I will admit, this is one of my favorite as a movie. I love a good miserable tragedy that ends with an unsatisfying whimper. I assure you, I’m not being sarcastic, I also really enjoyed it as a book. I picked this book up from the “FREE” bin at a second hand book store because, why not? Though–I rarely say this–I liked the movie better.
Don’t misunderstand. The book was decent. The disjointed tone was a lot like the movie. Though Conrad appears to be the focus of the book, you get into his father Cal’s perspective quite a bit. But I am doing this all wrong. Lets start at the beginning shall we? Conrad Jarrett comes from the decidedly upper middle class noveu riche country club family. He is returning home after his stay at a mental institution after a suicide attempt. As we follow Conrad’s painful journey back to his old pursuits we discover that Conrad’s older brother died during a boating accident while Conrad lived. Neither Cal nor Beth (Conrad’s mother) seem to know how to interact with him and what to do with him. Guest’s writing style is sparse and disjointed, but not in a negative way. Rather it is as though she is trying to capture the outward peace but inner turmoil and confusion of these people and their lives. Her description of Beth is particularly vivid in a cold sort of way.
This is a good “pass the time” sort of book, but not really a must read. I can see why it captured the imagination when it was written in the mid 1970s when we as a culture certainly liked to guard our private emotions and sorrows and were better able to. However, I am not sure how this novel stands the test of time. Would a teenager reading it today understand Conrad’s painful blame and self doubt that isn’t splashed all over twitter and instagram in a bid for attention? Would any adult reading this relate to the embarrassment Cal feels in seeking out a therapist to understand what is happening to his family? Who knows? If this book comes your way it is worth the time to read.