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Homeward Bound

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George is a recently widowed seventy-nine-year-old. He nearly made it as a rock star in the 1960s and he’s not happy. Tara is his teenage granddaughter and she’s taken refuge from her bickering parents by living with George. Toby is George’s son-in-law and he wants George in a care home.

George has two secrets. 1) He’s never revealed why his music career stalled. And 2) No-one knows just how much the disappointment of opportunities missed still gnaw at him. He craves one last chance, even at his age. When it presents itself, through the appearance of a long-lost distant relative - whose chequered past should set alarm bells ringing - he can’t resist.

For Tara, living with her grandfather is a way to find her own path and develop her own musical ambitions. She isn’t prepared for the clash between different generations and living in a strange house full of her grandfather’s memories – and vinyl records.

They get off to a shaky start. George takes an instant dislike to the sounds from her bedroom that seem more suited to Guantanamo Bay than anything he would call musical. But as time plays out, they find there are more similarities – neither know how to operate a dishwasher – than differences, and parallels across the generations slowly bring them to recognise their shared strengths. But when Toby inadvertently sets in motion a chain of events, it leaves Tara with the same dilemma her grandfather faced five decades before with the same life-changing choice to make.

304 pages, Paperback

First published January 28, 2020

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Richard Smith

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Displaying 1 - 21 of 21 reviews
Profile Image for Marianne.
3,317 reviews126 followers
June 19, 2020
“’Do I have to stop loving music because I’m old and decrepit? I didn’t stop loving music when the sixties ended. The decade, or mine. Nothing’s new. Things get changed, sometimes improved.’ He paused before adding ruefully, ‘But not often.’ He sighed.”

Homeward Bound is the first novel by British author, Richard Smith. Newly widowed at seventy-nine, George Turnbull represents a problem for his son-in-law, Toby Waller. The solution is, of course to sell George’s London house and put him in a care home. George’s daughter Bridget is unenthusiastic about this idea, while George refuses point blank to consider it. After all, no care home would accommodate his piano or his extensive record collection.

His eighteen-year-old granddaughter, Tara is heading off to uni in London and needs a place to live, but she is hesitant about sharing with her boyfriend, Mark. Is it the ideal solution? Would a uni student doing her course and having a social life be available to keep a subtle eye on her grandfather, who is getting frailer, even if he doesn’t like to admit it? Might they muddle through together?

George loves nothing better than to sit in his special music room, surrounded by his vinyl, revelling in the sleeve notes and the sound. Playing his piano, too, is important: he is working on a song inspired by his wife. “Missing Evelyn” could be the hit song he never had in his career as support act for more famous groups. Now sustained by composing production music, a hit at his age would certainly wipe the smirk off his sneering son-in-law’s face.

Tara introduces Mark, whose idea of good music is his own: “Old-lampin, ghetto-grittin’, steelo dealo pimped-out mamma-jamma scratch”. When George hears it: “It was not ‘music’ by any definition George was familiar with. He instinctively put his hands over his ears and imagined inmates of Guantanamo Bay facing similar barrages of torturous noise”.

But when Mark sees George’s music room, he is very interested in George's collection, although apparently only for the resale value. And then Robin turns up. Had been referred to as Robbin’. Bridget definitely isn’t ready to forgive and forget, although Toby doesn’t seem to share her ire. Is this untrustworthy in-law there to target an old man’s most fervent desire?

What a wonderful tale Richard Smith gives the reader. His characters are endearing for all their flaws and foibles, and if the plot seems to be heading in a predictable direction, there are some heart-warming surprises on the way too. As well as touching on the dilemma of aged care, the story explores the balance between family obligation and following one’s dream.

