By: Charles Martin
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: 10/4/2016
My Rating: 5 Stars + +
Top Books of 2016
In his 12th novel, New York times Bestselling author Charles Martin has penned a radical retelling of the story of the prodigal son. 'Long Way Gone' takes us from tent revivals to the Ryman Auditorium to the tender relationships between a broken man, the girl he thought he lost, and the father who never stopped calling him home.
At the age of eighteen, musician and songwriter Cooper O’Connor took everything his father held dear and drove 1,200 miles from home to Nashville, his life riding on a six-string guitar and the bold wager that he had talent. But his wager soon proved foolish.
Five years after losing everything, he falls in love with Daley Cross, an angelic voice in need of a song. But just as he realizes his love for Daley, Cooper faces a tragedy that threatens his life as well as his career. With nowhere else to go, he returns to his remote home in the Colorado Mountains, searching for answers about his father and his faith.
With forgiveness and reconciliation a distant dream, Cooper searches for a way to use his gifts for others always hoping that somewhere along the way redemption will come within reach."
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A special thank you to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Charles Martin’s highly anticipated LONG WAY GONE is an awe-inspiring and poignant story which will touch the depths of your soul with music, combined with lyrical heartwarming prose and an emotional courageous message to heal broken hearts.
Have plenty of Kleenex handy; a mind, body, and spiritual cleanse. Loss, love, and redemption “The Prodigal Son” retelling with a modern day twist.
Martin returns following Water From My Heart on my Top 10 Books of 2015 and A Life Intercepted on my Top 30 Books of 2014 with yet with yet another empowering story of the resilience of the human heart.
LONG WAY GONE, the book with the stunning cover: A road, a journey, a man, a guitar.
Where has he traveled and where is he going? There is a story behind this man. From broken dreams to the highs to lows - childhood, to adulthood. Memories. Pain. Broken out into three distinct parts with an emotional conclusion (Epilogue).
With his own signature style, Martin dazzles his reader with vivid scenic settings, rich in history, nature, and character. The places close to his own heart. The places we love. With a backdrop this time: Colorado mountains to Nashville and back.
Part One: Leadville, Colorado A hotspot for weekend warriors out of Vail, Aspen, Steamboat, Breckenridge, and even the Springs and Fort Collins. A place for wounded souls.
Cooper O’Connor, now a worn middle-aged man, broken. Some may view as a scruffy mountain man, and homeless would not be a stretch. Full of scars, tattered from life’s storms. Hidden hurts, and regrets. Opportunities, lost. You know he has a story, a painful one.
A dad he loved, now too late to let him know. His foolish mistakes. A girl he loved and lost, and things left unsaid. A successful career in music, now shattered. A musician and songwriter. His most precious gifts, and talents, now faded and a tormented past of regrets.
He spots Daley. How can this be? After twenty years, he still had not told her the truth. He loved her too much. She has suffered. So has he. He cannot believe she is in this town. However, a short reconnection. He still cannot tell her the truth, even though he wants to. To correct history. But he needed to stop short of the whole truth.
False hope was more damaging than false history. There is nothing to gain. He is dying. He has to let her go once again. What would be gained by telling her the truth now? The truth of their lives would only open Pandora’s box and he wondered if that would hurt her even more. His time had run out.
“Describing music is tricky. I am not convinced that you can describe it like, say, a painting or a novel. While those are both experiences that produce feelings, they do so through the eyes."
"The image we see—either images or words on a page—enters our eyes, travels throughout intellect, where we make some sort of sense of it, and then routes through our emotions. The process is one of intellect and understanding first, emotions and feelings second. Music is felt on one level and understood or processed on another. Music is meant to be experienced, not described. It takes practice. "
"People can cheat their way to the top in a lot of areas of life. They can steal, bribe, kill the competition, or take steroids to make them stronger and faster. But with music, there’s no shortcut. Period."
We meet a variety of secondary characters, Big-Big, Mary, Daly, Frank, Mr. Slocumb, and more—readers will need to determine how they all fit together. A handwritten letter. Last words. Tears. What led him to this place? Will he have a chance to return to The Falls?
Part Two: Rewind from the beginning. (My Favorite Part)
The history of the “son of a preacher.” A young boy growing up in a much-loved home. A special guitar called Jimmy – a wedding present from Coop’s mother (now deceased) to his father. Jimmy was the most valuable thing in their cabin, some thirteen thousand feet perched on the top of a mountain.
A poignant story of a father, a tent preacher. Coop’s dad, a big man with a heart of gold and Big-Big, an African American “Big Ivory Johnson” which his dad took under his wing out of prison. He was always in their life, tickling the ivories on the piano. Music surrounds them. Coop’s mom died when he was four and he grew up around music and preaching.
Peg was Cooper’s nickname and he traveled everywhere with his dad, with music and God’s word. His dad gave him a powerful message to remember. He had no idea how these words would hold such profound meaning one day. They will later haunt him.
“Songs outlive us.” They are supposed to. We write them in order to give them away, but–he smiled and tapped me on the chest— “just be careful who you give them to.”
His dad was classically trained, from Bach, Mozart, to Beethoven and wanted the same training for his son. His dad was wise and loved the history of music. His dad said his job was to remind people of the words, and let them sing. Music set people free. Music enters through the heart.
By the time Cooper was eight, he could see the significant impact of his father on people and what he was doing with his life. Word spread and people came in droves from nearby states, finally leading them to The Falls (great story here).
A powerful emotional scene which creates the backdrop for a song which comes later and an ongoing theme. This is where he meets Blondie. Blondie travels with him and never leaves throughout the book.
