Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Subplot makes me 'Happy'

I enjoyed “So Happy Together” by Maryann McFadden (ISBN 9781401301484) even though I didn’t especially like its lead character.

Claire Noble is in her mid 40s, ready to retire from her teaching position, marry a financially secure man who loves her and pursue her dreams of photography. Those plans are dashed when the daughter who left home returns to give birth, her parents’ health worsens and her fiancée makes no secret of the fact that he’s not exactly a family guy.

I might have mustered some sympathy for Noble had she not spent so much time and energy wondering when It would be “her” time. Stop being such a martyr, Claire. If you don’t want to or can’t help your family, just say that. Don’t lend a hand and then whine about how you have no time for yourself. Sheesh.

McFadden however spins a good yarn.

I was particularly drawn to Noble’s parents. Fanny and Joe have been married for 50 years, haunted by a remark overheard by chance.

The chronicling of their relationship was, for me, engrossing and insightful. What kind of love is it that sustains a couple through the inevitable disappointments of a 50-year marriage? Do Fanny and Joe have what it takes to divulge their secrets and move on to be happy together?

Much more interesting than the woe-is-me Claire.

P.S. I too was saddened to learn of the death of Frank McCourt. "Angela's Ashes" was a gripping tale of another time. The images of their life have stuck with me. Sending children as young as 3 - if my memory serves correctly - out all day with no adult supervision horrifies me! I often wondered how close my own grandparents upbringing in Ireland came to the situations he so eloquently described. I did not enjoy "Tis" as much and will have to put "Teacher Man" on my ever-growing list.

- Tricia Ambrose

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