Light Years From Home is the story of a modern American family whose son just happens to have been fighting an intergalactic war for the past fifteen years. The Shao family grew up on the Peninsula in the San Francisco Bay Area… parents and kids playing the eternal game of expectations tug-of-war. Jakob fought constantly with his father about his future. His twin Kassie got some of the same, but put her nose to the grindstone and got an education and is now in the mental health field. Evie was a bit younger and in some ways was pulled along for the ride.
The pivotal moment in the family’s life came when the unexplainable occurred on a family trip to the outdoors… Jakob and his father Arnold disappeared. Arnold returns a couple days later, but with a new purpose. Find his son. — Fifteen years later Jakob returns. In the meantime Arnold passed away… Kassie now cares for her mother who is suffering from dementia, and Evie has taken up the task of finding her brother with an extraterrestrial conspiracy group. Jakob escaped the enemy by running home to Earth, but he has secrets that will help sway the war to the right side. Will he be able to recover and return? Can he trust his family to help and after 15 years, do they really want to?
Chen’s combination of plausible science and family drama wins again. Told in shifting perspectives of the three children, Light Years From Home quickly became a page-turner for me. The modern world is rife with stumbling blocks and it’s hard to find motivation for many. Each character is torn in some way between their own personal goals and what is best for the family. I was impressed with Chen’s seamless inclusion of flashbacks in this one. It’s not a dredging but a revelation of character and purpose. Each character is struggles with finding their ultimate purpose… Is Jakob’s in the stars or down on Earth?
I have now read all of Chen’s books and continue to find something new in his writing in each one. Some of the draw for me is the Bay Area setting (Sonoma County dude here), but most of the fun lies in the family situations that I can always relate to. These dense knots of love, regret, and hope that he ties together. BTW. The ending. Great. And one I did not see coming.
4.5 out of 5 stars.
Thank you to NetGalley, Harlequin Trade Publishing, and the author for an advanced copy for review.