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The Book Commentary Review of Where the Heart Is: A Homecoming

“Norris is a master at creating indelible, fascinating imagery and inventing a world that feels real to readers. The writing is moving and lyrical, peppered with sparkling dialogues and compelling descriptions.”

Matthew Novak ~ The Book Commentary

Where the Heart Is: A Homecoming by D. L. Norris is an endearing tale that will ignite strong emotions in readers and lift their hearts with its satisfying denouement. The sudden death of Jenna Davis-Wilson’s father changes her life and the life of her family in ways Jenna could never have imagined. Jenna and Marcus decide to move back to the old family manor in Tilden, Nebraska, together with their two children — nine-year-old Ben and six-year-old Allie. While Jenna and her family are settling into their ancestral home, Jenna inadvertently unearths dark family secrets. Can Jenna reconcile with the past without destroying a treasured family relationship?

Written with grace and heart, this multifaceted story explores themes of family, parenthood, faith, and humanity. The female heroine must navigate a complex web to heal the legacy of her ancestry, find reconciliation, and build meaningful friendships. The characters are cleverly imagined and wonderfully written, each dealing with unique situations. Aunt Lee represents the older generations, and her views often contrast those held by younger characters in the story. The family dynamics are intelligently accomplished, and readers will enjoy following each thread of the story and deeper layers of the characters as they evolve. Norris is a master at creating indelible, fascinating imagery and inventing a world that feels real to readers. The writing is moving and lyrical, peppered with sparkling dialogues and compelling descriptions. Where the Heart Is: A Homecoming redefines the concept of home and shows readers how they can grow past their hurts and establishes strong bridges between their past and their present while connecting meaningfully with those around them. The idea of coming home is explored at different levels, and for Jenna, it is about dealing with what has been hidden, secrets, and changes she never anticipated. Her journey to recreating “home” from this place with memories that tug at her heart is extraordinarily beautiful. It is cleverly rendered, human-embracing, and poignant. You will hear the heartbeats of Norris’ characters and will fall in love with each one of them. 

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The Long Way Home, A Novel

“Norris writes with a lyrical pen, painting landscapes and intense emotional moments with easy grace.”

Self-Publishing Review

The Long Way Home is a compelling work of fiction set in 1950s Madison County, Nebraska.

At the heart of the story is Maggie Davis, a middle-aged widow and recent heiress to a grand Victorian manor. The stately home, which Maggie shares with her spirited nine-year-old daughter Jenna, also serves as a bed and breakfast to a once regular, but now transitory, clientele.

The kitchen table is the epicenter of lively, often contentious, dialogue where no topics are off-limits. An outspoken neighbor and routine visitor delights in keeping everyone on guard with her opinionated tirades but is frequently reined in by an elderly, equally forthright family member who has recently become a permanent dweller at the manor.

Maggie finds herself struggling with the painful memories of her husband’s tragic death, as well as the stirrings in her heart associated with a new house guest. A scandalous scheme to swindle her out of her property rides on the heels of a sudden, unexpected death, pointing to a member of the family as a suspect. Set against an intriguing backdrop of family secrets, scandal, and love, the story culminates with an emotional twist.

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Giving Back

At the end of the day, it’s not about what you possess or what you’ve achieved. It’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better. It’s about what you’ve given back.

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A New Day

“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day
with no mistakes in it yet?” 

Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

My daughters grew up following the whimsical adventures of Anne of Green Gables, with her memorable antics and quotable musings. A favorite saying was “tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet.” When either of them experienced a difficult day because of poor choices, the prospect of a new day and a clean slate was more than hopeful.

Regardless of circumstances, each of us needs to believe in a new and better tomorrow, along with the hope that great and wonderful things are possible. 

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Happy Birthday, Papa!

He will be 97 years old in a few days, my sweet papa. I miss him terribly—his dry sense of wit, his stoic Norwegian temperament, his way of making you feel loved without saying it. He left three years ago as quietly as he lived, and I’m forever grateful for the legacy he left behind. The short story that follows was written a few years ago as we painfully grappled with his diagnosis of dementia and the challenges that ensued. As a family, we learned so many valuable, heartwarming lessons during that time, and through it all, love graciously prevailed.

