Brendan Halpin writes from the heart, after having read his 2 memoirs (It Takes a Worried Man and Losing My Faculties) and his other novel (Donorboy), I knew what I was in for.
Halpin writes in an unapologetic, emotional, heart on the sleeve style. Without giving too much away, Long Way Back is about loss and the healing power of music.
The characters-- Clare and Francis are imminently likable and believably human in their qualities and traits. There's nothing about this novel which would make a "suspension of disbelief" a requirement, it's inherently believable. The cliches the book sometimes falls prey to are the very cliches many of us encounter and experience in life and are, thus, forgivable.
While my musical tastes are considerably different than the tastes of many of the characters in Long Way Back, I found myself still being able to relate due to my own feelings about the music I do like. The connection the characters had to the music they enjoyed was something I found myself easily relating to.
In a nutshell Clare and Francis are brother and sister. Clare is the typical protective older sister who gets her younger brother, Francis, into punk rock (in particular, The Ramones) and throughout much of her life she remains in awe with Francis connection with God. Tragedy strikes and her brother's faith is shaken to its core. Clare has to continue to find her way despite the loss of her brother's shining example of faith.
In light of his tragedy, Clare has to help her brother find his "long way back"-- she's a constant beacon of support as Francis initially just goes through the motions and eventually finds something to fill in the void left behind when he lost his faith.
From start to finish this is a thoroughly enjoyable, if light, read. At just over 200 pages, as far as books go, this is a "light snack" and despite the occassionally heavy subject matter, Halpin manages to keep the overall tone relaxed.