Welcome Home, Stranger: A Novel
Rachel lives an independent life. When her mom dies back home in Maine, Rachel’s return opens up wounds that she might finally be able to examine and heal. Complex, insightful and real, this moving story of lifelong relationships is resonant.
“Kate Christensen’s new novel, Welcome Home, Stranger, is a revelation, offering characters as real as your family and friends, a rich, vividly drawn setting, grab-you-by-the-throat drama and always, lurking in the shadows, a fierce authorial intelligence. What more could you ask?”—Richard Russo, author of Somebody’s Fool
“To the great literature of going home again we can now add Kate Christensen’s superb new novel Welcome Home, Stranger, a triumph of intelligence and wit (which will surprise none of her many fans). The prodigal here is a brilliant journalist grieving the loss of a very difficult mother while attempting peace with those she left behind: a resentful sister and an ex-lover who can be neither trusted nor forgotten. A spellbinding book from one of our best chroniclers of the very American struggle to strive for excellence while still living in community with others.”—Ann Packer, author of The Children’s Crusade
“A deeply endearing story about confronting one’s past and constructing a new future—under extreme duress. . . . Welcome Home, Stranger . . . arrives at the most lovely ending of a novel I’ve read all year."—Washington Post[
From the PEN-Faulkner Award-winning author of The Great Man comes a novel about grief, love, growing older, and the complications of family that is the story of a fifty-something woman who goes home—reluctantly—to Maine after the death of her mother.
Can you ever truly go home again?
An environmental journalist in Washington, DC, Rachel has shunned her New England working-class family for years. Divorced and childless in her middle age, she’s a true independent spirit with the pain and experience to prove it. Coping with challenges large and small, she thinks her life is in free fall–until she’s summoned home to deal with the aftermath of her mother’s death.
Then things really fall apart.
Surrounded by a cast of sometimes comic, sometimes heartbreakingly serious characters—an arriviste sister, an alcoholic brother-in-law and, most importantly, the love of her life recently married to the sister’s best friend–Rachel must come to terms with her past, the sorrow she has long buried, and the ghost of the mother who, for better and worse, made her the woman she is.
Lively, witty, and painfully familiar, this sophisticated and emotionally resonant novel from the author of The Great Man holds a mirror up to modern life as it considers the way some of us must carry on now.
Praise for Welcome Home, Stranger: A Novel
"Our shelves could use more women like Rachel and Sam as a counterpoint to men in midlife who’ve dominated fiction for decades. . . . It’s exhilarating to read an uninhibited female character who is rife with contradictions. . . . Christensen also does a skillful job of animating difficult family relationships while avoiding a conventional arc of forgiveness. . . . In the end, it is surprising to see where Rachel meets herself.” — The New York Times
"A deeply endearing story about confronting one’s past and constructing a new future—under extreme duress . . . . Welcome Home, Stranger . . . arrives at the most lovely ending of a novel I’ve read all year." — The Washington Post
"Kate Christensen’s new novel, Welcome Home, Stranger, is a revelation, offering characters as real as your family and friends, a rich, vividly drawn setting, grab-you-by-the-throat drama and always, lurking in the shadows, a fierce authorial intelligence. What more could you ask?" — Richard Russo, author of Somebody’s Fool
"A fantastic study in loss—the grief kind and the yearning too, oh my god the yearning! Plus menopause. Plus Portland, Maine. I loved it." — Catherine Newman, author of We All Want Impossible Things
"To the great literature of going home again we can now add Kate Christensen’s superb new novel Welcome Home, Stranger, a triumph of intelligence and wit (which will surprise none of her many fans). The prodigal here is a brilliant journalist grieving the loss of a very difficult mother while attempting peace with those she left behind: a resentful sister and an ex-lover who can be neither trusted nor forgotten. A spellbinding book from one of our best chroniclers of the very American struggle to strive for excellence while still living in community with others." — Ann Packer, author of The Children’s Crusade
"Rachel Calloway is a compelling heroine for the present moment—angry, honest, independent, witty, brilliant, and in pain. She sometimes makes impulsive choices, but her integrity is always intact. This is the most contemporary novel I have ever read, and I immersed myself in Rachel's Portland, Maine, her family and friends, her knowledge of coming climate catastrophes, and her confusion about where home is for her. Then suddenly, I realized that I was reading about the entire human condition, portrayed in crystal sentences I will return to many times. Welcome Home, Stranger is a novel for now and for the ages." — Alice Elliott Dark, author of Fellowship Point and In the Gloaming
“Kate Christensen's eighth novel is a brief, brilliant story of grief and love. It's Job on menopause, crying, 'Why am I still here?' but without the biblical overtones. It's your next book club book. It's the novel your husband should read even though I've mentioned menopause. It's your coolest friend's most astute tirade on life. I loved it from page one.” — Minneapolis Star Tribune
“With wit and a never-ending supply of humanity, Christensen’s characters navigate anger, grief, frustration, and pain like we all do: by putting one foot in front of the other. And the result is a disarmingly genuine and nuanced portrait of living.” — Amazon Best of the Month Pick
"If you're looking for some dysfunctional-family schadenfreude to sweeten your holidays, look no further." — People
"This snarky, vulnerable, complicated main character feels so real, you’ll swear you actually know her." — Real Simple
“Christensen is a psychological Geiger-counter, registering every particle of emotion; a wizard at dialogue and redolent settings, and an intrepid choreographer of confoundment. From gasp-inducing absurdities and betrayals to a profound sense of our paralysis in the glare of climate change to a full-on embrace of family, love, home, and decency, Christensen’s whirligig tale leaves readers dizzy with fresh and provocative insights.” — Booklist (starred review)
" An intricate novel, exploring family, mothers and daughters and the choices we make.” — Lee Woodruff
"A satisfying, intimate novel about complicated people at middle age, coming to terms with lost love, and the ghosts who shaped your life.” — Boston Globe
“Reading Kate Christensen’s incisive eighth novel, a quote from 19th century author Ivan Turgenev came to mind: 'A poet must be a psychologist.' As evidenced in her previous works, Christensen is both. Her prose glimmers and glints, more sensation than exposition, whether she’s shining her light on broken family, broken dreams or our broken Earth. In this short but mighty novel, Christensen does a psychologist’s job with a poet’s lyrical pen.” — San Francisco Chronicle
"An astute novel of grief and reconciliation. . . . One of the joys of a Kate Christensen book is her signature exuberance. No one writes about excess and appetite with such gusto, making over-the-topness a mainstay. . . . By the end, this book satisfies on a number of fronts. It’s about the pull of family you thought you knew, but didn’t; of long-buried resentments and freshly minted ones, as well. As a meditation on grief, it is, by turns, raucous and fiery, despairing and resolute—and wittily entertaining throughout.” — Portland Press Herald
"Few writers have a wit as razor sharp as Kate Christensen’s . . . . Her new novel follows an environmental journalist as she returns to her small Maine hometown after the death of her mother, and grapples with grief, family, and aging. I would trust no less deft a hand than Christensen’s to manage the balance of humor, devastation, and squabbling." — Literary Hub
"Christensen skillfully portrays the issues at play in many families: there are deep bonds, but also deep resentments, 'volcanic' emotions, and decades-old misunderstandings. The character Lucie, an immature, thwarted tyrant, is particularly well drawn. Readers in search of an engrossing family drama will find much to like." — Publishers Weekly
“The novel has a psychological element that invites readers to understand the behavior of its principal characters . . . . [and] The state of Maine itself is a warm, embraceable character.” — Albuquerque Journal