Wish You Were Here
By Stewart O’Nan
(Grove Press, Paperback, 9780802139894, April 2003, 528pp.)
The Short of It:
A lovely, heartwarming story about love, loss and what it means to be a family. Easily, one of my favorite books ever.
The Rest of It:
I honestly don’t know why it’s taken me so long to write about this one. I read it so long ago, and yet there was a little piece of me that just wanted to let my mind wander this way and that after finishing it. It’s THAT kind of book. The kind you curl up with and linger over. I really didn’t want it to end. Ever.
But… it did. I wanted to cry when it ended. Not because the story is particularly sad but because I knew I was going to miss these characters dearly. And I do miss them.
After the death of her husband Henry, Emily Maxwell gathers the family for one last hurrah at the family’s cottage on Lake Chautauqua. The cottage has been sold and the task at hand is to enjoy one more pristine summer, and to decide who get’s what as far as its contents.
Gathered together are Emily’s son and daughter. Both of whom have their own families and are dealing with personal issues of their own, her sister-in-law, who also misses Henry dearly and Emily’s aging dog, Rufus. With the adults and kids all trying to get along and a daughter-in-law who doesn’t always see things Emily’s way, the week drags out until it’s inevitable conclusion.
O’Nan’s writing is somewhat magical in this story. He has a knack for taking everyday tasks and making them seem glorious. As this family’s week plays out, I often felt as if I was right there with them, cooking burgers or tubing at the lake. Anyone who has ever taken a family vacation will attest to the accuracy of everything in this novel. The sights and smells (think musty cabin, cluttered garage, sulphurous water) and the overall boredom of the children as the adults get to dictate what they do on any given day.
But tucked within the folds, you’ll find sadness and it will tug at your heart. How do you say goodbye to a place that holds so many memories? Things that bothered you before, like ant infestations, are suddenly precious in the way that lost things are. It’s impossible to fathom and through it all, you have the continuous ebb and flow of everything else around you.
Although long, I adored this book for its realistic depiction of family and although all of the characters had their quirks, I loved them and wanted the best for them and could not stop thinking about them after closing its cover.
The good thing? Is that there is a sequel to this book. Emily Alone continues on with Emily, as she lives alone and goes through the day-to-day of being… well…Emily. I can’t wait to visit her again!
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.