At the “Home Stretch” recognitions, Norton thanks “all the people who stayed in Ireland to fight for the modern and tolerant country it has become”.
At first, the book was meant to be about family reconciliation, but as it took shape, it also became about the transformation of a nation. “I realized that I was going to go back and see this new Ireland,” Norton said of his main character. “For a lot of people, it’s bittersweet. You enjoy it, but you think, ‘Wow, I could have been part of this change.’
His own reconciliation with Ireland, Norton said, was due in part to how his family’s neighbors stepped in to help when his father died.
“When I was a little kid and someone died and everyone would go to the house with beer and cake and sandwiches, I was like, ‘Leave them alone,’” he said. “But when I was older, I thought, ‘This is amazing.’ When they come, they don’t just bring sandwiches, but stories about your father, and you’re looking at a whole human being. “
“Home Stretch” is a different kind of book than the one I would have written when I was younger.
“If I had been writing books in my 20s, they would have been simplistic, cynical, tough and funny in a smart way,” Norton said. “Now that I’m telling stories in my 50s, there is more empathy and more willingness to understand how characters can do certain things.”
He is intrigued by the idea that a story can continue after the narrator closes the book. But he also likes a happy resolution, he said, and he wanted “Home Stretch” to end not with revenge or punishment, but with redemption.
“I thought, ‘This has to be about forgiveness,'” Norton said. “It’s the only way the story can end.”