The Journey by Susan Downham

The Journey by Susan Downham
Publisher: Rogue Phoenix Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (194 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Thornapple

Everyone has secrets, including Katie. These secrets gnaw at her insides and leave her raw and exposed. Katie makes the physical and emotional journey home to Mt. Isa, Australia to attend the funeral of Alistair whom she shared her childhood with, and who she once believed was her first true love.It is this journey when the secrets are revealed that forces Katie to remember Alistair and the secrets they shared. But as she admits her past to herself she risks losing everyone. Is she strong enough to deal with the truth of her own life and hold on to everyone she truly loves?

This book is absolutely absorbing. I had no idea what to expect and was totally surprised by the depth of emotions the story evoked in me.

Katie and Alistair grew up together in tiny Mt. Isa, Australia. Alistair was Katie’s first love , the man she knew she would be with forever, the big grand love of her life. But, obviously things did not turn out like she had envisioned, since we know from the start she is married to a man named Ricky and has three young children.  Out of the blue an old friend calls and informs Katie that Alistair has died.

Taking this news incredibly hard, Katie decides the time has finally come to return home to Mt. Isa to pay her final respects and maybe exorcise a few demons as well. Traveling alone by train, Katie begins to reflect upon her relationship with Alistair. Through flashbacks we are taken back to when Katie is a child and how even then she was drawn to Alistair. We travel back and forth to different moments in their relationship, the ups and downs and the shocking turn of events that ultimately separates them forever.

Katie has immortalized Alistair as we are often tempted to do with our first love. We never forget it, right? That all consuming passion that borders on obsession, the knowledge deep down in our souls that this is the one, there will never be another feeling like this.

But, as the story progresses we begin to see flaws in the relationship. Katie is just a young girl, impressionable and naïve, while Alistair is several years older. It is obvious he holds Katie in the palm of his hand and he knows it, but it doesn’t matter what he does, her faith in their love for each other is unwavering, all the way up until something so horrible transpires that Katie loses Alistair, her parents and the entire community of Mt. Isa, cast her out. Yet, even then, she has a very hard time shaking off her feelings for Alistair.

But, now with Alistair’s death–a man Katie referred to as “God”–those pastel memories in Katie’s mind begin to change to a much darker shade and a slow, but horrible dawning in Katie begins to emerge and all that has gone before takes on an new hue, one that will eventually lead Katie to a stunning, gut wrenching realization.

I was stunned by this book and the double standards Katie lived with, the judgment heaped onto her while the golden boy, Alistair walks away with his reputation unscathed. I found myself burning with anger, appalled, and shocked as the story reveals more and more of Katie’s life in Mt. Isa, and the situation that lead to her becoming a pariah.

The return home and all those potent memories coming to the surface shakes Katie to the core and the scales fall from her eyes as a result. Now, finally Katie is able to realize what really happened with Alistair and his almost Svengali like power over her. and this gives her the freedom to start all over with a fresh start. This is not only a liberation for Katie, but for Ricky too. He is a great guy who stood far too long the giant shadow of Alistair. This is an incredible and cleansing journey, an apt title for sure. Very well done.

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