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Reviewed by Marta Tandori for Readers' Favorite
Home at Last is the third book in author Jan Sikes’ autobiographical ode to the enduring love story between her and her husband, told through the story of Darlina Flowers and Luke Stone. It’s most definitely a three-hankie read, but quite frankly, any good book worth its salt usually is and this one is right up there with the best of them. Sikes’ first book, Flowers & Stone, chronicles Darlina and Luke’s beginning; The Convict & the Rose chronicles how Luke ended up in jail; and Home at Last – well, you can pretty much guess what this installment is about.
The year is 1985. Darlina Flowers has sold her modest home in Shreveport, packed up all her worldly possessions and is making the move to a dirty, desolate little town in Texas called Coleman where Luke’s family lives. After 15 years in prison, Luke’s been granted parole and is on his way home to Coleman where the two of them, along with their young daughters, will soon begin their new lives together as man and wife. While Darlina and the girls are greeted warmly by Luke’s mother, it’s evident from the infestation of cockroaches in her kitchen and by the condition of Luke’s younger brother Bobby, afflicted by both cancer and a stroke that has left him debilitated, that good fortune hasn’t exactly blessed the Stone family. However, one thing remains abundantly clear from the moment Darlina and Luke see each other for the first time at the bus station – their love has remained steadfast and true. Darlina and Luke’s subsequent wedding and the way everyone has pitched in to make it memorable is very touching and is definitely worthy of one of those hankie moments, especially as the two of them say their own vows with a heartfelt poignancy that will make readers pine for just one moment in their own lives in which they could be loved as fiercely and unconditionally as Darlina and Luke love each other. However, it doesn’t take long for the harsh reality of everyday life to rear its ugly head. Money is scarce, as is finding work if you’re an ex-con. While the daily trials and tribulations of trying to provide for their family cast an ugly, albeit realistic pall over the story, the constant element is Darlina and Luke’s unwavering love for each other and for their girls.
If all this makes you think that Home at Last is a sugar-coated, sappy autobiography, you can forget that right now. Sikes pulls no punches in her descriptions of time and place and hardships. They’re vivid and come to life through the author’s talents as a writer, guided by a plethora of bittersweet memories. Surprisingly, Sikes’ prose is straightforward and she doesn’t resort to the overuse of adjectives in order to gain reader sympathy. Some might argue that her prose isn’t particularly polished and they’d probably be right. At the end of the day, however, all that doesn’t matter. Home at Last has been written from the heart. Sikes has chronicled her memories and, in the process, laid bare her soul for all to see – or read, as the case may be. This is where that last hankie comes in…