intellectual vanities… about close to everything

Michael Cunningham – A Home at the End of the World

with 2 comments

“I realized that if I died soon I would have known this, a connection with my life, its errors and cockeyed successes. . . . I would not die unfulfilled because I’d been here, right here and nowhere else.”

homeend.jpgThe book’s main characters, chapter by chapter, each separately, tell us a part of the whole story.

Bobby, Jonathan, Clare and Alice – are all searching for meaning in their lifes. Bobby and Jonathan grow up in Cleveland in the 60s and 70s, the complicated children of complicated parents. They become friends in junior high and embark on an unusual friendship (Jonathan is gay, and while he and Bobby have a semi-sexual relationship, Bobby’s sexuality remains ambiguous). After graduation, Jonathan heads to New York City, and Bobby remains behind, eventually moving in with Alice and Ned, Jonathan’s parents, when his own childhood home burns down.

Later, in the New York City of the 1980s, Clare and Jonathan are roommates, half in love and half seriously talking about having a baby together. When Alice and Ned move to Arizona, Bobby moves to NYC, and the three form a sort of love triangle: Bobby and Clare have a child, though the three decide to raise the child together as one family. Every one of them is someway in love with the other two, and they each depend quite strongly on both of the other two to help them find themselves in the world.

Alice’s narrative comes as a surprise in the story, which begins with chapters alternating in Bobby’s and Jonathan’s voices. But Alice’s voice is an important addition to the text; she is a wife and mother, fighting with both roles and searching for meaning in her adult life as much as the boys are in quest for meaning theirs.

Also, the character of Bobby is, at times, inscrutable, at times he seems almost dumb, a bit slow to catch on, but in his own narrative, the reader can feel there is so much more behind that quiet exterior. His tale refutes the alleged speechlessness of the character in real life. This break of logic can be frustrating, but it also helps make Bobby more real, and most of all loveable.

This book does not read like great literature. But it’s characters are compelling and mysterious, confusing and understandable – normal, messed up human beings, just like us all.

Sometimes I fall for a text, due to it’s masterly structure and rich language, while thoroughly hating it’s characters. With this book it is different. The text isn’t something, but I am clearly in love with Bobby, Jonathan, Clare, Erich, Alice, Ned and all the others. It hurts to see them part in the end, despite them finally finding what they have so painfully been looking for.


Written by huehueteotl

March 16, 2007 at 11:56 pm

2 Responses

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  1. But didn’t you find the prose heartwrenching at times? I’ve read all Cunningham’s novels, and they have never failed to hold passages that force me to stop and just dwell for a moment. I found his voice, or style, to be very similar to Woolf’s, and was delighted when I first heard he was writing, The Hours. I think he is one of the few that could have. By the way, everyone I know disagrees, but the film version of, A Home at the End of the World, is abysmal, despite Spacek’s best efforts…


    March 17, 2007 at 12:26 am

  2. Hey, thx for your comment. It is the first thing by M.C. that I did
    read. I was no fan of the “Hours” movie and hence felt reluctant to
    read him. You are right. I did not mean to say his prose were crappy.
    Yet, as I said, I tend to love his characters more than his language.
    V.W. would be an excellent example for the opposite. *smile


    March 18, 2007 at 6:04 pm

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