November 16, 2019
Wish You Were Here
Wish You Were Here by Stewart O'Nan
2002 Grove Press
Finished on November 12, 2019
Rating: 3/5 (Good)
A year after the death of her husband, Henry, Emily Maxwell gathers her family by Lake Chautauqua in western New York for what will be their last vacation at their summer cottage. Joining her is her sister-in-law, who silently mourns both the sale of the lake house and a long-lost love. Emily's firebrand daughter, a recovering alcoholic recently separated from her husband, brings her children from Detroit. Emily's son, who has quit his job and mortgaged his future to pursue his art, comes accompanied by his children and his wife. Memories of past summers resurface, old rivalries flare up, and love is rekindled and born anew, resulting in a timeless novel by one of our most engaging storytellers.
Wish You Were Here is the first installment in O'Nan's Maxwell trilogy. I wouldn't normally read a series out of order, but I didn't know about this book when I read Emily, Alone several years ago. When I spotted Henry, Himself (the most recent book by O'Nan) on the shelf at the library, I was eager to read it since I loved Emily, Alone. I loved it, as well, so I decided to buy a copy of Wish You Were Here. I don't know why, since I rarely ever buy books anymore, but I was so sure it would be another winner. Well... it's probably a good thing that I didn't read this book when it was first published or I may not have gone on to read the other two. Not a lot happens in any of these books, as they are character studies of the Maxwell family, but this one left me wanting more. I was drawn in from the opening pages, but as I continued to read, I found myself bored with the characters' frustrations, jealousies and complaints. Emily and Henry are the stars of their respective books, but Wish You Were Here is told from all nine of the characters' points-of-view. Mundane details of a single week at the lakeside cottage are hardly riveting (as one reviewer claims), and I became frustrated with the multiple POVs, unable to keep track of which character (mainly the four children) was which. Yet, I couldn't quite give it up. Now knowing the backstory to the subsequent novels, I'm eager to reread Emily, Alone. If O'Nan decides to write another book about this family, I doubt I'll bother, that is unless it's told from Rufus' (the family dog) POV!