November 4, 2011
The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore
2011 Regan Arthur Books
Finished on 9/20/11
Rating: 4.75/5 (Terrific!)
From the author’s website:
It's early summer when Ginny and William's peaceful life in Burlington, Vermont, comes to an abrupt halt. First, their daughter Lillian arrives, two children in tow, to escape her crumbling marriage. Next, their son Stephen and his pregnant wife Jane show up for a weekend visit, which extends indefinitely. When their youngest daughter Rachel appears, fleeing her difficult life in New York, Ginny and William find themselves consumed again by the chaos of parenthood—only this time around, their children are facing adult problems. By summer's end, the family gains new ideas of loyalty and responsibility, exposing the challenges of surviving the modern family. And the old adage, once a parent, always a parent, has never rung so true.
Anyone who’s been reading this blog for a few years must know by now that one of my guilty pleasure is women’s (or domestic) fiction. I find it so satisfying to read a passage that validates my thoughts and feelings, whether it be about marriage, parenthood, or grief. Narrated from multiple points-of-view, Meg Mitchell Moore’s debut novel is a hit! It’s the kind of novel I can’t wait to return to at the end of the day, but hate to read too quickly, especially since there’s no backlist of titles on which to catch-up. My book was full of marked passages and on several occasion, I found myself nodding my head in agreement.
On empty nesting:
In the moment, you were often too tired to enjoy watching your children turn into people. It was such a busy time, so demanding. There was always somebody with a science project due the next day, always a lesson or a practice to get to, always a meal to cook or a stray mitten to find.
And then suddenly everyone had cleared out, flung themselves into the big world, two of them to New York City, Lillian to Massachusetts, calling, sure, e-mailing often, even visiting, but they were gone, truly gone, replaced by the silence—beautiful and blessed, of course, but still, sometimes, she had to admit, strange and unnatural.
On adult children:
“I’m going up to get my stuff,” said Lillian. She leaned down. William thought it was to kiss the baby but instead she kissed him, a cool, unexpected whisper on his cheek that was over so quickly he barely had time to register it. He didn’t acknowledge it—he looked steadily down at Philip’s unblinking gaze—but he felt his heart lift slightly. It was funny, the way your adult children could both delight and annoy you in the very same ways that they had when they had been actual children. He wouldn’t have predicted that particular truth of parenting, thirty years ago.
While they talked, Ginny looked out at the lake and let her thoughts float and settle, trying to put her finger on what it was she was feeling, where this sense of peace and fulfillment was coming from. And while she couldn’t articulate it exactly, she thought that probably the presence of all of the people in her house—all these different creatures, with their hungers and their desires and their moods and their love—was allowing her to feel necessary, to feel loved and embraced again, in a way that she hadn’t realized she’d stopped feeling. Hadn’t realized she’d been missing.
Now suddenly it didn’t matter much to her why Lillian and Philip and Olivia and Stephen and Jane and Rachel were there. It didn’t matter how long they were going to stay. It only mattered that they were there.
On adult daughters:
“Bye, sweetie,” Lillian said to Olivia, who had her thumb in her mouth and did not look away from the television screen. To Ginny she said, “He’ll sleep the whole time, I’m sure of it.” She leaned into Ginny and hugged her, and Ginny had to work at not holding onto her too long, because after all it was delicious to have her daughter, however briefly, in her grasp.
“Why are you taking it so personally?”
She thought about that. Then she took a deep breath and touched her hair. She didn’t look directly at William when she answered, because she thought that if she did she might begin to cry.
“Because they’re my life’s work.”
He remained silent, watching her, listening.
“If they’re not happy—if they’re not capable of living on their own, and being happy—it means I’ve failed. I should take it personally.”
“Oh, Ginny.” He reached across the table and laid his hand on her cheek. She pressed it in closer.
“This is it,” she said. “I’m sixty-three years old. This is what I’ve done with my life. They’re my masterpiece, and they’re broken.”
Fans of Anna Quindlen, Marisa de los Santos, Lisa Genova, and Erica Bauermeister will not be disappointed with Moore’s perceptive and uplifting novel. I think it would make a marvelous book club read, especially one with multi-generational members.
Publishers Weekly says:
“Moore finds a crisp narrative in the morass of an overpacked household, and she keeps the proceedings moving with an assurance and outlook reminiscent of Laurie Colwin, evoking emotional universals with the simplest of observations, as in 'the peace you feel when you are awake in a house where children are sleeping.'”
There are so many joys in this book that I barely know where to begin. The story is such a real one for those of us with adult children.
There is no tragedy. There isn't a dysfunctional family. There are simply good, interesting characters who are all trying to find their ways at their own particular stages of life.
Some scenes in this book tore at my heart; others made my heart sing. I've always said that you never know when the phone rings or the back door opens what your children will bring home to you. Ginny and William get the phone calls and open the back door, and how the Owen family deals with the summer of their discontent made for an excellent reading experience.
I truly enjoyed reading The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore, and I took my time with it. Perhaps it wouldn't have meant so much to me had I not been the mother of a grown child. Perhaps it wouldn't have been so poignant and funny and satisfying if I hadn't recently returned from a vacation spot that I had visited with my late parents, that last time alone with them, just Mom and Dad and me. The Arrivals was a very good read, perfect for me.
I related to so many aspects of this novel and I have a feeling my mom would, as well. I wonder what my (non-reading) daughter would think!
I borrowed this book, but I plan to buy a copy for my permanent collection. The cover art for the hardcover is so lovely, but I’ll probably wait for the paperback. Isn’t the Australian cover art lovely, too?
And, yes. This is just a tad bit reminiscent of The Weird Sisters, although I enjoyed Moore’s quite a bit more. I like quirky characters, but only in small doses.
It looks like Meg's second novel is due out on May 29, 2012. It's called So Far Away. Here's the cover:
I like it!