Tuesday, May 21, 2013

"The End of the Point," by Elizabeth Graver

When I first read a description of Elizabeth Graver’s novel “The End of the Point” (Harper, 2013), I thought it would be a typical novel about generations of a family at their summer house in New England. I am attracted to this genre of novel, but such novels are generally on the “beach read” end of the continuum, not highly literary, so those were my expectations going in to this novel. Then I read much praise of the novel -- one which fits the above description of a family with a summer house -- from some of the writers I follow on Facebook, so I became even more interested in reading it, and at the same time had higher expectations of it, literarily. It is in fact a serious novel about four generations of a family during the years of 1942-1999, and although it has some of the “family saga”/family drama aspects of the “beach novel,” it is sadder, more wistful, more tentative, more aware of depression and death in the midst of life, than such novels generally are. There are moments of beauty, of connection to the land and sea, and moments of historical insight. There is war, there is peace, there is drama, there is prosperity, there is illness and there is death. The characters are at times compelling, but more often seem remote, unknowable, perhaps largely because of the pain and depression several of them endure. Probably the best thing about the novel is the connections among the family members, even when they are torn by the events that separate them, or puzzle them about each other.

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