The Long Way Home — "Homelander" Series
The Long Way Home by Andrew Klavan has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the second book in the "Homelander" series.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Eighteen-year-old Charlie West can't remember the last year of his life. He knows he was convicted for murdering his friend Alex. He knows he somehow escaped prison and is now on the run, not only from the police but also a terrorist group called the Homelanders. Desperate to prove his innocence, as much to himself as others, Charlie heads back to his hometown of Spring Hill looking for answers.
Charlie stops at a library near Spring Hill to research his case. Homelander thugs surround the building and capture Charlie just as the police arrive. In the confusion, Charlie escapes, steals a motorcycle belonging to one of the Homelanders and engages in a high-speed chase with the police. When he loses them, he hides out in an old church building and thinks back to what he can remember. He thinks about his karate teacher, Sensai Mike, who taught him self-control and discipline. He thinks about Mr. Sherman, the free-thinking teacher who always mocked him for his faith and patriotism. He also recalls hearing interviews with the two boys who found Alex after he'd been stabbed. Charlie knows he needs to get more information from them.
In Spring Hill, Charlie hides out in a secluded, abandoned house known as the Ghost Mansion. He and his friends — Josh, Miler and Rick — once stayed the night there for a class project. When Charlie starts hearing noises, he's sure the police or Homelanders have found him. Instead, he's pleasantly surprised to find his friends. They've been watching for him, knowing he'd hide out at Ghost Mansion if he came back to town. They also bring Beth, Charlie's girlfriend. The group provides supplies and tries to help Charlie get the answers he's seeking about Alex's murder. Josh obtains information from the boys who found Alex, but he nearly gets killed in the process. Charlie decides it's too dangerous for his friends to be near him. He continues to communicate with them via texts and a webcam.
Josh learns Alex was on his way to talk to Sensai Mike the night of the murder. Charlie pays a visit to his old karate master to determine whether Mike is friend or foe. He determines Mike is trustworthy. Mike still calls the police to turn Charlie in, believing it's for his own good. Charlie convinces Mike to let him go just before the police arrive.
Charlie's friends tell him Mr. Sherman, his worst enemy, actually befriended him during the trial. Charlie wonders why. He sneaks into Mr. Sherman's house to put spy software on the teacher's computer. Mr. Sherman finds Charlie at the mansion and holds him at gunpoint. He says he was sure he could convince Charlie that faith and patriotism were foolish, especially once the government wrongly accused him of Alex's murder. Charlie wrestles the gun from Mr. Sherman. But the teacher promises that Beth will die if he isn't released so he can tell his men to stop. Charlie races to Beth's and saves her. He escapes to continue his quest to reclaim his memories and clear his name.
At home, Charlie went to church on Sundays. He made a promise to God and to himself that he'd never give up until he proved his innocence. He says prayers of thanks and asks God for help several times. He also credits God for answering his prayer. Charlie is angry and frustrated when Mr. Sherman taunts him in class for his patriotism and faith in God. Charlie's friend Rick goes to the same church. Mr. Sherman leaves Rick alone since Rick is more concerned about getting good grades than publicly professing his faith. When Charlie says goodbye to Beth, he tells her he knows God has a plan to bring them back together. When Beth is in danger, Charlie prays God will take him, not her.
Full of rage at Beth's attacker, Charlie considers killing the man. Then, realizing he has a choice and that God is there with him, he puts down the knife. Charlie tells Beth that as God is his witness, he will come back for her. When Charlie is on the run, he takes shelter in a church. The sign announces next week's sermon title: Be Not Afraid. Charlie thinks it sounds like good advice and wishes he could take it. He also likes the Scripture on the wall, urging him to put on the full armor of God. Charlie says Mr. Sherman and the Homelanders could never convince him they're right. He says he believes in things that bring people to their best lives, the lives God meant them to have.
Sensai Mike tells Charlie that God wants him to have a full, wonderful life, but he can't have that unless he's paying attention. Mike teaches his students how to fight, but also how to avoid conflict whenever possible. He believes peacemakers are blessed. Mike believes there are some truths you can't prove but only live out — you take them on faith and, by living them, realize they're true. He says people who live in the dark don't always understand those who try to move toward the light. Those in darkness may even try to stop the light seekers. But whatever happens, we should keep moving toward the light.
Other Belief Systems
Sherman doesn't believe in absolute truth. He says everything is a matter of cultural perspective. He tells his class that America is too quick to impose supposedly "self-evident" truths on others. He says absolutism is the meat of tyrants, and real morality is always changing. He believes that patriotic people like Charlie are blind followers. He urges Charlie to prove that all men are created equal or that a Creator exists at all. When Mr. Sherman teaches about the Salem witch trials, he says it proves the inherent danger of religion.
Sherman befriends Charlie during his trial, trying to convince him that America's justice system has done him wrong. Mr. Sherman believes he can reshape Charlie's passion for God and patriotism into fervor for the Homelanders' belief system. He was sure that if Charlie saw how God failed him and didn't send His angels to the rescue, the young man would rethink his values. The Homelanders want to take down America using Islamic extremists, but after America falls, they have no use for the Islamic people. Mr. Sherman says America doesn't need any more gods, just a system of fairness and equality where everyone has the same amount of money and no one is allowed to say things that offend others. He tells Charlie freedom is a mistake.
Charlie says the dojo where he learned karate used to seem almost like a church to him. It was a place where he learned grace, courage and discipline, how to keep his mind and body under control. He does not treat it as a religion, though.
The word butt appears a few times. Charlie fights a Homelander in a library restroom, slamming the man's face and nose into the sink and generating a lot of blood. He later uses a karate move on the bridge of another thug's nose, causing blood to spray. The boys who found Alex's body talk about all of the blood bubbling out of him and his blood-soaked clothing. Charlie punches a Homelander in the throat. The man's eyes bulge and his tongue comes out as he gags. Charlie then breaks the man's arm with a loud, sickening snap.
Charlie and Beth kiss a few times. A thug refers to Beth as a "piece." Charlie tells his friends that, with the webcam, they'll be seeing him on their computers more often than a second-rate starlet. In response, one friend jokingly urges him to keep his underwear on.
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Alcohol, Drugs and Tobacco: After his parents' divorce, Alex stole, drank, used drugs, fought and hung out with some unsavory people. The boys who found Alex had gone to the park to smoke and drink. When Charlie's friend Josh goes to interview them about Alex, he sees them smoking and can tell by their clothing that they're in gangs.
Lying: Before the trial, Charlie told half-truths to his parents so that he and his friends could stay over night at the Ghost Mansion. Charlie lies to Beth, telling her he doesn't want to continue their relationship. He says this because he knows he's going away and he doesn't want her to be hurt or endangered. She can tell he's lying about no longer caring for her.
Illegal activity: Charlie rides a stolen motorcycle on a high-speed chase as he evades the police. He breaks into a run-down mansion outside of town, ignoring the warnings to stay out. Charlie also breaks into Sherman's house and puts spying software on the teacher's computer. He takes money from an unconscious Homelander thug. He says he knows the Ten Commandments say not to steal, but he doesn't feel like it's stealing since the guy is trying to kill him.
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