Included are some interesting musical tidbits and a generous dose of musical nostalgia that can be indulged with the Spotify playlist that the author provides. Yes, the title does refer to the song by Paul Simon, and there are surely many things worse than a Simon and Garfunkel earworm, if that’s the result. This is a brilliant debut novel, moving and uplifting, and Smith’s next work will be eagerly awaited.
This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Troubador Publishing.
Profile Image for StaceyWare19.
103 reviews8 followers
July 21, 2020
Thank you to @rachelsrandomresources for inviting me on this tour and @richardsmith for sending me a beautiful #gifted copy of your book.
This is a delightful story of two people from two different era’s but who both share a passion for music.
Grandad George is such a wonderful character who you can’t help but fall in love with, set in his ways and stubborn but so so passionate.
Tara is an 18 year old, just beginning to find her independence and love for music and moves in with Grandad to help him stay in his own home.
This story also includes a mixture of other characters that come and go throughout the story.
There is a really strong message through the book of never giving up on your dreams which I absolutely adore!
At first I found the story a little slow to get into but as your read on and some drama evolves it starts to pick up and you realise that the style of writing is just building the picture up for you!

Profile Image for Jeannine  Healy.
37 reviews16 followers
May 7, 2020
The story centres about 79 year old George Turnbull, who we meet as he is being brought around (reluctantly...) an old folks home by his daughter and son in law. After just having lost his wife suddenly and lamenting a lost career in music, this is the last place he wants to be.

George and his granddaughter Tara strike a deal, he doesn't want to live with his awful son in law and Tara needs a place to stay in London, so Tara moves in to her grandfather's house, doddery old dog and all.

The relationships between the characters are so pure and realistic. Smith writes a glorious character, you root for them, you feel sad for them, you want them to get what's coming. I felt so apart of the family, I felt like I was living in George's house!

The music that is woven through is also a great touch, for anyone that enjoys music you will LOVE this book. I particularly liked the juxtaposition between George and Tara's boyfriend, Mark. George was a musician (and still is...) and has been there and done that, worn the t-shirt, while Mark is starting out in his music career and specialises in 'psychedelic rap' which George does not get! However, they come to a mutual appreciation and it's gorgeous.

I had tears brimming in my eyes for the last 20% of the book - it was so real and emotive. I loved George and Tara's character. Their relationship was beautiful and I felt unbridled joy through a lot of the book, it was just so sweet.

I can't begin to tell you how much this book made me feel, it really is a special one.

A huge 4.5 stars from me and a plea for all to curl up with a hot drink and read this gorgeous hug of a book!

Thank you to Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Jaffareadstoo.
2,565 reviews
October 6, 2020
Old meets young in this delightful story which looks, with a rather wistful eye, on all those idiosyncrasies which comes with great age. Seventy-nine year old, George is recently widowed and misses his wife so much that he can't imagine how he will manage without her, and to be honest, neither does his daughter and son-in-law who seem determined to encourage George to go into the, horrendously named, Last Days care home. However, Last Days is devoid of any sort of joie de vivre so George prefers to stay in his own home where he stores his vast record collection. As a compromise, George's teenage granddaughter, Tara, moves in with him and it soon becomes a case of who is looking after who in this lovely family saga.

Homeward Bound allows a gentle glimpse into the mindset of all George's family, from his complicated relationship with his daughter and son in law, to the love and empathy which shines through from eighteen year old Tara, there is never a moment when the story doesn't pull you into every aspect of George's rather special life. George is a great protagonist, his slightly off beat character comes through and I found that I was laughing out loud at some of his antics whilst at the same time sympathising with him on the frailty of his impending infirmity and the loss of everything he once held dear.

Heart warming, life affirming and gently poignant Homeward Bound captured my attention. I found myself singing along to Simon and Garfunkel's song of the same name as I read George's story.
Author 1 book2 followers
April 21, 2020
I can best repeat what feedback I've had from online reviewer 'Little Miss Booklover':

I am so thankful for the opportunity to read and review this one. This has been a fun and interesting read which I have found difficult to put down.

Music is intertwined throughout this story of family, love, hopes and dreams. Smith has really managed to bring the characters in this one to life. I’ve found them likeable and realistic throughout.

This is so well written that I have devoured this book in just one sitting and it has been a lovely book to escape with. This has definitely helped me switch off from the harsh reality of the current times.

