Monday, February 27, 2012

J.G.'s Review - The Gathering

It's not often that a book lies as heavily on my thoughts while I'm reading it as this one did.

Enright's tale of nine surviving siblings who have gathered for their brother's funeral, while still acting out against each other, resuming old battles and settling old scores, is searing. The novel focuses on Veronica, the "responsible sister," who bears up under her brother Liam's funeral details as best she can, while nearly-forgotten memories of childhood events come back to her, perhaps explaining Liam's suicide. At the same time, Veronica must face up to her failing marriage and her own near-collapse. All this while her dysfunctional adult family swirls around her, hardly a grown-up among them.

This family portrait shows that it's sometimes a near-miracle that we survive our families at all. And yet, even with such formative emotional marks against her, Veronica makes progress toward the kind of wholeness that adulthood is supposed to bring.

Enright writes very well, seamlessly moving her characters through space and time with a sure hand for tone and clarity. She is able to pull the bigger picture into focus with an economy of words that never draws attention to the technique itself.

All the same, while the craft is there, the subject matter is bleak and for me, not outweighed by the resolution. Truly, it's better not to have siblings, if having siblings is like this.

For more about this book, including an excerpt, please visit my blog, Hotchpot Cafe.

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