Ponti: A Novel by Sharlene Teo

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The distance between where she was and the glossy point where she wanted to be stretched and stretched. 

In Ponti, Szu lives in the shadow of her mother Amisa’s otherworldly beauty and small diminished fame. ” I marvel for a split second at the unfairness of genetics, mysterious spirlas of DNA coiling and cohering into life sentences: You will be plain. You will be beautiful. You will repulse mosquitoes. You will have an iron gut. You will be sickened by crabmeat.” Amisa’s career never took off with the promise her beauty once held. Having left her small village for bigger things, she works hard and falls in love with Wei Loong, they marry and she works full-time at the Paradise Theater until she is discovered by filmaker “visionary” Iskander Wiryanto. She has the perfect beauty, like a mask, exactly who he desires to play the Pontianak (folklore, a ghost of a woman who dies in childbirth and preys on men, in the form of pale beauty, long dark hair) in his films. We follow Amisa through the making of the film, witness to the ‘bloom of her ego’ even in the face of grief for her losses back home. Playing the Ponti takes it’s toll on her, the filmaker difficult, pushing her harder than she can stomach, not as enraptured by her sexually as all men are. Three films in, and her shining star dims, the movie becomes a cult classic, but of the times no one is interested in superstitions nor films about ghosts. The parts dry up, Wiryanto no longer needs his beautiful ghost and life with Wei Loong leads to just another part, of poor housewife. It isn’t long before she is pregnant with Szu, and feeling dreadfully close to her own mother and the life she trudged through. Amisa is more like a ponti now than a starlet. Wei Loong leaves before Szu turns 8, and then it is three, Szu, Amisa and Auntie Yunxi.

Aunt Yunxi and Amisa earn their living as fakes, mediums who ‘trade in hope’, milking the desperation of their clients. It’s necessary to con people for their survival, what with her tragic mother more a ghost of a woman, sleeping away her life. Szu is a misfit and completely friendless, until she befriends Circe. The two of them ‘citizens of nowhere’, feel unique, bonding over their discontent with the world. For Circe, the allure is Szu’s mother and mysterious aunt, even in their ugly home, there is a pull. Jump ahead to 2020, Circe’s team is going to be working on promotions for the new re-make of Ponti, hence “it feels like a can of Amisa-shaped worms has been opened.” The reader is dragged through time, guest to each character’s perspective. Szu, once seeming so bitter, strong, solid begins to fade, retreat into herself.  Something many female relationships wrestle with is the discomfort of familiarity, seeing too much of yourself in another. Sharlene Teo exposes this uncomfortable bond perfectly, there is a pull and push between Circe and Szu, a sort of marriage. They feel warm and cold toward each other, until Circe can’t stomach Szu, when Szu needs to be anchored most to the here and now! “She started wearing her hair in a bubble ponytail just like mine and mooched  about my house all day drinking gallons of diet coke and draping her sadness over my things.” It’s too much heavy sadness, Szu is dwindling, and she isn’t going down with her!  Circe wants to be young, fun, free and this friendship is suffocating, she needs to shake her off, shake off this stale depressive air. Circe of the present day isn’t sure she wants that Szu back in her life, and is surprised to hear of a Szu who turned out differently then she imagined.

Szu doesn’t really hate her mom, she hates that she wants her love and never gets it. That her mother was more a phantom through her entire childhood, never happy to play her part in her real life role. What is more melodramatic than a fallen star? Despising all the ordinary living that remains. How did Amisa, so beautiful, so alluring allow her promise to fizzle out? How could this woman, who as a young girl showed so much grit and courage by venturing into the city, the unknown to become something more, simply surrender? Auntie Yunxi is the bones of the household, maintaining the only structure in Szu’s life. But she is a mysteriously strange woman herself, and where is Szu’s father? Is she right in blaming her mother, for chasing him away being like a Ponti, a threat to his happiness? When he makes an appearance again, after life turns tragic, he has some truths to unveil.