I absolutely love how the relationships have developed throughout this gorgeous book. It has been an absolute pleasure to review this book. Smith is a new author for me, but this won’t be the only book on my shelf of this author’s.

Another five star rating from me, I have really enjoyed reading this one and highly recommend this to other bookish friends.
2 reviews
January 24, 2020
Fun interesting warmly written book really enjoyed it and love the fact that there is also a Spotify playlist of all the music references available on the authors website
726 reviews11 followers
July 19, 2020
The Paul Simon song Homeward Bound is a well known song of yearning, memory and the impulse to return to the past from the present. Like the song, this novel is an intelligent and loving evocation of the dilemmas of life at many stages, especially where memory and the joy of music come together. George is an irresistible combination of an older man who refuses to accept any limitations and a person driven by music. Tara is a thoughtful teenager who has a lot of sympathy with her grandfather, and is wondering how best to cope with his situation while keen to start her own life in London. Music is what brings them together, but also separates them by the changing nature of popular music. There are also others, including Bridget, George’s daughter and Tara’s mother, her father Toby, and her boyfriend Mark. Everyone sees George from a different position, while he just wants a second chance to be involved in the music he plays on his extensive record collection. The various ways that music is published, played and collected is an important theme of this book. This is a really impressive contemporary read, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it.

The book opens with George being given a tour of “Lastdays Rest Home” and him finding it more and more dispiriting. Tatty, repressive and generally off putting, when he tries to escape his son in law Toby is exasperated. Since Evelyn, George’s much loved wife died, seventy nine year old George has been living with his daughter Bridget’s family, and it is not a happy situation. He wants to return to his London house, with his fragile dog Hunter and his precious record collection and piano. Tara meanwhile wants to go to a university in London, and is aware that she will not be allowed to share accommodation with her boyfriend Mark. A compromise is that they will share the house, with rules imposed by Toby. George is keen to share some of his music with Tara, but her boyfriend Mark produces more experimental music on a computer and she struggles to reconcile the two with her own ambition to sing. George revels in his record collection once more, but misses his wife and desperately wants to have one more chance to record his own music that he is still inspired to compose. When a shifty distant relative emerges, and Toby becomes more difficult, Tara struggles to move forward as she struggles to reconcile her family responsibilities with her life, and everyone feels challenged.

This is a lively and well paced book which is honest about the challenges of life for people of many ages. The love of music is central, but there is a very familiar, to me at least, argument over what constitutes the way music is enjoyed. The vinyl collection of music is a solid and tangible link to the past, but is also beginning to become popular with collectors now. This is a powerful book about the difficulties of life for older people and the struggle for independence. It also has much to say about contemporary music, and the surviving demand for a tune and recognisable lyrics. I enjoyed this book for its writing, its themes and much more. I recommend this book as an excellent read concerning family, music and memory, and it should have a wide appeal.

Profile Image for Linda Hill.
1,188 reviews32 followers
December 31, 2020
Tara and George are unlikely housemates.

In the interests of complete honesty, I have to admit my review of Homeward Bound might be coloured slightly by the fact that my much missed Dad was called George and could always be heard singing or whistling, so that I might be predisposed to view the narrative favourably, but I so enjoyed this story. Richard Smith writes with such passion about music without it ever feeling contrived so that George’s record collection and love of music not only drives the plot, but adds an extra dimension of interest – even to readers like me who are tone deaf! I found myself Googling some of the references as I read and can genuinely say that I have found new music through reading Homeward Bound.

The plot is smashing. The balance of sadness and happiness, ambition and diffidence is so well done. There are moments of incredible tension that had me worrying what might become of George and moments of fabulous humour too. For example, I laughed aloud at George’s first solo encounter with the Internet!

I loved meeting George. He epitomises the way modern society can try to side-line the elderly even though they have so much to offer. I found it sad that his marriage had served to curtail his creativity slightly but equally I felt uplifted by his rediscovery of his musical passion through Tara. George teachers the reader that as long as we have spirit and passion, we have life, even if physically we are no longer in peak condition. Richard Smith illustrates so effectively and frequently poignantly how the different generations actually have much in common if only they gave one another a chance. Indeed, the theme of family is incredibly realistic. There’s a caring and insightful exploration of family dynamics in Homeward Bound that makes it a very realistic as well as entertaining book.

