My Book World
Having loved Haslett’s previous work (luuvved Union Atlantic), I jumped in with all limbs once again, and I was not disappointed. In this novel, an American woman meets a British man, they marry, and settle down for a time in London. All three of their children are born there but wind up being raised in New England, where the mother is from. The father is apparently normal (wife gets one big hint he is not just prior to the wedding, but she does not change her plans) until he is not—first losing his career and then sinking into a deep depression. He’s a kind man, a good husband and father, but he wanders into the woods and kills himself. One no longer has to imagine him gone. The title become a multifaceted jewel in which each member (as the first-person POV indicates) can imagine such a thing for themselves.
Another great feature of the novel is that Haslett passes the narration around from family member to family member, thus lighting every corner of this household (the first person is subjective and messy, but that may be Haslett’s intent). Michael is the eldest child, a brilliant person, who, in one chapter writes letters to his aunt about their transatlantic voyage from America to England, letters parodying perhaps the writing of Oscar Wilde; they are that hilarious. The facts are all there, but he is letting the reader know this is how he expresses himself best—at a sardonic slant. Celia may be the most sensible and peacemaking of the three siblings, winds up being a shrink. Alec, the youngest, finally comes out as gay. I like that his story does not take over the novel, that it is just one of five narratives, yet it is handled as sensitively and fully as the others.
The dynamic that sets the tone for this family is how everyone deals with Michael, who has difficulty establishing himself in a career, is always in debt and dependent on his family for help—a family that through the very end is willing to sacrifice everything to save him. Michael is an ultrasensitive person, feeling the hurts of the world yet a bit deaf to the needs of his family. His character is the one who determines the lives of the other four: his actions, his failures, his medical complications, his addictions. The tragic ending is both expected and not. Michael is obviously on a downward spiral, but one hopes, as do all his family, that he will pull out of the dive before it’s too late.
NEXT FRIDAY: My Book World | TBD