This novel is disquieting, because the real ghost here is grief, blindness, and starry eyes. It’s about the whims of fate, beauty isn’t always a promise of anything solid either, you can’t bank solely on dreams nor a face. It’s giving up and closing your eyes to what you have, haunting your own future and destroying those nearest you in the process. It’s a child trapped by her mother’s shadow, who sees nothing but disappointment reflected back at her, a girl who hungers for the love she will be denied even from the grave. It’s clinging to another person for dear life, because they are a sort of stand in for the mother/daughter bond. Circe and Szu represent that awkward hunger girls have for connection, and how easily it can turn monstrous and all you want is your freedom. The Ponti in this story isn’t so much about the folkloric ghost, the more terrifying creature is Amisa, and what she allows her disappointments to do to her future.  She was so sure her beauty signled her out for more, made her special and she simply retreated from life when it knocked her back to earth. Szu follows in her footsteps for a breath of time, devoured by her own form of grief, like a disease. I found this to be terribly sad, heavy to carry.

I admit I was disappointed by the ending. I felt the story was a gathering storm, waiting for a climactic moment (big things do happen throughout, in their own unassuming way, with death) but I was waiting to be a part of Circe and Szu’s reunion, which was more hinted at. It never culminates. The writing is gorgeous, it’s an emotional upheaval which is strange considering there is a great distance between all the characters. There is an air of detached coldness, but it seems more a defense, Szu isn’t as strong as she seems. Her anger is a wall. Maybe it’s true that grief  ‘makes ghosts of us’ and that is part of why Amisa is more a suggestion of a mother, having lost someone dear to her early on. I am mixed on the novel, this is a talented writer but again I kept waiting for the big ending. Despite the aforementioned issues, the novel itself is beautifully written.  Circe is haunted by the past friendship, and years later carries the burden of her reaction to Szu as she began falling apart. It’s a complicated look at friendship, unwanted motherhood, dead dreams  and the terrible ways we allow certain moments to define our lives, for better or worse.

Sharlene Teo is one to watch. I am wildly curious what her next novel will be about.

Released Today! September 4, 2018

Simon & Schuster

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How We Remember by J.M. Monaco

 

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Unlike Dave, in my younger years I grew up with a sense of my position in the world that was closely aligned with my mother’s. I accepted that I should never expect any sense of entitlement to anything.  I continued to live out the expectations required of the good girl who never fussed. I ate that soggy McDonald’s burger without complaining and said thank you very much for the privilege.

Now an academic living in North London, Jo returns home after her mother’s death, surprised that her mother saved enough money for an inheritance. Her mother who expected nothing from life, a mother who often disappointed her still had a few surprises it seems. Once her marriage was over, she took on the role of single motherhood, becoming a nurse. Jo’s childhood was mostly a lesson in spirit breaking, the same dreary life she escaped by beating the odds with her education, a mysterious turn of luck in the universe that led her to university in England earning her ‘fancy pants’ degree,  love with Jon, and a great career. It is a far cry from her childhood with a brother who took and took from her in between disappearing acts, now an adult and still just as lost, unstable and pulling at her with his needs. The early days when her parents were still together and tension was thick as the smoke from her mother’s cigarettes, the way she only felt the love and comfort of a real family when she was at her friend Beth’s, sharing their meals and easy affection. Then there was the big shame between Jo and her uncle as she became a teenager, a seduction in which she felt somewhat complicit, as girls often do, a hushed up incident buried in the bowels of her dysfunctional family, to keep peace between her mother and her aunt, despite the cost to Jo. Her parents own wildly chaotic, broken marriage isn’t something she wanted to mirror but Jo isn’t immune to relationship woes. Now, she has her mother’s diary and the incident feels fresh, her mother’s sorrow about the strain it caused with her family and proof that her mother knew exactly what her uncle was! That she believed Jo.

Jo is battling severe health issues far worse than her inability to conceive a child or carry it to term, and coming home is only opening old wounds on top of current troubles in her own marriage. There is a student, someone she fell for, and it’s all coming back to bite her. The trouble may cost her more than her job, if Jon finds out everything may come crashing down! Dave is adamant that the money from their mother should go to him, to help him in his latest scheme to make something of himself with a business! Jo already has everything (as if she hadn’t worked hard for it, saved) so why not give him a leg up for once? Why must he Dave always think he is entitled to things without working for them? There is a struggle, she has enough to fight against on her own than to deal with her brother’s outbursts, surely it’d be easier just to give him the money, despite her lack of faith it will do him a bit of good. Her father refuses to budge, knowing his ex-wife was adamant in how she wanted the money dispersed before dying of cancer. Her father is mentally declining, but the last thing she wants with her own illness is to be tied to caring for the man who never showed up for his kids, nor his ex-wife. Maybe she won’t have to, maybe her father has his own shocking surprise too.

