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Almost Home by Pam Jenoff

Almost Home by Pam Jenoff is a novel of international intrigue, significant struggle, and humiliating heartbreak.  Jordan Weiss is a Foreign Service Officer working in Washington, D.C., who receives a letter from her college friend Sarah asking her to return to London as Sarah struggles with Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS).  Once in London, a place Jordan never expected to see again after her tragic last semester, she takes a job as a investigative diplomat working to uncover financial connections between companies and the Albanian mob.

“Chris pulls out my chair and I sit down awkwardly, conscious of his presence, the way he hovers a second too long behind me as though afraid I will flee.”  (Page 64)

Jenoff really knows how to set the mood.  Almost Home is full of dark imagery, fast-paced chases, and tension as thick as butter.  Readers will be kept guessing as to who is on the wrong side of the equation.  Jordan is likable and draws readers into the story, sweeping readers into her grief over the decades ago loss of her college sweetheart, Jared, and the mystery surrounding his death.  There is tension between Jared and Jordan when they first meet as part of a rowing team, but eventually their mutual love of the river and the team gives way to their own passions.

“Trafalgar Square on a Monday morning is a swarming mass of activity.  Cars and buses move along the roadway in fits and starts, jamming up at the traffic lights, filling the air with thick exhaust.  Swarms of commuters, invisible beneath a sea of black umbrellas, jostle as they make their way from the buses to the city, from Charing Cross Tube station to Whitehall.”  (Page 131)

Tension and suspense are dominant atmospheres in Almost Home, but the novel is more than just a political thriller, it deals with deep grief and healing.  There also are lighter moments between Jordan and Sarah that illustrate a part of Jordan that has been dormant since the tragic loss of Jared.  The dynamic between the two is strong and full of sisterly love, which can transcend any situation.

Jenoff’s experience as a diplomat is clearly present in the novel as Jordan deals with bureaucracy and cloak-and-dagger tactics.  There are some points in the novel where Jordan appears to be out of her element and a novice diplomat, but given the recent debacle in Liberia and the death of a colleague; her flight to London to be with her sick friend; and all that is uncovered about the death of Jared, her mistakes and bad judgment should be expected.  The pressures she feels and the memories that haunt her are too much for any one person to deal with a high-stress position with government.  Jordan is a complex character dealing with new grief, renewed old grief, and a demanding job in a city she once abandoned.  Overall, Almost Home is a fast-paced, highly emotional, well-written novel.

This is my 13th new-to-me author for the 2010 New Authors Challenge.

I’m considering this for my 3rd book, a mix of the political and mob thriller , for the 2010 Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge.

FTC Disclosure:  I received a free copy of Almost Home by Pam Jenoff from the author.  Clicking on title links or images will bring you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary.

  • Bookie

    I love political movies so I'm always excited to see a new one come out in book form.

    Thanks for the review.

  • distractedmusician

    My grandmother passed away from ALS in her 60s, so I am quite interested to see the author's take on it.

  • Haleyknitz

    I don't think i've heard of this before. but it sounds really good!

  • Esme

    I have not read any of her books-however they are on my wish list.

  • Kim

    Love this type of book and so does my Dad, I think I found the perfect Father's Day gift.

  • Mystica

    Hadnt heard of this till I read it here. You have given us a intriguing review. Thanks for highlighting an unusual story.

  • Margie

    Looks like there are many layers in this book…both political and personal situations. Sounds intriguing.
    mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

  • Jenners

    But what if I use a light thin easy to spread butter? Is it not tension filled then? : )

    Just kidding, of course. That phrase just stood out for me.

  • Literary Feline

    I've been wanting to read this one since I first heard about it. I am glad you enjoyed it, Serena.

  • Lisa R

    I don't think I've read anything by Jenoff but this one is definitely on on my wishlist.

    Alterlisa AT yahoo DOT com

  • Linda

    Hist. Fict. is what I normally read, but this book sounds great – a bit of mystery, romance, and I'm a sucker for the loving friendship angle.

  • amanda18228

    Great review! This book sounds really good.

  • misskallie2000

    I have not heard of Jenoff before but I loved this review. This sounds like it is full of mystery and intrigue plus romance. I would love to read Almost Home.
    Thanks for the giveaway.

    misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

  • Heather @ Book Addiction

    I have been seeing this one everywhere… maybe I should read it! 🙂

  • LuAnn

    I really enjoy a good book with intrigue and suspense.

  • wheresmyrain

    wow, seems like a really good read

  • vslavetopassionv

    this book looks really good. Thanks for posting about it.

    Jase
    vslavetopassionv(at)aol(dot)com

  • Dar

    Great review Serena. I'm curious to see what will happen to Jordan in the sequel.

  • Kay

    I'm seeing reviews of this book all over the place. I've got it here on my TBR pile and I'm looking forward to it. Thanks for sharing your experience with it!

  • rhapsodyinbooks

    Sounds interesting – I wonder if there was a personal reason that caused her to add the ALS angle.

  • bermudaonion

    I love political thrillers and the fact that this one has more "meat" to it than most really appeals to me.

  • Serena

    I left that up to the reader to discover because it is to entwined with the other investigations. I wanted to leave that little discovery up to the reader. It was fascinating though.

  • Anna

    I've enjoyed Jenoff's other novels, so I can't wait to read this one. Sounds like there's a lot going on. Did you enjoy the WWII subplot? You didn't mention it, so I'm curious.

    –Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric