A touching story filled with family secrets, “The Way From Here” takes us on a journey both in time and place from Australia to France to England as we witness family interactions now and decades in the past. Jane Cockram’s story of two sisters whose lives were separated by a mere two years but a huge chasm in terms of personality begins with the death of one sister, Susie. Camilla, the older sister, has received letters from Susie written to Mills, as Camilla is known, and to be read after her death. Susie died unexpectedly from a fall while preparing for her 40th birthday, and the preparation of such letters seems very unlike the rash sister Mills had known. But she is the good sister, and even though it puts her marriage at risk, she is determined to fulfill Susie’s last wishes and travel from Australia to England where she is directed to read the second letter.
The story unfolds partly through Susie’s letters to Mills, written in first person, thereby giving us a real sense of Susie’s personality. The italic font clearly marks Susie’s letters, and the other parts of the sisters’ tales are clearly delineated with headings telling us when and from whose point of view the story is being told. Camilla shares much of the story, but Cockram also takes us back in time to 1998 as we hear about Susie’s life and the journey she embarks on at her grandmother Nellie’s behest. That journey begins at the National Gallery in London and continues on a very tiny island off the coast of France. We also travel in time to 1968 as Margaret, their mother, reveals yet another part of the story.
This is a tale about women; women at different times in our history, women from different social classes, women whose relationships with each other are at times confusing and at times loving and supportive. What keeps us engrossed in the story is our interest in finding out how these women all come together and exactly what their relationships are. It’s also about the lengths to which women will go in order to protect their families or themselves.
While all of the women in the story are strong, each in her own way, Cockram also clearly outlines each woman’s flaws. Susie can’t get past some tragic events while Mills is rigid and too structured. Margaret has regrets about things she’d done in the past. Other women show no regret because they’ve done what they had to do no matter the cost to others, and to them, the end definitely justified the means. Some women don’t get a chance to regret the harm they might have caused to others because they are gone, and Cockram doesn’t reveal if they ever regretted their cruel actions.
At times the story is a bit confusing because of the mixed timeline, but with a modicum of effort, it’s not difficult to keep the storyline straight. We end up really caring for Margaret and her daughters, and we are happy that at the end, their lives are enriched for Susie’s efforts. And, in fact, their relationship with Susie, albeit posthumously, is the better for their journey.
Please note: This review was first posted on Bookreporter.com.