walkitout (walkitout) wrote,
walkitout
walkitout

book group

Sunday was Not a Good Day. I was exhausted (should have noticed that sooner) and feeling very put upon. R. took Teddy to the grocery store to get food for the week and me a couple hours to myself. And came back with flowers (some very pretty pink and purple mums).

Today, child care showed up! Only for an hour and fifteen minutes, but I got a half hour on the treadmill (very slow, because I still have a head cold) and a shower. Nice! Teddy is eating and napping and pooping (he was constipated for a day, and up a good chunk of the night Saturday night, hence the exhaustion). So life is better.

While he was in the tub, I checked e-mail and there was something there to remind me that today was book group. I had not (duh) read the book, _The Memory Keepers' Daughter_, but be damned if I was going to miss it. So I read it while Teddy napped, and put on way too much Blues Clues to distract him while I finished the book, and read it on the treadmill, too. Got done about an hourish before R. got home, enough time to make dinner and eat it.

Well-written, believable characters -- pity I hated all of them! Well, not all. Phoebe, Robert and Al were all pretty cool people, actually. But they were all minor characters (altho the first is the title role, and not nearly as passive as the book's construction tended to make her). Short summary: bone doc takes wife to clinic to have her baby, but baby doc has ditched his car (snowstorm -- another, why did you bother to leave the house story, imo) so only a nurse attends. Unexpectedly, twins are born, a boy and a girl. The smaller, second baby, has Downs'. Papa delivers baby. Due to trauma from his own past (unmourned dead sister who had congenital heart problems but died much later), dad decides to spare his wife by _telling her the baby is stillborn_.!!!!! Gives daughter to nurse to take to a Home. She gets to the Home, doesn't like the place, and keeps the baby herself. Since this happens in 1964, she is part of the press to get a lot of disabilities out of the closet and decent support within the school system and so forth. Some deus ex machina stuff about the job she gets to make this all work out (live-in nurse).

Meanwhile, birth-mom is devastated but, sensibly, wants to mourn baby. Wants to see baby; husband says already buried. She arranges a service -- he, needless to say, is creeped out, but does not spill the beans, just tells her, repeatedly, in so many words, that she should get over it/be over it by now. In fact _he never spills the beans_. He _never ever ever tells her_. He tells a 16 year old pregnant girl he runs into back at the old farmhouse he grew up in and then brings home as part of his midlife crisis. But she doesn't tell anyone else. Sends money periodically. Oh, and becomes a complete workaholic and largely absent dad for the preschool years.

25 years later, mom and dad are divorced and he's dead. Son's grown up but distant. The nurse married a truck driver. The girl is working in a photocopy shop. When the truck driver has to retire because he drove his rig off the road, they all get to thinking about the future. The nurse decides to tell mom. Finds her just as she's closing up the family home, about to get married and move to Europe and travel the world (people do that in this novel -- this is the second woman in the novel to do this at midlife). Tells her her daughter isn't dead. Mom tells son. They both go to visit. There's a wedding (never mind). They realize the daughter doesn't need their pity, but they want to maintain the connection.

Now, I did not like the dad/doc who did this. On any level. I had _no_ sympathy, despite the author trying hard to get us to sympathize with/forgive him/understand him. I was pleased when mom burned some of his pictures and wish she'd kept going. He'd died unpunished; this was the least she could do. The book group did not concur. We had a nice conversation about secrets and how once you head down that path it's impossible to turn around. We discussed the past stigma of disabilities. We trotted out some of our own extended family skeletons for comparison purposes. Great discussion. Other people were sympathetic BUT didn't like him (or much of anyone else, either).

All that said: very well written, and operates quite well as a depiction of how self-imposed isolation can lead to truly nutty behavior, and How Not to Handle Unfortunate Life Events. Dad/doc is mourning his sister through the entire freaking book, and it's clear his mother's depression in the wake of having his sister devastated him as well. I know what he was trying to do -- he's a really well-drawn rescuer. But you just cannot walk away from your past and pretend it didn't exist. Can Not. It Does Not Work, because wherever you go, there you are. You can convince everyone else of the New You Sprung From Nowhere, but your past is there within you. Nor can you Save Those You Lost by saving others. And boy, did he try all of those.

I spent my first quarter century buying a load of shit about how my mom was a mean bitch because of her Hard Life. I spent a good chunk of that time, plus a bit more, believing that given the way men have been conditioned in our society, they should be cut a little slack for not being very good at relating to others or understanding themselves. R.'s life has not been a picnic, and he's got his own issues relating to others (he seems to have a great understanding of himself), mostly having to do with verbally expressing stuff. But he does not require these kinds of excuses. And honestly, I don't think anyone else deserves them, either. That's just enabling someone to hurt themselves and everyone around them for that much longer.

And yes, that's what I really think. ;-) When you hear me spouting some of my standard advice (have you talked to your friends about it? Your family? Someone you trust?), you have some inkling of what I think might help you: connection to those you love, and the sanity that comes from that connection.

Besides, if you talk a lot to a lot of closely connected people, you aren't very likely to keep these kinds of stupid secrets for an entire lifetime.
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