Mother/daughter duo Charlie and Eva spent two and a half years crisscrossing the continent in their vintage Airstream trailer—and documenting it for all the world to see on their popular account Eva Explores. Instagram fame for a #vanlife influencer is fraught to say the least, but it’s when they settle down that things begin to unravel. And after Eva mysteriously disappears in the middle of Lake Superior, Charlie will stop at nothing to bring her daughter home. From the towering peaks of Glacier to the white sand of Dry Tortugas and, finally, a lakeside home on the North Shore of Minnesota, this suspenseful, action-packed adventure will sweep you away.
“For any parent, the most frightening nightmare is the disappearance of their child. In Nicole Baart’s extraordinary novel The Long Way Back, not only is a mother tortured by this terrible circumstance, but she also becomes a primary suspect. Baart writes with a poet’s eye for language and a storyteller’s gift for suspense. Readers already won over by Nicole Baart’s fine body of work will discover another sparkling gem, and new readers couldn’t find a better place to begin.” — William Kent Krueger, New York Times bestselling author of This Tender Land
“In Nicole Baart’s gripping new thriller The Long Way Back, a mother creates a perfect Instagram life for herself and her teenage daughter, traveling the country while chronicling their adventures for legions of fans. But despite doing everything right, never posting her daughter’s face and never identifying their location until they’ve moved on, things go horribly wrong. Timely and provocative, Baart’s marvelously relatable characters and gifted storytelling take the reader on a wild and unexpected ride. I loved this book!” — Karen Dionne, #1 internationally bestselling author of The Marsh King’s Daughter and The Wicked Sister
Nicole Baart recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest thriller, THE LONG WAY BACK.
Can you pinpoint a moment or incident that sparked the idea for this book?
I was standing waist-deep in the icy water of Lake Superior when the idea for The Long Way Back began to take form. I had never been to Duluth before, and over the course of a long weekend fell madly in love with both the city and the North Shore of Minnesota–I knew I had to write about it. At the time I was toying with the concept of a social media influencer whose daughter went missing, and from there all the pieces just started to fall into place.
A novel is such a major undertaking; there’s the writing of it, of course, then you’re spending months and months revising, polishing, and then promoting it. How did you know this was the book you wanted to spend the next couple of years on?
Honestly, I have never had more fun writing a book. The Long Way Back was an absolute delight to write–mostly because I got to revisit some of my favorite places in the country over the course of the novel. But I could also very clearly see the mystery aspect of the plot. Sometimes it’s difficult to work out all the kinks of a tightly plotted, suspenseful novel, but this one felt taut and believable from the very first word. Writing was an amazing experience. I hope I can capture that magic again.
Were there any particular books, movies, or songs that were knocking around in your head while you were writing this one?
I have a whole playlist for this book! Hold Back the River by James Bay and Old Pine by Ben Howard were on repeat while I wrote the traveling chapters, but I needed something darker after Eva disappeared on the page. Dark, heavy instrumentals provided the perfect backdrop when things started to get intense.
When you first created your protagonist for this book, did you see an empty space in crime lit that you wanted to fill? What can you share about the inspiration for that character?
My agent says that she’s never read anything quite like The Long Way Back and I love that. It is a really unique book with a pair of protagonists (mother and daughter Charlie and Eva) who wrestle mightily with each other, a mysterious dark force, and nature itself. I think they’re special because they’re so multifaceted. They become the unexpected heroes of their own story, not because they are seasoned cops or have been granted indomitable qualities, but because they love each other and the world around them fiercely. They have no other choice but to fight.
In addition to a great read, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?
I wrestled with lots of things as I was writing this book and I hope my readers do the same. One of the biggest and most obvious issues addressed is social media. Is it a force for good? Or is it ruining us all? I think we should carefully consider the way we consume all forms of media, and I hope that these questions niggle at readers throughout The Long Way Back. And, of course, as I highlight National Parks and stunning destinations all over our beautiful continent, I hope that people are inspired to get outside and enjoy the world around them!
What can you share about what you’re working on next?
I’m so excited about my next novel! It’s Stranger Things meets The Last Thing He Told me set on an isolated mountain in the Pacific Northwest. I lived for several years in British Columbia, and can’t wait to return to this setting for a spooky, sleep-with-the-lights-on thriller.
Nicole Baart is the author of eleven novels, including Everything We Didn’t Say and THE LONG WAY BACK. The cofounder of a nonprofit and mother of five, she lives in Iowa with her family.
To learn more about the author and her work, please visit her website.