Speaking of family, I loathed Toby. I think it says something for the quality of Richard Smith’s writing that I could cheerfully have climbed into the pages of Homeward Bound and beaten Toby senseless with a care home brochure! Tara, however, is a perfect accompaniment to George and I think one of the real successes of Homeward Bound is her increasing maturity, her sense of responsibility and her surprising personal values. Homeward Bound may be a book written by an ‘older’ author with an older protagonist in George, but it holds attraction for readers of all ages.

I’d say Homeward Bound is a surprising read. I expected it to be gentle but it is also incisive and thoroughly entertaining. I really enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Seba.
230 reviews3 followers
May 3, 2020
CW: domestic abuse
Homeward Bound was the sometimes sweet, sometimes heart wrenching, often both story of an aging musician and his family as they all try to make peace with his aging, his love for music after all these years, and all the messy aspects of family. The pacing was at times a bit slow and it wasn't necessarily what I would usually read, but the struggles of taking care of aging family members is relatable enough to anyone that despite that, I enjoyed this.

From the blurb, I thought it would deal more with just the relationship between Tara, the granddaughter, and George, the aging musician. Instead, it was about the family as a whole, as well as some romantic partners I do still wish it had been more about the two of them, but there were some lovely things about chosen families - though it that wasn't explicitly stated - as Tara's father leaves for mistreating his wife and her boyfriend, Mark, steps up unexpectedly. No one's really great in this, they all do pretty dubious things and are often selfish, but they do paint a pretty accurate picture of a family. How realistic the characters are written is part of what makes many scenes of this so painful to write and it's very well executed.

The ending is about as bittersweet as you'd expect from something like this, but I was pretty happy with it. It went more or less how I expected, but I'm glad for that. No need for big shock endings in something like this.

Overall, I'd give this a solid four stars. I do think slightly better pacing could have improved it, but I also think that might just be the sort of story the author was wanting to tell. Life, especially in its advanced stages, is awkwardly paced, after all. The accompanying Spotify playlist is a nice touch. I'm sure anyone into music and complex family relationships would enjoy this.

Thank you NetGalley for the copy of this book!
Profile Image for Lauren.
347 reviews7 followers
July 12, 2020
This is a story about the timelessness of music. It's a bittersweet story about the inevitability of old age and the importance of choices. Most of all, this is the story of George: nearly eighty, newly widowed, and worried his best days are far behind him with nothing to show for his grand dreams but a room full of vinyl records. When granddaughter Tara moves to London for uni, George invites her to live with him. Their shared love of music - albeit from very different generations - draws them together even as they struggle with their own uncertain futures.

This is a book for music lovers, especially those old time rock and rollers but even newer music references are woven through the text. George's introspection, while sometimes maudlin and meandering, is also charming and heartbreaking as he reminisces on times gone by. Tara has her on distinct voice (though at 18, she is most certainly not a millennial) as she looks to forge a path of her own, with or without long-term boyfriend Mark.

If you are looking for a story about family, intergenerational friendship, and the power of music, turn your face Homeward Bound.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Rachel's Random Resources; all opinions are my own
Profile Image for Claire (c.isfor.claire_reads) .
277 reviews7 followers
July 17, 2020
I throughly enjoyed this poignant but entertaining book. It was well paced and kept my interest throughout.
The book is peppered with musical references and the author's love of music shines through the pages. A love of music is a central theme of the book highlighting how this can be perceived in different ways, but ultimately how music is timeless, bridging generations and bringing people together.

The storyline is powerful in highlighting generational differences. How the older generation battle to remain independant, and the difficulties this can bring.

I loved the music references and for me personally, I was able to relate to (when not covid-19 affected), choosing era specific music for my fitness classes for the 65+ years is always much loved, enjoyed and appreciated. Music really does bring generations together.

