Long Way Home by Katie McGarry
Published January 31, 2017 by Harlequin Teen
Seventeen-year-old Violet has always been expected to sit back and let the boys do all the saving.
It’s the code her father, a member of the Reign of Terror motorcycle club, raised her to live by. Yet when her dad is killed carrying out Terror business, Violet knows it’s up to her to do the saving. To protect herself, and her vulnerable younger brother, she needs to cut all ties with the club—including Chevy, the boy she’s known and loved her whole life.
But when a rival club comes after Violet, exposing old secrets and making new threats, she’s forced to question what she thought she knew about her father, the Reign of Terror, and what she thinks she wants. Which means re-evaluating everything: love, family, friends . . . and forgiveness.
Caught in the crosshairs between loyalty and freedom, Violet must decide whether old friends can be trusted—and if she’s strong enough to be the one person to save them all.
One of the many pleasures of reading is the opportunity to discover new worlds; that certainly is the case with Katie McGarry's books which has introduced me to life set in rural and small-town Kentucky, certainly different from my childhood spent in metropolitan Los Angeles and adulthood spent in urban Boston and Taipei. I've also learned about how it is to be raised in the foster system (Pushing the Limits), growing up with an drug-addicted parent (Dare You To), street racing and drag racing (Crash Into You), homelessness (Take Me On), and life as a drug dealer (Chasing Impossible). In all of her books, McGarry's protagonists struggle against being defined by their circumstances.
Katie McGarry's Thunder Road series centers around a motorcycle club, and Long Way Home is the third and last book of the series. Though each of the books in the series features strong female characters, both primary and secondary, I have struggled with understanding the Reign of Terror motorcycle club's attitude towards women and the role they play within the club. It's a fraternal organization in a patriarchal society, and while the men portrayed certainly love their female partners, women are literally not allowed a seat at decision-making table. In previous installments in the series, female characters worked around this structure to influence situations they weren't happy with.
Violet is perhaps McGarry's strongest female character yet, one is able to most clearly articulate what she believes is wrong about the structure and advocate for agency in her life. The daughter of a member of the club's leadership team, she blames the club for her father's death. As an insider who has now purposefully placed herself on the outside, this unique vantage point gives her a more insightful perspective of the club. Much of the arc of the novel is the conflict between Violet, her love Chevy, and the club's leader Eli as they struggle to balance the desire to protect out of love, with realizing that protection can be disempowering. At one point, Violet reflects, "I hate his way of caring, though. Hate how he controls. But how can you fully hate someone who does all the stupid things because that’s the way he loves?"
At the same time, Violet is not afraid to call out double-standards: "“Is that what I am? A traitor? When you protect your family, it’s called being an upstanding member of the club, but when I do it, I’m a traitor?”
Because Violet's not afraid to speak the truth and push against what she sees as inherent unfairness, Chevy and Eli also come away with a greater understanding of how to love in a empowering and respectful way. For these reasons, this is my favorite book of the series.
Rating: 4 Stars