This book really is two books within one. The first part is an exploration of white Australian culture and its enduring motifs including cars, masculinity and yobbo culture. Carey interrogates how those who don't fit into this might navigate the Australian way of life.
But these perceived struggles between masculinity and feminism, as well as yobbo culture and intellectualism are only part of any exploration into Australian culture. History tells us that Australian culture has been built over the top of the subjugation of Australian Aboriginal culture. Carey goes where few Australian authors have dared to go. Some possibly because of a belief that this aspect of the Australian experience isn't white Australian's story to tell and some probably because it is so far from our everyday experience that we are simply not capable of writing about it. As a result the second part of the story has a very different feel and pace to. However it is no less compelling for that.
Even though I found it inexplicable at times, if I let the writing wash over me, hang on and stay the ride, I discovered that I experienced an understanding at a much more elemental and emotional level rather than a logical intellectual one. This is Carey's genius; he is able to elicit this reaction in the reader. His ability to evoke the feel of the outback from the ever-present enveloping dust in the dry to the unrelenting mud in the wet probably had a lot to do with it.
In hindsight, Willie's status as the outsider in the first half of the book telegraphed his status as the centre of the story in its second half. The title of the book also provokes questions as to who is a long a way from home, where is home, whose home is it and how far do we have to travel to get there?
The book is sad, compelling and forces the reader to stare directly into the underbelly of white Australian history. It also shows us a culture that has survived despite its subjugation and draws for the reader everyday small acts of rebellion as well as suggesting big acts since colonisation that have largely gone ignored by white culture. I believe that this book will be remembered as one of Australia's great stories.