I must admit that two things stood between me and a correct understanding of The Walk Home: the Scottish (which is rather hard to read if you’re not a native) and the thing about lodges, Orange March and bands. I did not realize that what I had seen on television from time to time – protestant men walking through Ulster provoking their catholic neighbours – was an item in Glasgow as well. Having grasped the concept of the lodges I understood why mother Brenda and daughter-in-law Lindsey were not keen on having Graham drumming in a band.
In The Walk Home Seiffert combines two story lines: Polish contractor Josef trying to get a job done and some years earlier Scottish Graham starting life with his young bride Lindsey in Dunchapel Glasgow. Their son Stevie is the combining factor: he is given a job by Josef. What matters in both story lines is people fighting to better their life, people making the same mistake over and over again, people not capable of understanding that life is about taking and giving. Though I sympathize with Lindsey for wanting to better her life, I feel pity for Graham who just cannot grasp living outside of Dunchapel. For Lindsey a better life must be lead in a better area, for Graham a better life is working hard as a contractor and sustaining his family even in hard times, being comfortable in the area you have lived in all of your life with your family and friends. Lindsey, having been left with her – I suspect abusing father – by her mother, cannot prevent herself from making the same choice: she leaves her young son Stevie with his father. She cannot break the pattern, just as her mother-in-law Brenda cannot change her pattern, just as Josef cannot change his pattern. The tragedy of The Walk Home is people recognizing that they are not handling things as they should but not being capable of doing it differently. They try to live their lives as good as possible, not grasping that change is possible.
I felt for Stevie who is torn between the people he loves, who is left to his own devices far too much (skipping school all the time) and who ends up making his mother’s choice: he leaves home. Having returned to Glasgow to work with the Polish contractor you sense that he is ready to return to his family. Seiffert leaves us though with his father staying at his grandparents accepting that he cannot force Stevie to come home. He is ready to welcome him with open arms however. The Walk Home is a beautifully written bleak story about love, failure and inability. I can certainly understand it being long listed for the Bailey’s Prize.