D. L. Norris

The gray corridor is long, and dimly lit. Empty bookshelves line the walls where volumes of life history once resided; fascinating stories of childhood, travel, talent, family. One by one the books have been removed from the shelves and cast into an irretrievable space.

He was born on Monday, March 15, 1926, at a time in American history when Calvin Coolidge was the President of the United States, when you could buy a new house for $7700 or rent one for $20 a month, buy a new car for $360, purchase gasoline for $.12 a gallon, and pick up a loaf of bread for $.09. A simpler time? Not according to stories told by my dad over the years. Life was difficult, and not for the faint of heart. He managed to live through the respective Dust Bowl and drought eras of the Midwest – and later survive a near fatal bout of Scarlet Fever and a kamikaze attack on his US Navy ship Goodhue in the Asiatic Pacific. He eventually made his way back to the states to meet and marry my mother – a blessed union that would last for 72 years. My sister and I made him a wonderful, long-suffering, patient, and caring father. Seriously. 

Dad. My hero, my safe place. My childhood memories of him are many, far too many to capture in this simple writing. I loved coming home from school and finding him in his upholstery shop – the old brown Zenith radio playing in the background, the steady hum of a sewing machine, the smell of wood varnish and paint thinner, and the delightful discovery of leftover scraps of fabric on the shop floor that were destined to become articles of clothing for my dolls. At the close of each evening, my last recollections before drifting off to sleep were of hearing my dad winding the old cuckoo clock and rechecking the front door lock. My, how safe and secure I had felt. I always knew where to find him, and there was little need to be anxious or afraid. 

Now, in his twilight years, there is a quiet, notorious thief that routinely creeps in and steals one precious memory at a time. I feel I may have lost sight of my dad for the first time, somewhere along the winding road of dementia. Strangely, he is content in his new world. He does not worry. He does not recall painful events or losses. He only lives in the here and now. A protective shell of no remembrance covers his mind. He is genuinely thankful for the trivial things; a comfortable chair, a warm blanket, a nourishing meal, simple conversation involving current events, a friendly voice, a gentle touch, and a handful of unsalted peanuts. 

For all the countless memories that have been stolen, there remains something untouched by this ravishing disease. His spirit. I catch glimpses of his kindness, loving ways, and gentleness. I see the smile that lights up his face and eyes – all poignant reminders that he is in there somewhere. My heart knows it. Occasionally he will ask me, “Have I always lived here?” Oh my. I take a deep breath. “No, sweet Papa. You have traveled the world, once upon a time. In your 93 years you have experienced a myriad of wonders. Why, the many stories of your life could easily fill volumes.”

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Courage to Believe

Hope insists, despite evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits if we have the courage to believe. 

D. L. Norris

In times of uncertainty, our hearts long for a return to normalcy and stability. We look for comforting signs that speak of consistency as we navigate through the unknowns.  Being a hopeful thinker about the future helps to build our resilience, giving us yet another tool for handling stress, change, and adversity.  

Personally, I have discovered immense joy in the signs of approaching spring (especially if winter has seemed long) —purple crocus, bright yellow forsythia, and the return of beautiful migrating birds. It doesn’t change the fact that we may be in the middle of a crisis, but it does remind us that there is still beauty all around us. For those of faith, it is a clear demonstration that someone higher than us is in control. Where will our hope take us? To a place of peace and calm if we allow. 

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Gentle Companion

In the early days following the death of my precious mother, my heart was crushed. Grief was excruciating, life-draining. There is little doubt in my mind that even with the assistance of a support group, I had lost my way. I know that some thought my grief was intense and, to a degree, unwarranted. Because of, unsolicited counsel was free flowing. In retrospect, I know now that no one can tell you how or how long to grieve. Grief will not simply go away in time.  

Five years have now gone by since she departed, and with this passage of time, my grief has changed. No longer do I view it as a mortal enemy, but rather a gentle companion. Slowly, grief released the torturous hold on my heart and graciously allowed me to bask in genuine joy. I will never forget my dear mother, never stop missing her. But I am learning to live without her.  

