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Almost Home by Pam Jenoff
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Almost Home

by Pam Jenoff

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The book is told from the first person point of view of Jordan, so readers can feel her sadness, her confusion, and her fear as she realizes her life is in danger. Though I sometimes questioned Jordan’s actions as a diplomat — mainly in the way she questions people of interest, possibly revealing too much before building trust — I felt she was a well-rounded character. Jenoff makes Jordan come to life, and I could understand her motivations, like her despite her flaws, and even relate to her on some levels. She also does a great job building tension and releasing the details a little at a time so I didn’t figure everything out too soon in the book.

Almost Home is a fast-paced novel with a little bit of everything — drama, history, action, romance — and I found it easy to become so absorbed in Jordan’s world that it was hard to put the book down.

Full review on Diary of an Eccentric. ( )
  annaeccentric | May 8, 2012 |
She HAD to get to London but had no explanation for her boss. He granted her permission, and she left that very evening.

Jordan arrived in London ready to take a cab to see her very ill friend, but her co-worker met her at the airport....oh no, they do have an assignment for her. An assignment in London wasn't the real reason she wanted to return to London, and when she does arrive, all the familiar landmarks she remembered when she was at Cambridge, make her heart twist and bring tears to her eyes as she remembers the reason that made her leave right after graduation. Seeing Chris, a former college classmate, and then seeing him disappear from a dinner party, also didn't help with the memories.

When Chris finally does appear, he tells Jordan something that she can't ignore, and she must return to Cambridge University to find answers. The journey back to her college days is emotionally painful, particularly since she wanted so desperately to never have to re-live an experience that changed her entire life and up to now had almost been put out of her conscious thoughts.

Meanwhile as Jordan is dealing with this information from Chris, her assignment and this situation seem to have some connection...people go missing, papers disappear, someone is following her, betrayal among friends and lovers, people are dying in "accidents" and more information comes to the surface along with a direct order to stop the investigation of a company who they know has something to hide.

The story unravels, the mystery is solved, Jordan's pain doesn't disappear but she finally does have some hope about what caused all this in the first place.

To me the book was not as good as her other two books...it really didn't get interesting until page 200 or so…it didn’t seem tied together until toward the end. The ending was suspenseful and a surprise, though.

I will give it a 4/5 only because it did get come together toward the end of the book. ( )
  meadowmist | Oct 2, 2010 |
I have read another book by this author which I enjoyed so I was keen to read this one. This was set in present times unlike the first which was set during the second world war. I found it to be a good read. I wanted to keep reading to see who the bad guy actually was and see how the plot developed.. The ending was a surprise and it left the story up in the air so now I will have to read the follow up when it comes out. ( )
  kiwifortyniner | Aug 13, 2010 |
Almost Home by Pam Jenoff is a novel of international intrigue, significant struggle, and humiliating heartbreak. Jordan Weiss is a Foreign Service Officer working in Washington, D.C., who receives a letter from her college friend Sarah asking her to return to London as Sarah struggles with Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS). Once in London, a place Jordan never expected to see again after her tragic last semester, she takes a job as a investigative diplomat working to uncover financial connections between companies and the Albanian mob.

"Chris pulls out my chair and I sit down awkwardly, conscious of his presence, the way he hovers a second too long behind me as though afraid I will flee." (Page 64)

Jenoff really knows how to set the mood. Almost Home is full of dark imagery, fast-paced chases, and tension as thick as butter. Readers will be kept guessing as to who is on the wrong side of the equation. Jordan is likable and draws readers into the story, sweeping readers into her grief over the decades ago loss of her college sweetheart, Jared, and the mystery surrounding his death. There is tension between Jared and Jordan when they first meet as part of a rowing team, but eventually their mutual love of the river and the team gives way to their own passions.

"Trafalgar Square on a Monday morning is a swarming mass of activity. Cars and buses move along the roadway in fits and starts, jamming up at the traffic lights, filling the air with thick exhaust. Swarms of commuters, invisible beneath a sea of black umbrellas, jostle as they make their way from the buses to the city, from Charing Cross Tube station to Whitehall." (Page 131)

Tension and suspense are dominant atmospheres in Almost Home, but the novel is more than just a political thriller, it deals with deep grief and healing. There also are lighter moments between Jordan and Sarah that illustrate a part of Jordan that has been dormant since the tragic loss of Jared. The dynamic between the two is strong and full of sisterly love, which can transcend any situation.

