Homing Instinct


278 pages
ISBN 0-00-223901-9
DDC C813'.54




Reviewed by Noreen Mitchell

Noreen Mitchell is a librarian with the Toronto Public Library.


Combining elements of various genres, this work is at once a mystery, a
family saga, and a romance novel. It concerns the upheaval that occurs
in the lives of James, a 58-year-old doctor, and his daughter, Augusta,
after the death of their neighbor, a distant cousin. Their large house
on a secluded and idyllic oceanfront property becomes a refuge to
James’s errant son, Singe (who is weakened by alcohol and bodily
neglect) and Singe’s beautiful young girlfriend, Liberty; to James’s
teenaged daughter, Casey (who is tired of their worldly wanderings and
is seeking stable family life); and to Leigh, a schoolgirl friend of
Augusta’s who is also James’s bride. Leigh, an anthropologist,
mounts a dig on the front lawn of the property after some human remains
are discovered there.

This book has a lot going for it: its characters, plot, and setting are
all interesting, and the beginning is especially strong dramatically.
But its overall success is weakened by implausible romantic couplings
and predictable outcomes more typical of genre writing than of literary
fiction. (James’s passion for Leigh turns to resentment, but he
eventually finds happiness with the more maternally inclined Liberty.)
The twists and surprises that do happen are striking because of the
inconsistencies in the characters’ behavior. Although the novel is not
remarkable for insightfulness or execution, it is, nonetheless,
competently written and serves as a satisfactory offering of light


Sparling, S.L., “Homing Instinct,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 19, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/6377.