It seems that everything in Kate Morton’s captivating novel Homecoming leads us back to a statement made by a character in the 2021 film The Lost Daughter: “Motherhood is a crushing responsibility.” In Morton’s world, even the longing for motherhood can be a crushing responsibility, one that can be passed along to the next generation, and the next.
The secrets around the Turner-Bridges women—Nora; her daughter, Polly; and granddaughter, Jess—are real doozies. Those secrets start to emerge, tendril by tendril, after Nora suffers a fall and Jess flies from her London home to Sydney to be with her. Neither Nora nor Jess is close with Polly, and Nora has named Jess as her next of kin, rather than her daughter. Odd, but not unheard of.
As a child, Jess had free rein of Nora’s large and beautiful home, Darling House, but was forbidden from accessing the attic. She snuck up there anyway and never unearthed anything shocking. But now, as she waits for Nora to recuperate, she discovers something so terrible about their family that it upends everything she believed about herself, her mother, her grandmother and the world in general. The echoes of the event have resounded for six decades and warped the lives of the Turner-Bridges women in ways they don’t even realize. Someone even wrote a book about the calamity, though it wasn’t published in Australia.
One of the delights for readers of a mystery is picking up little crumbs of evidence along the way. As Homecoming gallops toward its close, you may think you know what’s coming, and the foreknowledge is both ghastly and thrilling. In a book like this one, there are a lot of ways the story can take a turn toward the preposterous or at least the improbable. Just one word of advice: Find a map of Australia. It’ll be a big help.