Jenoff's experience as a diplomat is clearly present in the novel as Jordan deals with bureaucracy and cloak-and-dagger tactics. There are some points in the novel where Jordan appears to be out of her element and a novice diplomat, but given the recent debacle in Liberia and the death of a colleague; her flight to London to be with her sick friend; and all that is uncovered about the death of Jared, her mistakes and bad judgment should be expected. The pressures she feels and the memories that haunt her are too much for any one person to deal with a high-stress position with government. Jordan is a complex character dealing with new grief, renewed old grief, and a demanding job in a city she once abandoned. Overall, Almost Home is a fast-paced, highly emotional, well-written novel. ( )
  sagustocox | Mar 5, 2010 |
Since a tragedy claimed the life of her boyfriend Jared at Cambridge University, U.S. State Department intelligence officer Jordan Weiss has been run, run, running away from the past — fighting always to stay one step ahead of the painful memories. Advancing to her current post in Washington, D.C., Jordan chooses to stay emotionally aloof by burying her feelings and focusing always on her work.

Until a letter arrives, that is, changing everything. Sent from her close friend, now terminally ill, Sarah mentions she’s returned to England. Aware of her friends’s deteoriating health, Jordan barely hesitates before asking for a transfer to London to help care for her — in a place she has steadfastly avoided since her life there was shattered in the wake of Jared’s drowning. Now ten years removed from that terrible night, Jordan returns to the U.K. and immediately begins work with Maureen Martindale, a friend and superior who asks for her assistance in busting up a serious mob ring.

Aware of the danger surrounding her new task, Jordan carefully begins uncovering more than a few secrets floating around England — and one close to her heart. When an old Cambridge classmate reappears and begins asking questions about their shared past, the wounds on Jordan’s heart reopen. And it’s only through searching for the covered truth — with Chris Bannister, Jordan’s old best friend — that they might finally heal.

Atmospheric, cerebral and exciting, Pam Jenoff’s rollicking Almost Home kept me on the edge of my seat from page one. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from a novel filled with so many elements — romance, murder, grief, passion, suspense, family — but Jenoff’s masterful use of description and language dropped me in the middle of each scene and refused to let me out.

As a reader, a novel’s setting — and the way in which it’s described — can make or break a book for me. In the case of Almost Home, the sense of place couldn’t have been more perfect or artfully described. As an Anglophile, I eagerly consumed Jenoff’s descriptions of England and British culture. And as the novel opens in Washington, my hometown, I could easily picture everywhere Jordan was traversing, giving the book added authenticity.

The mysteries embedded in the plot — plentiful, complicated — are what kept me up reading until 3 a.m. and up again just four hours later to finish. Jenoff dispenses enough information at each twist for us to feel like we’re “getting somewhere,” only to then flip around and unmask another complication. And Jordan’s character, while sometimes prickly, was someone I admired, respected and rooted for.

Every reader will come to Almost Home with a different expectation — mystery, thriller, women’s fiction, historical fiction, British fiction — and probably find their needs met, as I did. Jenoff’s sequel Hidden Things is due out in July, and yours truly will be running to the bookstore to find out what’s up next. ( )
  writemeg | Mar 4, 2010 |
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Epigraph
If I should die, think only this of me: That there's some corner of a foreign field that is for ever England. -- Rupert Brooke, "The Soldier"
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To my family: past, present, and future
First words
I barrel through the double doors and across the lobby of the State Department, bypassing the metal detector and waving my plastic identification badge at the guard, who nods in recognition.
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And then I know it is not just the pain I have been running from all these years. It is the joy. The memory of a paradise ripped from its roots in an instant, of a joy so breathtaking and so real that is gone, never to be touched again.
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A young woman intelligence officer struggles to confront her haunting past while tackling a dangerous assignment of global proportions with origins tracing back to World War II.

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