Stevie is small for his age, and looks more like a teenager than an adult. He shows up at a work site in Glasgow with a recommendation from similar work in London. His accent tells his Polish employer that he is a native Scot. He doesn’t say much, but he does extraordinarily good work. The employer doesn’t even mind him sleeping at the project site; it saves money for security guards.
But Stevie has a story, like we all do, and novelist and short story writer Rachel Seiffert tells that story in The Walk Home, published in 2014. It’s a sparingly written story, one that comes with an emotional wallop that grows throughout the story.
Stevie was born and raised in the Drumchapel area of Glasgow, a planned community for the poor and lower income people that is all that’s implied by its description. By the time Stevie is born in the early 1990s, Drumchapel has experienced an ongoing cycle of decline and rebirth. Stevie’s parent are Lindsey and Graham, who met in Ireland – and the politics of Ireland play a subdued but constant theme throughout the story. Drumchapel has its share of Orange Protestants, children and grandchildren of emigrants who left Ireland for Glasgow. Graham becomes quite experienced in playing the drums used in the annual march of the Orange lodges in Glasgow.
The chapters of the novel alternate between Grand and Lindsey’s relationship and Stevie’s story of working on the construction site. And what the reader graducally comes to understand is that the author is exploring the idea of family – what creates it, what describes it, how it lasts, and how it can be torn apart.
Seiffert has published a short story collection, Field Studies (2004), and three other novels: The Dark Room (2001), Afterwards (2007), and A Boy in Winter (2017). Her works have won a number of British and international literary awards. She was born in Oxford, and lived primarily there and Glasgow. She currently lives in London.
The Walk Home is a fine novel. The reader watches Stevie grow from a toddler to a young man, and sees how much of that growth is affected and shaped by his immediate and extended family. It’s not an easy story but it is an all-too-familiar story.
Top photograph: A view of Drumchapel, Glasgow, by AlasdairW via Wikimedia Commons. Used with permission.