This story does feel like a sad memoir about deeply flawed, lost people. No one gets fixed, there are no rainbows nor happy endings. Sometimes damaged people just continue their entire life falling apart and are too stubborn or helpless to change. Is the dysfunction so deeply rooted that there is no hope, or is it simply a case of turning over and playing dead, a constant victim of circumstances? It’s hard to say. Each character seems to have done terrible stuff that needs forgiving, Jo included when it comes to her own husband Jon. Maybe some people just have to be accepted as the mess they are.

Publication Date: September 13, 2018

RedDoor Publishing

 

Tell Me You’re Mine: A Novel by Elisabeth Norebäck

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Her right ear looks like Daniel’s and Maria’s. Elf ears. It’s genetic. 

Stella Widstrand was on a family vacation in a secluded cabin by the sea so long ago, when her baby daughter disappeared, thought to have drowned. All that remains, her  red stroller, turned over in the sand, but could the sea have truly taken her daughter, whose body was never found? One fatal mistake, one walk and it was all over for Stella and Daniel, the blame all hers to bear.

Now Stella has Henrik and Milo, a happy life despite her terrible grief. It’s better to leave that tragedy in the past, where it belongs. Psychotherapy once saved her, pulled her out of the abyss, inspiring her to help others, studying psychology herself. She was good at it, her job, until now. A handwritten letter, a threat or warning is turning her life upside down. It could be the one hostile patient from her past or it could be Isabella, the woman whom she recommends group therapy to and believes could be her dead daughter, Alice. Her child whose body was never found, Alice who could have been taken!It isn’t just grief, making her see something familiar in the stranger, it is possible, she never believed her to be dead, she isn’t losing her mind!

Isabella is damaged, raised by an overbearing mother (Kerstin) who feels her child is slipping away, living in Stockholm, engaging in therapy that she doesn’t trust. Private thoughts should be kept private, she’s of the keep yourself to yourself generation. Her daughter is fragile and should be home where Kerstin doesn’t have to worry about her, can guide her, care for her. Her father, Hans passed away recently, and she’s had a hard time with it, she needs her mother! Why don’t people understand this? Isabella is seeing her caring mother in a different light due to the therapy sessions, questioning things in her life, even her father’s death. Things no longer make sense, therapy is opening her eyes but to what? She wants control of her life and her emotions, but why is that a threat to Kerstin.

Stella is getting too close to her patient, Henrik doesn’t like it a bit, knowing how vulernable his wife his to her past tragedy. Is this all just hysteria, is she projecting on the young patient? It’s impossible, irrational, Henrik doesn’t believe her, worries over her, could she be sick again? Stella is slipping, breaking but she is going to find out if Isabella is her Alice, at any cost.

This was engaging and strange at times, one of those stories about a mother’s worst fears coming true, though what follows seems more than a little impossible. Then again life is stranger than fiction at times too. It was good but not as thrilling as I had hoped, I think because I figured it out early on. It’s more a psychological drama about damaged people and I’ve read other novels with striking similarities but it was still enjoyable.

Publication Date: September 4, 2018

Penguin Group

G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Amidst This Fading Light by Rebecca Davis

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Time could do many things; soften the blow of misaligned teeth, erase a dead girl’s name and fade memories that ought to be forgotten.

One family moves into Germantown, the Picketts, treated with suspicion, disrupting the ways of the founding families. Following in the footsteps of his older brother Marlowe, Reggie buys the old weathered Himmel homeplace, but one Mrs. Honora Brow says to her audience, “Well, I’ll be. Didn’t you feel that chill?” The Brows have always held sway over the people of Germantown, known to be gifted in the art of ‘Prediction’. The woman who holds fast to her ‘gut feelings’ and it doesn’t bode well that the Picketts don’t hold her in high esteem, as do the rest of the townsfolk. Mrs. Picket is never wrong, how dare these inferior people doubt her? But no one could imagine the stink of tragedy clinging to the Picketts and how it would change the entire town.

This is a brutal tale of the ways in which life picks at people, like vultures. It is about what remains to be salvaged in the wreckage, and the ways in which we are tied. Taking place in the Piedmont region of North Carolina during the Great Depression, choices to be made, actions that horrify our sensibilities today were a reality that had to be confronted. The sorrow begins in Chapter 1, with the passing of a child and a large black pot. A people made of stronger stuff, in a time that snuffed you out with any sign of weakness in character.

