The Way from Here by Jane Cockram divided some of my friends. I have one who loved it and one who didn’t really enjoy it at all. Sadly I’m probably closer to the latter. It dragged a little for me. I suspect the fact that the early stages of the plot were a bit all over the place, were supposed to reflect the state of mind of 19 year old Susie… pursuing one guy, then another when that didn’t work.
But it felt a bit scattergun. I wondered if Cockram was a ‘panster’ (writing by the seat of her pants) and letting the book take her where it wanted – unsure what story she wanted to tell or what sort of book it was to be. Things become clearer and the pace picks up, but not really without becoming overly-complex at the same time.
The Way From Here
by Jane Cockram
Published by Harlequin Enterprises (Australia) Pty Ltd
Genres: General Fiction, Women's Fiction
Growing up, the Anderson sisters could not have been more different. Susie, the wild one, had an adventurous life while Camilla— Mills—followed a safer path. When Susie suddenly dies, Mills falls apart. Until she receives a bundle of mysterious letters from her estranged sister to be read in the case of her death. Each letter instructs her to visit a place special to Susie, both to spread her ashes but also to uncover some truths Susie has long kept hidden from her family.
Their mother Margaret has secrets of her own. When living in Swinging Sixties London, she too made a decision about her life that not only haunts her, but will reverberate through the generations.
One family, three very different women. What choices and secrets connect them?
I liked Camilla and Susie but didn’t really engage with either. It’s a bit too late in Susie’s case, though we get more of a sense of who she is or was. I didn’t feel I got to know Camilla very well at all. There were many references to her marriage and I waited for clarification that didn’t come. Similarly I wondered what had happened between the two sisters to have them distance themselves from each other. Again it’s something we don’t really learn… other than that the pair were very very different.
I think there was potential here and the dual timelines between Susie’s gap year in 1998 and the present worked well, but ultimately it didn’t come together for me. The novel lacked some consistency and it felt like chunks of information were missing or misplaced.
For example, there’s reference to an accident… young Susie has begged Camilla for a driving lesson in the rain but swerves off the road and hits something. We’re told – for the family – it was a pivotal moment. But initially there’s just mention of their father having to put the animal down. But they live on a farm in the Kimberley so I’m sure that wouldn’t be unusual.
It’s only later that the name Pilgrim is mentioned and later still when we learn it was her mother’s beloved horse she’d hit. I think that information earlier would have helped give context to the way Susie’s shut out and ultimately leads to her gap year in Europe.
I liked that Cockram takes us back to Susie’s trip in 1998 but conscious that it meant we had WAY more context than Camilla has in the present with only Susie’s letters to direct her.
Much of what happens is centred around coincidence. And ultimately this became just too chaotic for me. The blurb mentions the girls’ mother but she felt invisible for much of the novel. Until she wasn’t.
I liked the idea underpinning this story and think a less coincidental introduction to some of the characters (and therefore reveal of all facts) would have made it a little more feasible for me. And perhaps including some of that earlier would have helped a little with the pacing.
But I also think this had the potential to be as much about Camilla and whatever she’s going through and her relationship with Susie (and theirs with their mother) which would have grounded it more in reality.
The Way from Here by Jane Cockram was published in Australia by HQ Fiction and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.