The Shortest Way Home: A Novel. Juliette Fay. Penguin Group USA Inc. October 2012. 416 pp. paperback. ISBN #: 9780143121916.
Sean Doran has been working as a nurse in areas devastated by hurricanes and other natural disasters as well as countries ravaged by poverty, illiteracy, and disease. But now he seems to be suffering from a massive case of burn-out, complicated by searing back pain that cripples him. He has no commitments to anyone and knows it. So he decides to return home to a small Massachusetts town, home where his Aunt Vivvy, his sister Deirdre and his nephew Kevin live. And it's a visit he dreads!
This family is paralyzed by fear of the unknown, manifest in his mother's death years ago from Huntington disease, a hereditary disease that works fast and furious before it kills. There's a test to find out if Sean and his sister have the disease but each has opted not to know being more of a sane decision than living knowing one is a walking time bomb.
The first thing Sean has to absorb is that life has progressed for his former friends, both male and female. He is surrounded by people who have tangible, loving relationships and who love living in that state with its good and bad times. Sean will slowly begin to form a connection to a former high school sweetheart and a massage therapist who is able to work miracles on his bum back. Kevin, it turns out, has a sensitivity condition that he has learned to cope with, mainly because there's hardly anyone else who knows he's alive. It's quite a collection of problems for someone trying to "rest a bit" before packing up to help others in need in some devastated spot in the third world.
The Shortest Way Home is an adult "coming of age" tale, a story where Sean learns to not only serve others but also discovers it's quite different when one discovers love is in the mix, including his long-lost father who reappears after desertion over twenty-five years ago. Once he learns that in each situation, he is faced with new choices. No, it's not easy but it's told in such a practical, real, and endearing fashion that the reader will have a different type of reading experience, one that elicits hope and care for the characters herein as well as one's own life. Tender yet funny, sincere yet gritty, this story is beautifully crafted and a delight!