Quince isn’t the boy Reggie hoped for, he feels robbed of strapping sons to help work the land and carry on the Pickett name and he never let’s Quince forget it. The slight, dreamy boy gets under his father’s skin while his wife Helen knows the boy is of a tender nature, but Reggie must toughen the boy, and it goes back to his own father, “There was nothing more destructive than his father’s displeasure.” And so the cycle continues. His uncle Marlowe is more successful with the right sort of boys, strong, helpful. Everything is much easier for him, and it eats at Reggie to compare their lives, to know his son could never live up to his inheritance, not like Marlowe’s boys. Years pass, Marlowe has plans, banking on Quince’s tragedy, always wanting something from him. The vile, heartless decision just to make money is enough to turn anyone’s stomach. The horrors never seem to want to release Quince, not even with the gentle touch of love to ground him to the present.

Lela is new to town and quickly befriended by young Louise Pickett, but she can’t help but notice her quiet brother, Quince. So begins their relationship that takes them through blinding grief, deep abiding love, the shaky years of college and the uncertain future that waits for them.  The Picketts come to define Germantown, not necessarily for the better. Something about other people’s tragedy makes those close to it think they own it. Neighbors are often too near, judging as Honora does from the start, setting the Picketts up with her smug, superior ‘facts’ about that chillingly odd brood, and yet on the flip side of the coin you have Lela’s family and their unwavering support. A tale about the whims of fate from illnesses, war, abuse, birth, love and everything in between.

It’s a heavy read, sometimes you really need to light that match and burn down the painful reminders of your past to ash.

Publication Date: August 28, 2018

Southern Fried Karma

The Last Laugh of Edouard Bresson by Amélie Antoine, Maren Baudet-Lackner (Translator)

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He’s going to vanish when people least expect it. He’s going to disappear right under their noses.

So many comedians use humor to cope with disastrous childhoods or difficult lives. There isn’t any reason to assume those who make us laugh are always happy themselves. In The Last Laugh of Édouard Bresson, famed, unrivaled and beloved French comic Édouard Bresson decides to pull the biggest joke of all, to vanish, only no one will really be left laughing. Despite his popularity and love amongst fans, to his ex-wife and son he is a distant star, bright in brilliance but impossible to touch. He is a hero to his brother Jonathan, the true reason for the birth of his gift of laughter to the world. It is the most heart-breaking and tender part of the novel, the accident that befalls the brothers and the last damage.

Once Édouard Bresson decides to stop showing houses and strive for his dream, his career takes off but Magda and young son Arthur are always left behind with the empty space a husband and father is meant to occupy. While he is on month-long tours, time seems to pass quickly, but not for his small family left waiting for when or if he will ever return. When he is around, he pushes his son to forget about grades and throw himself into theater, whether he has a gift or yearning for the arts or not. There is nothing but no shows and disappointments between father and son, leading to the present day estrangement. Wife Magda learned to get used to his absence, to no longer miss him. The people who were meant to be the closest, most beloved to Édouard have been made strangers, by his own doing, wrapped in his all consuming need for perfection in his career. Marriage ends, Magda moves on.

It is his belief that not everyone can go back, he certainly isn’t one to naively believe in the much touted ‘it’s never to late to make things right’. His final act will shock the world, but it’s his last letter, instructions to a puzzle and treasure hunt for the son he loved dearly, but could never show up for. Arthur doesn’t have much enthusiasm for the quest. Despite yearning in his youth for his father’s love and attention, time proved he was never going to get it. There is a numbness inside of Arthur about the tragic turn of events, a treasure hunt feels ridiculously childish. All his memories are cold, proving only his father was indifferent towards him. But with the hunt, he will meet people and find out his father was a completely different man than the one he imagined, far more humble about his life than someone hungry for fame. Édouard Bresson’s childhood wasn’t full of the joy he later gave the world, living with a father who was a brute, unkind about his son’s flaw. There is so much more for him to learn and maybe it is a chance for him to forgive. But in the tenderness there is also bitterness. “My father has always had a gift for bringing out the worst, meanest version of me.” It comes to light that his father may have been there all along, behind the scenes.

It is a sad story but far more realistic than happy endings we often get. Disappearing was the only way he could become real to his son, but there is nothing funny about it. Lovely.

