Home is a place you can be drawn to and driven away from, depending on the memories that surround it. For the Aster men in The Barrowfields by Phillip Lewis, they experience things that compel them to leave home as well as things that bring them back.
Henry Aster grew up in the small mountain town where his father, also named Henry, was born and raised but left to get an education in literature and law before ultimately returning with his wife. Henry spent much of his childhood on the floor near his father’s writing desk, surrounded my the many books his father had read and collected over the years. After some family tragedy, Henry’s father begins to unravel, leaving Henry to be responsible for helping to raise his younger sister when his father disappears. Once Henry is able to leave for college, he too leaves, but although he promises to come back, he finds it near impossible to return home and keep his promise to look after his sister. When he finally is able to face his home, he is also confronted with things from his past he’d rather forget.
There was a lot going on in this story as it created a larger narrative, where most of it worked and some of it didn’t quite fit or flow with the rest of the tale. There were parallels between Henry the father and Henry the son where the son seemed fated to repeat the experiences of the father despite having the opportunity to learn from the father’s successes and failures (and I’m happy with the outcome of this particular thread). The character called Story added a new layer to Henry the son’s story to prevent him from falling into the same actions that would complete the cycle in making him the same as his father, as she helped to propel Henry to come to terms with his past as it has been haunting his life.
Overall, I’d give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars.