Reviewed by Jenni Cahill
Patricia Carstairs hasn’t had an easy start in life. Despite Patricia craving the love and attention of her father, he only seems to notice her ill brother, James. Kalden also hasn’t had an easy childhood, as he has always known that, as the fourth son of a Ladakhi family, he is destined to leave his home and join the monastery. George Carstairs, is an ex-army major and spent time in Kalden’s homeland, Ladakh, north of the Himalayas, during the war. In the 1960s, Patricia helps her father compile a book of photos, maps and memories of George’s time in Ladakh and shortly before her 18th birthday, the pair visit the place that captured his heart.
Like her father, Patricia quickly falls in love with Ladakh and is in awe of its beauty and the tranquillity that is so different from her life in London. When she meets local man, Kalden, she experiences real love, possibly for the first time in her life. But their love cannot flourish. Patricia and Kalden live so far apart, leading completely different lives and coming from very different cultures. The odds are against them, but fighting their growing feelings for one another proves to be too difficult. They have to be together, whatever the consequences.
The Road Back is a beautifully written story of forbidden love, sacrifice and loss. Patricia and Kalden feel they are destined to be together, but continuing their relationship will mean going against George’s wishes. Patricia has never been able to stand up to her stern, unrelenting father, but she can't bear to lose Kalden and face a future without him. I really felt for both Patricia and Kalden as they were growing up. Patricia wanted nothing more than her father’s approval and for him to be proud of her, but George’s mind is always focused on his eldest child, James. Kalden was lucky enough to grow up in a loving family, however tradition dictates that he will not inherit his parent’s land and marry like his brothers, but that he will one day soon become a monk. Although this is not the path Kalden wishes for himself, he has little choice.
The descriptions of Ladakh are wonderful and vivid so it felt like I was there, seeing the place through Patricia’s eyes. The relationship between the pair is sweet and romantic, beginning with the initial spark as they meet and building as they spend more time together. Their love is quite innocent, but felt very real and I willed them to remain strong and stay together, despite George’s anger.
The Road Back is an emotional read and I recommend that anybody reading the book does so with a plentiful supply of tissues to hand. I loved the story, its characters and Liz Harris’s writing and thought The Road Back was a gorgeous debut.
THE ROAD BACK is published by Choc Lit and is out on 7th September
LIZ HARRIS'S WEBSITE