Even though Cooper enjoyed music and now had a big following along with his successful minister dad, he felt like his dad was holding him back. There was the tour bus, tents, chairs, pianos, guitars, music, sound equipment, crews, and sermons. TV, radio, record companies, he was playing in front of fifteen thousand people on a weekend - a chance to be noticed.
Coop became bitter, angry. In his teens, he had musical ability. He felt crushed under the weight of his dad’s thumb. He was protective. He had record people after him. He could be in Nashville. Making money and a name for himself. He had talent.
Despite his father’s best wise counsel, his constant sacrifice, his warnings to the contrary, his five thousand sermons, and a deep knowingness in his gut to stay far away from the serpent— and people who will take advantage of them; there was something in him that wanted what he wanted, now, at age eighteen.
One dreadful night on stage, he left, making a scene, he would always regret. He turned his back on his dad. He took his dad’s most prized possession, the guitar, Jimmy, a map, his truck, and his entire life savings. Shortly thereafter on his road to Nashville, he loses it all. Everything.
He cannot return until he gains it back. Playing and writing was his life. Now he wishes he was back with his dad. Can you ever go home again? He recalled his dad’s words, a letter to him in the truck wrapped around a map.
“No matter where you go, no matter what happens, what you become, what you gain, what you lose, no matter whether you succeed, or fail, stand or fall, no matter what you dig your hands into, no gone is too far gone. Son, you can always come home.”
The words were of no comfort to him now. He had fallen from the stage of twenty thousand to dumpster diving. "Music exposes what and who we worship." He decides not to end his life—he has reached the bottom. He would save his dad that heartache. He had already done enough damage. He needed to make something of the mess he created. To walk home with something more than scars and empty hands. To be something other than a failure.
He had training, knowledge, a mastery of the piano and guitar and full of confidence in his abilities. He turned up his nose at his dad, stolen everything held dear, broken his heart, and shattered his trust, then driven twelve hundred miles, because he believed he was as good as anyone. Man, had he been wrong.
He found there were two types of people in Nashville. Those who want to get something. Those who want to give something. He decided when he had saved enough money he would return to his dad to tell him how sorry he was. He has to repay him.
His dad had warned him to guard his gift and guard his notebook of songs. One day it will be priceless.
He meets the famous singer, twenty-one years old, Daly Cross. They hit it off, he writes a hit song. They are a couple. He is famous. However, she has an agent, Sam with his own motives, which do not include Coop. The serpent. He later learns a man not to be trusted.
There is a fire, and he has lost it all. His health, his girl, his career, and his life. There were stories. Untrue. Once again, he loses. It is time to go home; however, he gets there too late. His dad has left him another letter. Coop had not used his gift for the right reasons.
His last days. Everything comes full circle. Daley, his dad, Big-Big, Mary, Jubal, Frank, The Falls. He is a walking time bomb. However, there is another shocker and more to be said. Things he did not know. A final emotional show. Can he redeem himself and make all the wrongs, right before it is too late?
Epilogue Paying it Forward! From promise to pain to coming home. Lessons learned.
“Music is a gift. We make it, to give it away to people. Some burned, broken, left out in the cold. Some wrestling with painful words spoken to them by someone they love or walking around in chains of their own making. A few are dying inside. Whatever reason, a song gives something you cannot buy. Hope.”
How do you even begin to write a review of such an extraordinary book?
As others have mentioned, when you read Charles Martin books, you find you are highlighting so many pages, the entire book turns into a rainbow of colors. With LONG WAY GONE, you may find yourself returning to part one to re-read it again, after completing, where is all makes sense.
From one of my favorite authors, from his very first book to his latest, and each story in between— Charles Martin is a truly gifted storyteller — he captures the essence of life, brokenness, struggles, triumphs, and ultimately reveals a striking portrait of human resilience and fortitude!
“No matter where you go, no matter whether you succeed or fail, stand or fall, no gone is too far gone. You can always come home.”
Fans of Martin, Richard Paul Evans (The Walk Series), Nicholas Sparks, John Grisham, and Jimmy Wayne will enjoy this heartwarming, soul-searching journey.
A beautiful touching tale of love, loss, redemption, and music with all the ingredients for another bestseller and blockbuster hit! It speaks volumes.
On a personal note: If you are from the South as I happen to be, growing up as a Southern Baptist, coming from the same town as Rev. Billy Graham, have been to many outdoor tent revivals to hear his team and George Beverly Shea. This book brings so many memories of days gone by as a child. Also the old familiar hymns, some of the same selections, my mom chose for her funeral only a month ago.
"Songs don't belong to us. A song is a light we shine on others, not a light we shine on us."
If you have not read this author. Start today, with Book One and read every single one. This is #12. Each and every one has a powerful takeaway message and unforgettable characters.
Oct Must Reads
Interview with the Author
About the Author
Christy and I married in 1993. If you include dating, I’ve known and loved her for more than half my life. She is and always will be the home for my heart. We have three boys. Charlie, John T. and Rives. Folks often ask me, which of my books do I like the best. You might as well line up my sons and ask me who I love the most.
My hobbies are bow hunting, working out (a blend of old school stuff and martial arts, called Fight Fit) and Tae Kwon Do. In October 2012 I earned my black belt but I’m still the least flexible person you’ve ever met. The guy that trains me, laughs everytime I start warming up. My boys are far better at Tae Kwon Do than I but I doubt they have as much fun – I get to do and watch. They just do.
I also like to write, but that’s another story. Read More