I adored the family relationship aspect of this book, especially George's and Tara's relationship, their shared loved of music, and the bond that grows between them. I totally became invested in George to the very last page.

Such a lovely book. Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Em read_em_andweep.
27 reviews5 followers
May 6, 2020
What a lovely book! I loved the playlist that came with it too.

I was completely invested in George's story and his life, and wanted to protect him in the early stages of the story and cheered for him later on. There were lots of heart warming moments and even tears too!
I enjoyed the realistic depiction of family relationships, the characters I was supposed to love I adored - and the awful ones I despised which is always a sign of a good book and fantastic writing.

It was a heartwarming but often sad reminder of what it must be like to get older and look back at your life and have regrets about missed opportunities but remained hopeful as characters found a new purpose. I loved how music is such a big feature of the story and depicts how powerful it can be, both individually and on others!
The ending was bittersweet but one that left me satisfied.

Wish I could read it all over again! If this book was a song, I would play it every day.
882 reviews4 followers
May 19, 2020
George is nearly 80, his daughter wants him to move to an old folks home, but he believes he's too young, he can cope, and he has his music. He has been a musician all his life, but never made it to the big time. A solution is reached whereby his granddaughter Tara moves in with him while she is at university.

Thus the stage is set for a lovely tale of family, generational differences, deceit, and lots and lots of music. The ending is perhaps a little trite, but it is a lovely story, which sweeps the reader in to George's world. The reader becomes frustrated as it is clear not everyone is behaving honourably, and you can't wait to read what will happen next.

Well written, entertaining and very enjoyable.

Thank you to NetGalley, Troubador Publishing Ltd and Matador for allowing me access to the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
1 review
February 1, 2020
I got this book as a gift and found it really enjoyable and hard to put down. It's a story of music, relationships, dreams and realities.
The author managed to bring the characters to life in a way that had me totally invested - I was really annoyed by one character's actions, which to me is a sign of a well-written book.
I really enjoyed the musical references too; some I recognised from my parent's era, some were current that I knew and some I looked up on the book’s Spotify (available from author’s blog page) which brought the story to life further! I'd definitely recommend it and think it could also be a good one for book groups too - lots to discuss.
Profile Image for Kerry-louise Jones.
421 reviews16 followers
July 18, 2020
This is a truly lovely story about family, old age and never giving up on your dreams. I really enjoyed the interactions between George and his Granddaughter, Tara, but felt that this was more of a story on the whole family rather than the pair of them as the blurb describes. That being said I enjoyed the whole family, all characters were well written and I loved that they were a realistic portrayal rather than a romanticised perfect family who could do no wrong. The only character flaw I found was that Tara's character did come across as a little young for the age she was written (which 18 year-old do you know who would be caught dead reading a magazine called 'Teen Tips").

The musical element was a great addition to the book as really gave a feel of George's era and his sense of character, I may have to make myself a new playlist!
Profile Image for Rebecca.
403 reviews26 followers
March 10, 2020
“Homeward Bound” is a funny, feel-good read that I’d highly recommend. With music intertwined throughout, this is a story of family, love, hope and dreams and finding your purpose a different points in your life. 5 stars!

My full review: https://whatrebeccasread.wordpress.co...
Profile Image for C.
458 reviews47 followers
June 30, 2020
You will very quickly fall in love with Gramps and you'll be furious for him most of the book. This was a solid read with great characters who'll make you feeling something. Be it love, anger, or loyalty.

Thank you to Netgalley for the ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Emily.
78 reviews
May 8, 2020
When I found out the author was a 70 year old man trying his hand at writing his first novel...sold. What a treat. Well done sir! Successful pull on the heartstrings and fantastic ending.
Profile Image for Felicity Terry.
1,095 reviews19 followers
July 18, 2020
Coerced into visiting a succession of homes for the elderly (waiting rooms for the dying as George thinks of them) on the pretence of a family outing, what will happen when, neither of them exactly house trained; the dishwasher something of a mystery to them both, George tidy, Tara, hmm, not so tidy, Tara's boyfriend Mark's music unlike any music George had heard (he imagines 'inmates of Guantanamo Bay facing similar barrages of torturous noise), its agreed that Tara will move in with her grandfather?

