Two Steps Onward by Graeme Simsion & Anne Buist, Review

Two Steps Onward is writing duo Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist’s moving sequel to their bestselling novel Two Steps Forward. Read my full review.

Two Steps Onward Synopsis

Three years after life got in the way of their long-distance relationship, Californian artist Zoe and English engineer Martin have an unexpected opportunity to reunite: a second chance to follow in the footsteps of pilgrims in Europe.

This time, they won’t be walking the famous Camino de Santiago to north-west Spain but the less-travelled Chemin d’Assise and Via Francigena to Rome, along the mountainous paths from rural France.

And rather than each setting off solo, they will accompany Zoe’s old friend Camille—who, despite her life-threatening illness, insists she will walk the whole sixteen hundred kilometres to seek an audience with the Pope—and her not-so-ex-husband, Gilbert, who sees the trip as a gourmet tour.

Then Bernhard, Martin’s young nemesis from the previous trek, shows up, along with Martin’s daughter, Sarah, who is having a quarter-life crisis and doesn’t exactly hit it off with Zoe…

Two Steps Onward is the wise, witty and wine-filled follow-up to Two Steps Forward, Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist’s bestselling novel about walking the Camino. It’s about helping the people you love, and knowing when to let go. Figuring out what you really want in life. And seizing your chances, before it’s too late.

(Text Publishing, June 2021)

Genre: Drama, Romance

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Two Steps Onward Review

My appreciation of fiction goes well beyond the story or its characters. I am drawn to and connect with particular writing styles, and Graeme Simsion’s ranks among my favourites. His trademark quick-witted and frank, but authentically earnest narrative voice shines in his latest release with partner Anne Buist, Two Steps Onward.

This novel is one of those rare sequels I will strongly recommend not reading as a standalone. To do so would be short-changing yourself. The contextual breadcrumbs and signposts duly offered by Simsion & Buist at this novel’s opening cannot replicate the depth, layering and nuance of Zoe and Martin’s mid-life awakenings depicted in Book 1, Two Steps Forward

With the early romantic spark and initial sizzle between our leads covered in the first novel, Two Steps Onward delves deeper into the complexities of maintaining relationships later in life. It’s about negotiating a path through familial ties, friendships and even career obligations that can split loyalties and divide our attention and focus. It’s about acknowledging the baggage we carry and making a conscious decision whether to continue carrying that for the remainder of the journey. It’s about interrogating our belief systems and patterns of behaviour, and truly understanding what we want and why. 

And, the less-travelled pilgrim’s walks of Chemin d’Assise and Via Francigena to Rome, are ripe not just with grapes and panoramic vistas, but with symbolism and opportunities to reflect in this vein also. The stories and the circumstances of the B&B owners in the less touristy (and typically less affluent areas) of this route added great poignancy and historical context to our modern-day pilgrim’s emotional journeys. 

Their walking party in Two Steps Onward is a sufficiently diverse character set (in life stage and experiences) to offer readers multiple compelling perspectives. And overtly so, the insightfully distinct mindsets of leads Zoe and Martin, depicted by Simsion & Buist’s alternating named narratives.

Who leads with the head and who with heart? Well, you will have to take this journey yourself to find out. What I will say is, Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist’s titles Two Steps Forward and Two Steps Onward, in companion, offer a highly moving and rewarding reading experience. May require tissues.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5

Get your copy of Two Steps Onward from:

Amazon Book Depository Booktopia AU OR listen to the audiobook FREE with Audible’s Trial (check eligibility)

More thoughtful drama & romance:
The Beautiful Fall by Hugh Breakey / Geraldine Verne’s Red Suitcase by Jane Riley / Restless Souls by Dan Sheehan / Faye, Faraway by Helen Fisher / The Moroccan Daughter by Deborah Rodriguez 

About the Authors, Graeme Simsion & Anne Buist

Graeme Simsion is the internationally bestselling author of The Rosie ProjectThe Rosie EffectThe Rosie Result and The Best of Adam Sharp. Anne Buist is the author of the psychological thrillers Medea’s CurseDangerous to KnowThis I Would Kill For and The Long Shadow, and Professor of Women’s Mental Health at the University of Melbourne. She lives with Graeme Simsion, co-author of Two Steps Forward and Two Steps Onward, in Melbourne, Australia.

This review counts toward my participation in the Aussie Author Challenge 2021.

* My receipt of a review copy from the publisher did not impact the expression of my honest opinions above.