To those of you who may be in the initial stages of grief, my heart is with you. If you are so inclined, feel free to share your experiences either privately with me, or with our community of followers. I have learned valuable lessons extracted from my very personal experience with loss—and subsequent grief. 

In closing, be gentle with yourself. Give your heart the time it needs to grieve completely. Do not try to short-circuit the process of grief—it cannot, will not, be manipulated. Most importantly, believe that there will be joy again.  

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New Beginnings

The start of a new year is the perfect time to turn a new page, which is probably why so many people make New Year’s resolutions. The new year often feels like a fresh start and a great opportunity to change undesirable habits and establish new routines that will help you grow psychologically, emotionally, socially, physically, or intellectually. A good starting point is self-reflection. 

Honest self-reflection requires asking yourself questions about your values, assessing your strengths and failures, thinking about your perceptions and interactions with others, and imagining how you see your life in the future.  Ready for new beginnings?

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Where the Heart Is, A Homecoming Review

Where the Heart Is, A Homecoming is a beautifully written and emotionally resonant story that offers inspiration and hope without shying away from the real difficulties people face, for a moving and multilayered work of contemporary fiction.”


Heartwarming and thought-provoking, Where the Heart Is: A Homecoming by D.L. Norris is a novel in which love, parenthood, and family history intertwine, exploring the many-faceted legacy that new generations inherit from those who came before. 

When Jenna and Marcus learn from Aunt Lee that Jenna’s father has passed away, they decide to move back to the old family manor house in Tilden, Nebraska. It’s a new life for all of them – 9-year-old Ben learns to grieve for his beloved grandad with a new maturity, 6-year-old Allie discovers a different style of life by bonding with an Amish girl, and Aunt Lee’s narrow views are challenged by the family’s younger generations. 

Marcus and Jenna, with baby Landers on his way, are glad to rediscover the beauty of their birthplace, which awakens many golden memories. However, family history is never straightforward – while exploring the manor, Jenna stumbles upon her forebears’ secrets, which shake her to the bone. Will she and her loving family be able to dispel the manor’s darker side? 

With a pen both sweet and sharp, Norris writes a layered and absorbing story, offering the readers a vivid picture of Tilden and its thriving community, mostly descended from Scandinavian settlers. Far from being a purely sentimental portrait, Norris succeeds in bringing to the page light and darkness, hope and grief, humanity and prejudice, and the occasion to reflect on complex themes such as homophobia, racism, and the oppression of women. 

Imbued with a sense of the divine, the novel captures the conflict between old-fashioned views and the open-minded attitude of a new generation of believers, showing how the only way forward is to embrace the changes that will improve the future for everyone. Not only do Jenna and Marcus try to open Aunt Lee’s eyes on many issues, but their friend Leah confronts the patriarchal system in her Amish community, and Micah and Hanna fight against their parents’ reactionary mindset to build their own kind of happiness. 

Through each of the protagonists, the reader glimpses the bigger picture about these issues, and sees how hurtful biases from the past can still affect the present, illustrating how this is not a one-family struggle, but a hurtful clash that runs through society, and only by learning to be kind and respectful of everyone can the community flourish in the new century. It’s a vital and important message, and one that is woven well into the overall family drama. 

Where the Heart Is, A Homecoming is a beautifully written and emotionally resonant story that offers inspiration and hope without shying away from the real difficulties people face, for a moving and multilayered work of contemporary fiction.  ~ SPR

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A Holiday Bargain

Nothing ushers in the holiday season like a cozy fire, a cup of hot chocolate, and a good read. Now you can instantly download The Long Way Home, A Novel and Where the Heart Is, A Homecoming with the click of a button and for only $1.98 each. Enjoy a nostalgic, heartwarming journey back to a simpler time with these two captivating stories.

Retired educator Brenda Burke says of The Long Way Home, A Novel, “It was fantastic, and I look forward to more of the same. Craft of writing excellent and the characters jump off the page and enter one’s living room.” 

Readers’ Favorite Deborah Lloyd says of Where the Heart Is, A Homecoming, “A delightful and thought-provoking read!”

Happy reading and Merry Christmas!