My rating: 5 of 5 stars
While a buttery smooth preamble serves to set this heartwarming anecdote of insensitivity, regret, remorse, and absolution into motion, Sharon Gunason Pottinger, its Scotland-born author, transports the reader to a war-torn Kandahar, Afghanistan where the latter makes the fictional acquaintance of both Alexander Sinclair—our leading man, an author, and a freelance journalist—and William Tallgrass Macdonald, a Pulitzer Prize worthy photographer and Alexander’s editor, as the pair of Frontline-like correspondents travel together on assignment abroad.
The two Scottish colleagues—Alexander, an aborigine of Caithness; and William, an indigene of Edinburgh—are communing, casually, about life back home in their respective nativities, wondering aloud what changes have occured over all the years of their individual absences from their families, and sharing their ideas of just how they plan to right many wrongs upon their returns. The men continue their bond of communication with William discussing Ahmad, a young Afghan
boy who has become utmost special to him, and whether or not he should take Ahmad back to Scotland with him when that time comes. But thoughout their dialogue, neither Alexander nor William can foresee an impending tragedy. The men are being driven along a dusty Afghan road, with William leaning from the window and focusing his camera lens to seize the perfect shot, when their vehicle suddenly rolls over a rigged landmine, exploding and killing William Tallgrass Macdonald instantly. Alex luckily survives the blast, suffering only a mild concussion and a brief stretch of deafness.
Finally going home, although in shock and under mournful circumstances, Alexander escorts William’s boxed remains back to Edinburgh, delivering them to those by whom he is survived: his stoic father Andrew, and his profoundly aggrieved stepmother, Plyllidia. The couple provide Alexander with free room and board—not to mention clean clothing—preceding William’s funeral. And in the wake of his dear friend’s eulogized burial, Alexander vacates the environs of Edinburgh only to direct his fleeing feet right back into those of Caithness, and to the home of the would’ve-been wife and daughter that he selfishly abandoned sixteen years before for the sake of his new “job assignments.”
Member of Parliament
Treaty of Perth
It is here in the lieutenancy area of Scotland, bounded to the south and west by Sutherland, that the literary script enters Heather and Lexie, the two most important women in the world to one Alexander Sinclair. Skipping out on Heather and their then three-year-old daughter, Lexie, all those years ago has plunged Alex into a cavernous ocean of regret. And in a penitent reflective mood—especially in the aftermath of his dear friend William’s death—the aging journalist has returned home to his geographical roots to make amends with his family, and to get it right this time if, perhaps, they would be willing to grant him a second chance. Nineteen-year-old Lexie is good and ready to receive her long-lost father back, willing to forgive him and to forget his egotistical iniquities, but her mum Heather? Not so much.
As weeks pass into months, Alex and Heather’s “reunion” is anything but happy as the volatile spitfire prefers to unleash her pent-up rage on the man who so effortlessly abandoned her and their daughter only to reappear as though he never had, even too nonchalantly. Alex desperately fancies repentance, however, after too long an absence as both a husband and a father, it’s just not going to be that easy. But is anything ever?
Poetically scribed and harmoniously structured by the evidently talented Sharon Gunason Pottinger, Returning: The Journey of Alexander Sinclair is 100 easy-going pages of pure astonishment. A serene, calm, lovely, and relaxing fiction, were the European-set novella a musical genre, it would indeed be that of extremely mellow Easy Listening.
Alexander Sinclair is one of those protagonists that the reader will either pity, hate, become annoyed by, or passionately love. And to my particular reader, every one of those emotions—especially that of love—applied. I especially loved this man more so. He is as much strong as he is weak. And despite his many ill-advised decisions, still, his compassionate and undying love for his family overrules. Unfortunately, the ghastly death of a good friend—right before his very eyes—is what it took to bring Alexander Sinclair back into the sphere of reality, and force him to the understanding that time waits for no one.
Not a single man or woman has ever gotten it just right, and not a single man or woman ever will. Mistakes will be made, that is why erasers exist. But the tenacity of this narrative’s leading man going out of way to correct his own is certain to galvanize the reader into an emotional reaction, even to the point of shedding a tear . . . or two.
To those readers who absolutely love the genres of Historical fiction and Cultural Heritage, I would avow that Returning: The Journey of Alexander Sinclair is for each and everyone of you a must-read.
Five Great Scott!—er, Great Scot!—stars.
• It is my kindly pleasure to thank Pottinger Publishing, as well as Sharon Gunason Pottinger herself, for the author-issued copy of Returning: The Journey of Alexander Sinclair in exchange for my honest review.
Analysis of “Returning: The Journey of Alexander Sinclair” by Sharon Gunason Pottinger is courtesy of Reviews by Cat Ellington: https://catellingtonblog.wordpress.com
Date of Review: Friday, January 12, 2018
• Note to the author: Sharon, reading your (well) written composition had brought to me nothing short of genuine enjoyment. And I humbly thank you for your loving gesture in gifting me with a personally signed copy of said effort in honor of Reviews by Cat Ellington.
I will forever bless that fateful day in July of 2017 when both my husband (Joseph Strickland) and you crossed paths for the very first time in our beloved Chicago. That fortunate day had brought upon itself a massive rain storm in which the two of you—along with a generous bunch of others—found yourselves stranded. I say ‘fortunate’ because had it not been for that major rain storm which had delayed all of your travels, Joe and you probably wouldn’t have ever met, and I would not have ever come to know of you by way of him. Therefore, I will forever bless that fateful day. Your warm spirit is what had attracted him to your conversation. And it was meant to be as he was soon made aware of your work as a novelist, and you were soon made aware of me and my work at RCE. Of course, one thing soon led to another and here we are. Now, that’s fate. Beautiful fate.
Though your primary residence be based in Scotland, respectively, Chicago is still your esteemed second city . . . literally. And of that, we are truly proud. Sharon, I want you to know that our family will always cherish this signed work of fiction that you have given us, even for generations. On that, you can most definitely count. Not only do I congratulate you on all of your fictional releases, but I also pray that God will continue to greatly bless you and yours through their circulation.
Reviews by Cat Ellington
• The official flag of Caithness—in association with this analysis—is featured courtesy of Reviews by Cat Ellington