Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A HOME AT THE END OF THE WORLD by Michael Cunningham

How do you have a love triangle of two men and a woman when all three are supposed to be gay?  Bobby is sort of asexual, actually, numbed by the accidental death of the older brother he worshipped, and Clare can hear her biological clock ticking.  That leaves Bobby's childhood friend Jonathan, who seems to be in love with both Bobby and Clare, but not in a sexual way.  They're sort of a tightly knit commune of three and do, in fact, eventually buy an old house near Woodstock, NY, in which to raise Clare and Bobby's daughter.  Cunningham is such a skilled writer that it doesn't matter if all the drama happens at the beginning (and the end) of the novel.  He makes it so easy for the reader to get caught up in the decisions these characters make regarding their unconventional relationships.  He's much too realistic, though, to imagine that a child can live with 3 parents without a split to occur sooner or later.   All three seems to be incapable of having a loving romantic relationship.  The author then adds Erich, Jonathan's lover, to the mix, as Bobby and Clare try to draw Erich into the fold, despite Jonathan's best efforts to keep that part of this life outside the "family."  I particularly liked the structure of the book.  Cunningham announces the narrator with each chapter heading, and the chapters are basically sequential, which each new narrator resuming where the last one left off.  I would venture that Jonathan is the main character, particularly since his mother is one of the narrators.  He feels that something is missing in his life, vanishes for a year, and struggles with the expectation that his life will truly begin at some point in the future.  One could perhaps conclude that Bobby, Clare, and Jonathan together make a whole (person? parent?), but I think not.  In the end, Cunningham reassembles the pieces into relationship units that have a better shot at survival.

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