The Long Lane, by Phil Stong
Review by Maureen Theobald
(New York: Farrar and Rinehart, Inc., 1939)
The Long Lane by Phil Stong is a rich and fascinating novel that took me by surprise. Dramatic events that led to a deeply layered story of family, betrayal, loyalty, acceptance, and survival made for a wonderfully enjoyable read. As a family falls apart, a new one is born, and as family members become disillusioned and overwhelmed, they learn that the cliché, “time heals all wounds,” is accurate.
Young Kenneth Brubaker’s life is shaken to its core when his mother leaves him and his father to live with his uncle Merritt, her true love. He and his Dad must learn how to deal with her abandonment, while trying to remain stoic and save face. The shock and embarrassment proves to be too difficult for Ken’s father, Albert, and he decides to leave the “fish bowl” that is their small town in Iowa. He moves to Des Moines, where he has started a small business with a friend. Here, he slowly heals, while building his business, although struggling with the difficult decision to leave Kenneth behind on the farm with the hired hand and his wife.
The theme of maternal abandonment is painful to read about, let alone having to actually live it. Ken deals with his pain with a maturity far beyond his twelve years. He becomes fascinated with his father’s cosmetic company , is taken under the wing of two of the chemists, and before long finds a new passion. Many of the people who come into their life in the city are extremely colorful characters, who enrich not only their lives, but also the lives of the small farm community members when Albert and Ken eventually persuade them to visit back home.
Eventually, the city and country are brought together in a heartwarming ending, and prejudices between the two disappear, as love proves to be stronger than any differences they may share. As difficult a situation as it is, Ken’s mother and father come to a place that is best for his welfare, and the love of new friends and family help everyone heal. Faith, hope and love . . . the ingredients for a great “feel good” novel.