A bittersweet story of growing older, of fulfilling your dreams ... no matter what your age. Left feeling all warm and fuzzy as I thought back on my relationship with my own grandfather and the brief spell I spent living with him, Homeward Bound is largely but not exclusively the inter-generational tale of grandfather, George and granddaughter, Tara who on the face of it are two very different people and yet, as it turns out, have so much more in common than it at first seems; their love of music being the common denominator, that they both face uncertain futures something that draws them even closer.

Simply and yet beautifully told, well observed, funny and oh so moving; Toby's (George's son-in-law) constant mocking and putting down of his father-in-law moved me to tears as did the section of the book in which George, recently introduced to the World Wide Web, innocently types into a search engine only to discover that he's opened ... well, you can imagine - only these were tears of laughter.

That I found myself invested in all the characters in the way that I did, yes, even the ones I grew to despise, a sure sign of an author with a promising future ahead of them, I'm already longing to know what's next.

SUMMED UP IN A SENTENCE ... A warm and charming debut novel with memorable characters, the tunes/bands entwined in the narrative a nice touch - be warned there are any number of potential earworms.

Copyright ... Felicity Grace Terry @ Pen and Paper
Disclaimer ... One of several participants in a Book Tour hosted by Rachel of Rachel's Random Resources, no financial compensation was asked for nor given
Profile Image for Karen Kingston.
661 reviews12 followers
May 31, 2020
Thank you to Matador Books for a copy of this book - my thoughts about the book are my own.

Having read the blurb on the back of the book, I was keen to find out more. This is the third book I've read this year with an elderly protagonist (main character) - the other books being Saving Missy and Away with the Penguins.

The story looks at George and his family after the recent loss of his wife. His son-in-law, the obnoxious Toby, is desperate to put his father-in-law into a retirement home. George finds a compromise by inviting his granddaughter Tara to share his house near her new University so she can keep an eye on him and report back to her mum, Bridget.

During the story, we find out more about how George's dreams and ambitions in the music world were derailed, how Tara needs to find her own path in life (and not be railroaded by her boyfriend) and how Bridget needs to find some happiness. Tara and George develop a new relationship, based on their enjoyment of music.

There are lots of funny moments to make you laugh out loud but also heartbreaking moments too. As readers of my reviews know, I always appreciate a dog being included in the story and George has Hunter, his ageing Labrador.

This is a book I'm happy to recommend as a feel good but thought provoking read. Ideal for all ages.
Profile Image for Anna.
194 reviews
July 12, 2020
Our story begins with what seems like a usual occurrence, a family searching for the right retirement home for their loved one who is becoming a bit forgetful. But then we are introduced to Toby and the balance shifts. On one side is George who we quickly fall in love with. Yes, he can be a tad cantankerous but throughout, his heart is true to his two loves, his late wife Evelyn and music. On the other side is Toby, George's son-in-law and in my humble opinion a vile toad.

When George invites Tara, his granddaughter to live with him, our story really takes off. Here we have two wonderful people from very different generations trying to co-exist. At times it's as if they barely speak the same language, but they do have one very important thing in common, they love each other very much.

Each character is beautifully brought to life - their attributes, their faults, their feelings, their reactions all combine to create characters we, the reader, care about. We become invested in their journey, rooting for them, crying with them and for them, and in certain cases, hoping they get the retribution they so dearly deserve!

This is a journey that is interwoven with the music that shaped George's life. His music room, filled to the rafters with records, is his place of solace and here he creates the soundtrack to this story. This is a story about family, about the decisions we make along the way that change the direction our life will take and about never giving up on your dream.

Homeward Bound is a heartfelt tale that will remind you to hug your loved ones, stand up for what you believe in and never let go of your hopes and dreams.

Thank you to @matadorbooks @rararesources for gifting me a copy of this book.
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