The Long Road Home

by Danielle Steel

Published by Delacorte Press

408 pages, 1998

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Balls of Steel

Reviewed by Linda L. Richards

Danielle Steel is in good company among some of the best loved authors of English language fiction. Along with people like Sir Walter Scott, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne and Ian Flemming, she has a vast ability to tell a good story. Also like them, she just doesn't write that well.

The Long Road Home is the latest in a long line of novels almost indistinguishable in their style. Vastly overwritten -- as all of Steel novels have been with the possible exception of The Klone and I -- Steel uses simple words and short sentences to get her point across: with sometimes two and three runs at the same point. She has, however, once again come up with interesting characters with interesting stories to tell. In the hands of another writer this would be a compelling and possibly important work. At the same time, it also might not get to see the light of day, at least not in the sort of volume that Steel generates. And how wrong can 340 million readers be, anyway?

The Long Road Home is the story of Gabriella, the victim of child abuse at the hands of a mother you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy's dog. Gabriella is beaten so badly and so regularly as a child that x-rays later in her life reveal what looks to the doctors like the remnants of a bad car crash.

At 10 Gabriella's mother leaves her at a convent, never to be heard from again. The child, meanwhile, grows to be a beautiful woman as all Steel heroines must. The Long Road Home refers to her journey from battered child to strong and powerful woman and the path she takes to find her way there.

On the surface of things, it's a plot fit for an Oprah pick: abused child fighting back. Steel's treatment, however, is predictable and plodding even with a couple of serious plot twists thrown into the mix.

The Long Road Home is pure Steel: alternately moving and ponderous but so many readers seem to enjoy the trip. | September 1998


Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine. Her fourth novel, Death was the Other Woman, will be published early in 2008 by St. Martin's Minotaur.