Publication Date: August 7, 2018

AmazonCrossing

How to Set Yourself on Fire: A Novel by Julia Dixon Evans

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The world is a wall of heavy noise. I want to take a big breath exactly as much as I want to stop breathing.

Sheila’s life isn’t full, she spends much of her time listening to Torrey, her neighbor Vinnie’s daughter, grow up through the walls of her apartment, working dead-end jobs with zero ambition, and dodging calls from her mother. Rosamund, her Grandmother, has just passed away and left behind a shoebox full of letters from one Harold C. Carr. A shoebox  her mother doesn’t know she has, letters she was meant to bury to honor Rosamund’s wishes. Sheila’s father is a distant memory, her mother nothing but a headache. With the sad truth that she was never close to her grandmother, the mysterious letters reveal a sad affair that began with her mother’s (a child at the time) destroyed beloved doll and the hard truth about the difficult life Rosamund couldn’t dare leave, not even for love. Sheila is consumed by her grandmother’s past, easier than dealing with her own painful childhood and the black hole where her father once stood. The lover’s letters aren’t the only missives she builds stories upon. There is the UPS man , Jesse Ramirez’s dropped personal letter that sits in a ziplock in her nightstand drawer. A letter she cherishes and cannot return to him, as she should. A line she memorized, a feeling she wishes someone felt about her, is like a drug that fills her lonely heart. The job was her last-ditch attempt at normalcy, her therapist gave her ‘mild’ meds. “I hated her for calling me mild.  I hated how she could posit to measure feelings on a chart, in a table, with a thermometer.”

When Vinnie and his daughter Torrey suffer a tragedy, Sheila slowly begins to befriend the young girl and it’s painfully and beautifully awkward. She is beyond rusty when it comes to people, relationships. Her grandmother’s affair saddens her, knowing the choice she made and how her life played out, that she is the legacy, a mess of a granddaughter, directionless, unable to anchor anywhere. Her family has issues with bonding, unable as a child to dare ask her mother where her father is, why he isn’t in their life any longer. Her mother always a bit cold, distant, unable to be the sort of mother we all hope for. Sad more for never really knowing her grandmother than about her passing, her mother trying to contain what she sees as her mother’s ‘shameful’ secret by not honoring her last request, unaware that through the letters Sheila knows everything. There is a moment in the novel when Sheila sees a picture, a favorite of her mother’s with her own parents, one that shows how much Sheila and her mother looked alike as children. She says “It almost hurts how much she looked like me. I want to be as different from her as possible and she wants to be as close to me as possible.” The lines are a gut punch, and hint at the damaged mother/daughter relationship. Nosing through her grandmother’s letters, she begins to understand her own mother’s relationship with her grandmother Rosamund.

Working temp jobs, she has a special gift for working even that system. She isn’t exactly respectable, in fact seems to struggle with being an adult altogether. Interacting with Vinnie after an accident involving his ex-wife, her tasteless questions expose her social ineptidue.She doesn’t mean to be so ridiculously clueless, such a mess.  I spent so much of this novel cringing from her behavior, which is why I loved it so much. It’s hard to relate to perfect characters, I have a weak spot for the wounded, for strays. I adore the relationship between she and Torrey. Torrey is happy to join the quest in finding out if Harold is still alive, if Rosamund’s letters to him still exist. Unlike other fiction, it stays in the realms of reality, where not everything turns out the way you expect it.

Through Torrey’s savvy, there could be a way to locate this Harold, but like Torrey tells her when she proposes the idea and Sheila isn’t ready, ” You’re weird. You do things weirdly.” Sheila is a strange bird, her inheritance is pretending everything is normal as the roof caves in. For me, the letter she cherishes that isn’t hers to hoard, that belongs to the UPS man, that is like a drug for her says more about her state of loneliness and need. It leads to a strange obsession that is important to the novel, yet not the entire center of it. It is through Torrey she starts to abandon her quiet life, begins to see the real problem lies within herself, even if her mother shoulders a fair amount of the blame. At what point do we move on and stop blaming others for who we have become?

Vinnie is important too, they begin a relationship too, minus strings and while he is mostly on the periphery of the story, he has his big moments, particularly toward the end. The most important relationships are between all the women. The bonds are imperfect, but there could be room for healing.

A moving story about a woman who is stunted, until her grandmother’s past affair and  precocious young neighbor inject life into her. Lovely.

