Painting by Laurel Derry Brandstetter, 2008
This wry, wise novel about coming to terms with conflicting family obligations in middle age also addresses the roles that pain and loss can play in awakening people, and in healing dysfunctional family patterns.
Told in the third person, the protagonist is Jules, the oldest of three offspring of an unhappy marriage between an outspoken, Narcissistic drama queen and her disillusioned physician husband. In spare prose, reminiscent of Hemmingway, each character is artfully developed to expose not only flaws and foibles, but the root causes thereof, giving the reader a rich appreciation of each person’s motivations.
The parents’ financial collapse and precipitous physical decline press upon Jules’s sense of duty and yearning to do the right thing, but also places her in a hot box between caring for her parents and fulfilling the needs of her teenage daughter and long-suffering husband.
Expertly written with restraint and irony, the reader is reminded that although we may have little control over life events, we are the lords of our own thoughts, decisions and behavior. When we choose to live our own truths and change old habits, we free not only ourselves but also other family members from unhelpful, static patterns. A deeply engaging book, filled with compassion. Wonderful!