Collision of Love and Family: NPR


You fall in love with someone, but you get a package deal. This is one of the big messages from two new novels that reflect on love and family, especially the family that puts pressure on you when you happen to marry one of their relatives or relatives.

Katherine Heine’s burgeoning new heroine, Early morning riserShe is a young second grade teacher named Jane who lives in Bowen City, Michigan. On the first page of the novel, Jane locked herself outside of her home, called a locksmith, ended up spending the night and, in the end, her life with him.

But the relationship is not without complications. This huge locksmith name is Duncan, and Jen thinks it “looks like Brawny’s tissue man.” But it turns out that Duncan has saved most of the women available in Bowen City. He’s still friendly with a lot of them, including his ex-wife, Agie, who remarried to a man who secured him a houseplant personality.

Duncan also works as a furniture restorer and employs an assistant named Jimmy Jellico, whom townspeople describe as “slow learning”. By the middle of this novel, Jimmy is permanently installed in Jane’s spare bedroom, Duncan, Aggie and her husband Houseplant organizing dinner parties. How does ejaculation calcify in a surrogate family – a family that is absolutely sure it wouldn’t have chosen it consciously?

Heiny writes in comically simple fashion about ordinary people who often are less than their best selves. Here, for example, Jane handles the ordeal of the parent-teacher meetings that she has to hold for an entire school day each semester:

All parents want to hear good things about their children, but sometimes you have to say bad things. If you say bad things too skillfully, parents won’t believe you. If you say the bad things with severe baldness, then parents are upset. They actually didn’t believe you very often anyway and then got upset either. It was more like an alcoholic’s intervention every twenty minutes for a full workday.

In addition to Early morning riser, Heine just wrote the preface to a remake of the 1978 classic Laurie Colwin, Happy all the time. (Quickly aside that, I’ll share the good news that all of Colwin’s 10 books are being re-released this year.) Both Colwin and Heine are routinely described – and I think, rightly so – as literary descendants of Jane Austen, sharing Austen’s comedic view of the world.

The humor in author Joan Silber’s award-winning new novel, Happiness secrets He is calmer, he is sad, not charming. Happiness secrets The conversation begins with a middle-aged gay lawyer named Ethan who recalls his childhood in Manhattan and how his father, who used to work in what he called the “rag trade,” often traveled on business trips to Asia.

Fast forward to the day Ethan and his mother and sister discover that the father has a second family. It turns out that the hostess at the Thai restaurant in Queens that they all want to go to for a private dinner is a woman that Ethan’s father brought from Thailand years ago, and together they have two teenage sons now.

You’d expect the bomb would make Ethan’s family reel and kinda: His mom, for example, goes for a year to Thailand on her own to teach English and backpack. But something else happens in this expansive and elegantly designed narrative: Silber begins delivering the story, chapter by chapter, to other narrators, including Ethan’s newly discovered half-siblings, the former sweetheart of one of those half-brothers, and the fickle former lover Ethan.

It’s not as if everyone knows each other, but they are connected in a cosmic way, almost like an extended horizontal family tree that can only be observed from space. And they all have such clever things to say about love – whether it’s Ethan cheating on romantic blindness or, as he put it, “the sunny mystery that love can arouse” or this question from a young acquaintance Nadia. “How do people make these tremendous bargains about what they decide to endure?” Asks Nadia.

The characters in Silber and Hayne’s novels alike count with the outcome of those colossal romantic deals, and not just about What or what They decide to put up with, but also Who is the All these other people, family and friends, are attached to the loved one. Inextricably, part of the overall package.

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