforting at the same time.

It is thoughtful, compassionate and above all, human. It explores a family, a community. At its core it examines the different way grief can affect people. It shows how lies can spiral out of control and ruin multiple lives. It explores what it means to be yourself, to accept you for who you are.

I’ve read other reviews of Norton’s books and the general consensus seems to be that his previous two are better than this one. Whereas I have the opposite view. Fair enough, I read this one first, his second one second, and his first one last, so I was bound to have a different outlook on it. To me, this is Graham Norton’s piece de resistance. It is so sublimely written, tenderly and compassionately and sensitively written. If I had to pick just one of his books to read again, it would hands down be this one.

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