Going Home Again is equal parts a journey across the world—from Spain to Toronto—as it is an odyssey of Charlie Bellerose’s memories. What starts out as a murder quickly dissolves into a trip through the attic of Charlie’s mind, where he dredges up ghosts and old lovers past. If it weren’t for Dennis’ Bock’s well-developed prose or his ability to draw me in through an easy, conversational narrative tone I might have set the book down. Going Home Again evokes the question: can we ever go home? Perhaps. The real question is this: is this a place that readers will want to go?
In many ways Going Home Again has the feeling of a stream of conscious journal, with the added benefit of clean, polished prose. The story follows Charlie, who is recently divorced, to Toronto and spans across a year as he tries to rebuild his life across the world from his lovable daughter Ava and his ex-wife Isabel. When Charlie delves into his past love affair with Holly, there is the sense that the original vein of the narrative has slipped away and entirely new story is beginning. Luckily, this jarring departure from a linear narrative only serves to deepen curiosity, as the pacing is quick and lively.
Despite the sometimes-meandering plot, I was captivated by Bock’s attention to detail in his scenes. Describing the sun in Madrid as “orange sherbet,” or the way he establishes so clearly the changing seasons in Toronto make it easy to step into the setting of the story. Charlie’s characterization is comprehensive and though we don’t learn much about the supporting characters, Charlie’s love of his daughter and brother as well as the struggles that he faces makes him relatable—and readable.
“Instead of stepping back into the safety of the past, I stepped out onto he streets…” says Charlie in an early scene. I’m not sure that I believe him, given that the journey we take with Charlie is not only back home to Canada, but also into the realm of memory. For some readers—notably those who get frustrated with an overload of exposition—this book will be a challenge. If you are like me, and stubbornly read through the frustration, Going Home Again does prove itself to be humorous, endearing and a journey worth taking.
…Since Charlie goes home to Canada, I thought my favourite butter tart recipe might be in order (since butter tarts are a pretty Canadian dessert).
What you need:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 pinch of salt
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 egg (whisked)
1/2 tsp vanilla
How to make them:
1. If you have already made pie crust or bought pre-packaged pastry, roll your pastry out and fit it into muffin tins. (If you don’t have a recipe for pastry, see below for my favourite pie crust recipe.
2. Mix together butter, brown sugar, salt and corn syrup in a small bowl. (Note: if your butter is still cold, it is best to let it sit on the counter for a few minutes to let it soften).
3. Add egg and vanilla to brown sugar mixture.
4. Pour yummy butter tart mixture into tart shells equally.
5. Bake at 400 F for 15-20 minutes or until the filling is browned and bubbling. If you are like me and enjoy runny butter tarts, be sure to take them out right at 15 minutes.