I put Long Way Gone by Charles Martin on my TBR list after reading Susanne’s review of it, and when I needed a new audiobook, checked to see if Audible had it. They did! I usually put new books back behind some of the others already waiting, but I wanted to get to this one right away.
Cooper O’Connor’s father was a traveling preacher who mainly spoke at tent revivals in Colorado and surrounding areas. Cooper’s mother had died when he was very young. A large black man named Big Ivory (or Big Big when Cooper as a boy could not pronounce Ivory), recruited by Cooper’s father when Big Big got out of prison, rounded out their ensemble and played the piano.
Cooper proved to be quite gifted at playing the guitar and singing at a very young age. When he got into his teens, talent agents began to seek him out. His dad wasn’t opposed to his making a career out of music, but he wanted him to be able to be himself and not be taken advantage of by unscrupulous producers. But eventually Cooper began to feel his father was holding him back, so he took his father’s truck, guitar, and some money and drove to Nashville. There he fell on the hardest of times, until about five years later when he met a singer named Daley Cross and gave her one of his songs. Things were riding high for a while until a betrayal and an accident took nearly everything from him.
As you might have guessed, this is a modern-day retelling of the prodigal son story in the Bible. The scene where Cooper left his father was devastating, and it was heartbreaking to see all that he had to go through. But his father, always watching for him, always ready to forgive and receive him back, was such a tender picture of the heavenly Father.
Charles Martin definitely knows how to spin a story and pull on heartstrings. I enjoyed the story, his writing, musings here and there about life, faith, and music, and even a bit of hymn history.
We would differ on angelology – but I am not sure whether his use of angels in the story is from his belief system or just a part of the story to illustrate how people might “entertain angels unaware.”
This is a book I wish both of my parents were still alive to read. Of course, I wish they were still alive for a myriad other reasons, but what I mean is that they would have understood Cooper and his world quite well.
Narrator Adam Verner did a superb job narrating the audiobook version.
Overall, a beautiful, heart-touching story. If you read the book, be sure to read the author’s afterword as well.
Genre: Christian fiction
Potential objectionable elements: Bar scenes, drinking, 2 or 3 instances of a character almost saying a bad word, with enough of it that the word is obvious.
My rating: 9 out of 10