Eleven-year-old Lily Boudreau and her older brother Luke have a secret place on the town side of Forrester Lake. Wealthy people from Chicago own summer homes on the other side of the lake. This particular summer, Lily and Luke discover their special place is being used by a couple of the city boys who are sneaking smokes. After an initial skirmish to establish their territory, Lily and Luke become friends with Peter Holt and Clay Winters. This is the beginning of a friendship that continues every summer when Peter and Clay return to Glens Crossing, Indiana.
When Lily is eighteen, she and Clay fall in love and are planning to spend a lifetime together. Clay returns to Chicago to tell his father, and Lily never hears from him again. Peter then tells Lily that he is in love with her and wants to marry her. Out of necessity, Lily accepts and moves to Chicago with Peter. Now, fourteen years later, Lily is back in Glens Crossing for the first time since she left. Lily and Peter are divorced, Peter is in alcohol rehab, and their son Riley has been suspended from school for the rest of the year. He and some other boys had taken pills that they didn’t recognize, and then blew up the toilets in the boy’s bathroom. Lily felt she needed to get him out of the city and away from the influence of his wealthy grandparents, who want to bail him out just the way they had always bailed Peter out, with their money, name, and influence. Less than a week after moving into the lake house, Riley is in trouble again. This time Lily and her father talk secretly with the sheriff who puts Riley on probation, and tells him he has to work at the marina until he earns enough money to pay for the damages he caused.
The day Lily drives Riley to work and sees Bud, who now owns the marina, is the day Lily’s fear and her long suppressed love for Clay bubbles to the surface. It seems “Bud,” as everyone calls him, is really Clay Winters.
THE ROAD HOME is Susan Crandall’s second book, following BACK ROADS, which also takes place in Glens Crossing, Indiana. In THE ROAD HOME, Ms. Crandall has taken a tired old story line and breathed a breath of fresh air into it with wonderful characterization and narration. The dialogue is appropriate and the tension runs high. Lily is sitting on a huge secret and lives in fear of it coming to light. She is also stalked by a mystery man, which adds more stress to her life. Riley shoulders a burden that is much too heavy for a thirteen-year-old boy, but he doesn’t know whom to confide in. We meet the residents of Glens Crossing and learn about their jobs and their lives, and hope they will be included in Ms. Crandall’s next book, MAGNOLIA SKY, which is due out in September 2004, and features Luke’s story.
Susan Crandall is a bright new star in the contemporary romance genre and worth keeping your eye on. If she continues writing as well as she has in THE ROAD HOME, she will quickly become a favorite among romance readers. I can highly recommend this book to anyone.