A Place Called the Way by Corrine Ardoin is set in the fictitious Pine Valley in the early 20th century. It’s a sweeping drama that follows the births, lives, and deaths of the inhabitants of a small rural town known as ‘The Way.’
This novel is the third in Ardoin’s Pine Valley series. The main protagonist is Jim Hart, a man who was physically abused by his uncle as a child in the event that left both physical and emotional scars. As a result of his trauma, his life is blighted by depression and a self-harming habit. As a result, he tries to commit suicide, lets the only woman he ever really loved slip through his fingers, and even loses the right to call his son ‘son’. The Way is a haven and a blessing for some residents; it seems to offer only a curse for others. Yet, ultimately, it offers hope.
At the beginning of the book, Ardoin helpfully provides a detailed description of the connections from one character to the next. The reader will need these signposts if they want to keep track of the story and the complicated relationships between all the individuals. The characters’ relationships ebb and flow through the novel as they face their own personal challenges and heal from their past experiences.
As the book is named for the town, it’s a nice touch that it’s presented almost as another character, with deep flashbacks interspersed throughout that examine its history. The town’s mysterious healing powers and history give it its own personality adding to the reader’s experience that the town is its own character and just as important as the people residing in it. At one point, I mistakenly thought the main story was just background to a plot twist that never came. However, the strong personal story of the characters and their experience with the town made this novel enchanting.
A Place Called the Way is a coming-of-age novel set in a small rural town with a long tradition of helping the inhabitants heal from their past. Fans of soft-focus historical drama will enjoy it for its sense of community and the complexity of its interpersonal relationships. -Literary Titan
A Place Called the Way is the third installment in Corrine Ardoin’s Pine Valley series and delves deeper into the story of the people that settled in the fictional town of Pine Valley. It depicts the challenges of living and growing up in rural America in the 1950s, as the characters navigate around issues of class, race, and gender in order to establish a life for themselves and their families, one that is filled with love, meaning, and purpose.
It is not overstating it to say that the scope of this book is massive. It is perhaps necessary to read the first two books in the series to fully appreciate the extent of the story being told here. In addition, whether by accident or design, the use of flashbacks and a non-linear timeline, alongside multiple character points of view, added an extra layer of complexity to the plotting which subsequently had a knock-on effect on pacing and characterization.
The interruptions to the present timeline in order to explain something that happened in the past sometimes affected the forward momentum of the narrative. The shift of perspective from one character to another in a seemingly random fashion resulted in some loss of distinction between character voices, something that is so fundamental in character-driven books like these where individual arcs and journeys are essential threads to the wider story tapestry that the author is trying to weave.
Fortunately, the story was strong enough to carry the weight of any misstep. A Place Called the Way is historical fiction steeped in realism, brimming with easily recognizable issues and themes relevant to the reader’s of today. Human follies, suffering, and transformation are timeless. Regardless of period, setting, or geography, tales of love, lust, betrayal, and the limitless capacity one person has to hurt another resonates with all of us.
For example, the book often comes back to the exploration of what it means to be a woman living in a society whose views on gender roles are so limiting and restrictive. Conversely, there is also an equal exploration of the effects of certain types of masculinity and how it can have far-reaching effects all the way up to maturity and adulthood. Some of the scenes are graphic and harrowing, and it is worth noting that some readers might prefer a trigger warning.
However, in not shying away from discussing difficult subjects such as race, sexuality, gender, and self-harm, the book opens the way for healthy discussion and discourse. Rather than being gratuitous and exploitative, the powerfully emotive chapters of the last part of the book are fundamental to reaching the conclusion of this evocative story.
At its core, A Place Called the Way is a multi-generational study and examination of humanity in all its glory and frailty, bringing to mind classics like The Joy Luck Club and One Hundred Years of Solitude. With the stroke of a pen, the author exposes the murkiness behind the façade we present to the world and the struggles underneath the surface that threatens to pull us under. Riveting, with a raw quality that is deeply affecting, it will surely have readers rapidly turning pages to find out what happens next. -Book Review Directory
Ardoin's book tells a story of a pioneer town in a mountain valley that had belonged to a local tribe of natives. The pioneers then built a way station for travelers, and slowly the small community grew. Early in the narrative, two of the men in town argue over the town's name... The story then shifts to tell of each of the community's families, seemingly emphasizing how each thrives or suffers based on their use of spiritual wisdom... The scenes of the townspeople celebrating occasions together show their satisfaction with the harmony they have created.
Ardoin is a master-level healer who employs energy medicine, and the healing experienced by her characters is an obvious focus within the storyline. It is clear from how the narrative is constructed that the characters should strive to help each other.
...a soothing look at how people can share their goodness with others. The author's book might find a receptive audience in those who enjoy reading about how the personal growth and healing of ordinary people can impact not only themselves and their loved ones but also a community's health as a whole. -Tani Williams, US Review of Books
"Berto Mendoza was a poet. Catching the milk cow was not in his interest, but, if he wanted cream in his coffee that morning, it was a necessity."
Through Berto's eyes and the eyes of characters affected by a small town's growth and spiritual foundations, a story emerges which is anything but the usual staid tale of opportunity and change.
Readers of rural fiction stories, coming-of-age sagas, and Corrine Ardoin's prior books about Pine Valley will find her third book in the series, A Place Called The Way, continues to explore the people who populate this town and grow under its community and promise.
Here, four-year-old Jimmy has already lost his way into a positive life through the abuse of an uncle ("The brown-haired boy swept his hands together, looking on at what he could do, what his small fists could grasp and throw."). Angry at the world, he cultivates his own form of cruelty toward those he can subjugate, cultivating destructive habits toward self and others which are mitigated by the intervention of a wise grandmother and medicine woman, who brings him on a journey of healing and empowerment.
As in the other titles in the Pine Valley series, the overlay is a community that harbors quiet strengths and an unusual healing power that brings many of the damaged Hart family residents into a solution called the Way.
As mother Candelaria Hart and others struggle to understand why the Hart family continually faces struggles and bad luck, from accidents to emotional pain, Jim grows up with angst still alive in his heart: "Jim left the house with his shadow so close, it likely adhered itself to his back. He could not escape it. What lived within himself clung to the fabric of his soul, reaching and grasping, like the paws of some great animal fighting to be free."
It feels unlikely that the Way or its opportunities will ever reach him, but the progression of miracles is just one of the themes A Place Called The Way cultivates, setting it apart from being simply another story of small-town American life.
The ties that bind this community also reach out to embrace the hearts and minds of both prior fans of the Pine Valley stories and newcomers.
As children are born and the town comes together and grows, readers will find the interests, challenges, and evolution of the story's characters blend into a bigger picture of connection and resolution. This makes for an engrossing tale of the Way, how to walk it, and its lasting impact on past, present, and future generations.
The story brings with it a sense of storytelling purpose that links these disparate individuals' lives and eventually arrives at the origins of ill luck in a family, ultimately leading it to the Way.
"The Way is not a word or a place in time, but a feeling, a knowing, a place outside of Time, where Truth awaits, where the life of our destined hopes invites us and brings us to our knees. The Way is not a town that became Pine Way or even Edenville. The Way is what connects us all, one heart, one soul, one life, all One.”
Readers need this story of promise and spiritual growth, and libraries need to not only include it in literary fiction collections about small-town roots, but should point book clubs and discussion groups to its evocative blend of spiritual and social inspection. -D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
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