Why Did I Read This?



I thought I should read something more literary before returning to the juvenile pleasures of George R.R. Martin, and so I tackled and finished Stewart O'Nan's Wish You Were Here, a 514 page account of the Maxwell family's last visit to their lake house in Chautauga, New York . . . the patriarch of the family has died and his wife Emily doesn't have the time, money, or patience to take care of their family vacation cottage, and her children aren't financially capable of taking over the deed . . . and so, in the span of a week, the novel shows all nine Maxwells-- who are definitely "lost souls" since Henry died, "swimming in the fish bowl" of the little cottage, as they literally run "over the same old ground" and find "the same old fears," and though a certain synopsis might sound exciting and full of conflict: let's stuff a failed artist, a recently divorced, often stoned recovering alcoholic mom, her hot and boy-crazy teenage daughter, a frustrated photographer, his shy teenage daughter who has an incestuous lesbian crush on her cousin, a kleptomaniac kid, a wacky retired teacher, and a cranky widow in a small space, and throw a ominous kidnapping into the background . . . but the reality that O'Nan is trying to capture is different . . . everyone is on good behavior and overwhelmed by nostalgia and essentially lost in their own heads and Lise sums up the theme: "She wondered what her life would look like in a book . . . now that was a depressing idea . . . she thought that her life was average and nothing to be ashamed of . . . the world wasn't as magical as people liked to believe . . . that was why they read books to escape it," but-- of course-- a book like this isn't an escape from reality, it's a portrait of it, and I am glad I am through with it and can return to a book where "wild men descend from the Mountains of the Moon to ravage the countryside" because it is getting near summer, after all, and soon enough I'll be living O'Nan's reality, so I'm not sure why I forced myself to read about it.


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