 

Available Now

Dzanc Books

The Dependents by Katharine Dion

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No one couple had played a more important role in his and Maida’s lives than Ed and Gayle Donnelly.

The lingering question is, what didn’t he know? After Gene’s wife Maida unexpectedly dies days following complications from routine surgery his world is upended. He remembers an argument about knowing, what is useful to know and what isn’t. In relation to death, it would only increase fear, change nothing but Maida, being more logical, preferred to know. Strange a year later she’d be dead. He picks at their past like an infected wound. Was she happy? He had never asked her about the ‘tucked-away life’ that is usually ‘secret even to oneself most of the time’, and also kept things from her.

Their dear friends Ed and Gayle are trying to keep him afloat in the waves of his grief, loss. But there is a story that makes him realize that the life they shared for so long had stories that he was never a part of, stories new to his old ears. How could that be? How could there be unknowable parts of Maida’s life never shared with him, her husband? An interesting line Gene says, “We exist without them, you know?” They do, but differently. Could his wife and Ed have been in love? Then there is his child Dary, who couldn’t be any more different from Gene if she tried. She is trying to be present for her father after the shocking loss of her mother, but it’s obvious from the start that her life is far more liberal than he can stomach. There is an ocean of distance within their relationship. Maybe he has oppressed her, does it in small doses with his unfiltered comments and questions. Strange to have a child so different from you, a child who was more her mother’s in some ways. Maybe her irritation, hurt, anger is tied in some way to never expecting to lose her mother, the parent she always chose. Their relationship has been strained from the start but it was during college he believes the real loss occurred. What happened? He doesn’t truly know his daughter’s inner life, which is interesting to note he is wondering if what he knew about the ‘internal life’ of his own wife and their marriage is genuine. How much changes, within in own hearts, if the big things in our lives are other than what we believed? Does love feel any different, is it diminished, in the end, does it alter if someone loved less? More?

It’s a sort of torture to live backwards, to try to come to knowledge when your beloved is no longer there to ask, confirm or deny whatever it is one is torturing themselves over. It’s also just as painful to try to change a relationship with your child when your wife is no longer there and you feel like a stand in. He is missing so much about Dary, when she is right is right there, as far from him as his dead wife. There is a cowardice in routine with our loved ones, in not risking breaking out of our set character.

Then there is Adele, hired to help him out so Dary can get back to her ‘self-serving’ life. He has always been sore about her having a donor to have her child Annie. Is it because  it hurts him to think his daughter feels a father is ‘arbitrary’ and therefore, it means he didn’t matter to Dary either? Is Adele another chance to belong to someone again, so he won’t be drifting forever, someone who will touch him, be his constant companion as Maida once was.

Grief occupies more than it’s share of space in this novel. If Gene doesn’t understand the heart of women, particularly those he should be closest too, it’s more that he doesn’t really understand himself. His life feels like a blink, everything happened so fast, unexpectedly. Often the reality of life, of children, is nothing like you envisioned. Having a child who upsets everything he feels is solid and moral about the world, loving a woman who may have only shown her core to another,  even if there was nothing sexual, this was not the life he thought he would own.  Illness that steals in, he isn’t really ready, but we never are. He spends a lot of time torturing himself, wondering if he was conspired against by his wife and best friend Ed, his entire life! If his child is just another betrayal. I don’t know that Gene ever gets the answers, maybe being blind to the serious stuff is how he prefered to live. Why didn’t he ever have these deep conversations, aiming loaded pressing questions her way? Maybe there was nothing to hide, and it’s just his own mind eating itself. God willing this won’t be old age for all of us, wondering what was real, true. I have to say, at least for men my father’s age, I think in many families women have always carried the relationships and the many men would be unsure of their footing if their wife died first (in relation to the children, fully grown or not). I don’t know if it’s generational, and I don’t mean to discredit men and say they aren’t close to their children, but in many cases it’s mostly been on a woman’s shoulders to reach the depths of their children’s core, to understand and track their inner-life. Men sometimes find themselves lost at sea, whether relationships are close or strained, when they are widowed. Surely not true of every family now, but times were different when I was growing up. On top of losing his wife, he has to confront the reality that he and his daughter are strangers to each other.

A quiet, slow read about being forced to wake up in your own life, when your partner is no longer there to steer it.

Publication Date: June 19, 2018

Little, Brown and Company