Thursday, August 2, 2012
Wish You Were Here
The book brought up a lot of discussion about family vacations, of course, and the dynamics of family members spending a week together. I have happy memories of Lake Chautauqua, so I found the story kind of sad and depressing. Not one of these characters is very happy, and I found it sad that it is as Margaret is driving away from the cottage on her way home that she says "It was strange how she felt, away from them, as if she were realizing only now what they meant to her." There is a sense of nostalgia throughout the book, as they all seem kind of lost without Henry, and you wonder how much Henry held them all together. Some of the most poignant passages are Arlene's memories of her childhood summers at the cottage with her brother Henry, and Emily's remembrances of her honeymoon when the family takes a day trip to Niagara Falls. At the end of our discussion someone asked, "Even though we didn't like most of the characters in the book did you think they were realistic, do you know people like this" to which everyone wholeheartedly agreed they did.
Our group always likes to discuss the significance of the title. Some people thought it referred to Henry, and his absence, and wishing he were there. Others thought (including me) it was like the postcard message, "Wish You Were Here."
I don't think it is O'Nan's best book, but I enjoyed re-reading it, if only for the Chautauqua connection.