In this bittersweet tale of shrewd self defense, daughters must deal with illusive fatherly love, spouses must deal with the betrayal of their loved ones, and children must cope with the death of those that are most dear to them. In Fathers and Daughters, children suffer the consequences of their parents' mismatched and inequitable love, and mothers and fathers make selfish judgments about their lives and about their children.
Structured around the four seasons, Fathers and Daughters contains four beautifully written and loosely connected stories that explore the boundaries of love, betrayal, commitment, and forgiveness. Cautionary and intimate, author Benjamin Markovits uses the collegiate setting, the civilized veneer of academia to weave an absolutely lovely tale of domestic life, involving danger, of secrets kept and revealed, and of desire and it's unforeseen consequences.
Spring centers on Amy Bostik. Amy has just moved to New York from suburban New Jersey, a self-confessed "daddy's girl," she has just landed a job at a prestigious college and his anxious to make a good impression. Amy has also started dating Charles, a wealthy young lawyer at a prestigious firm in Manhattan, a gentleman of "aristocratic affability."
Amy is initially swept away be the young man's charm, but the arrival of her family for Thanksgiving unleashes some new issues for her and she's torn between her loyalty for Charles and her love for her father, and her family. Amy has been given the preferences of love, the natural choice of affections, the darling of hearts, and the inheritor of her parents' dreams. This blessing forces her to ultimately question her budding love for Charles, because what counts for the family, what held it together runs" deeper than happiness."
Meanwhile, it has become winter and Howard Peasbody, a teacher at Amy's college, is terribly unhappy. Whilst he begins to question his long-term relationship with Tomas, his German boyfriend, a woman suddenly visits him from the past. Apparently, he once fathered a child. Meeting his now grown daughter forces him not only to confront Tomas, but also to reevaluate his place in the world.
With his air of patient irony, Howard has come to the point he can no longer hide the fact of his unhappiness, the profound depth of it. Perhaps then, the discovery of his new family might give him a second chance to make something other than solitude out of his life, living as he has "so deeply of his memories."
Stuart Englander is Howard's teaching colleague. When Stuart learns that a friend has run off with a student of his, he also begins to question his own stultifying marriage, "a marriage that depended not only on shared tastes but on their ability to guess the discrepancies." Stuart starts to fantasize about Rachel Kranz, an attractive and wealthy young girl who is currently a student in his class.
Spring seems to have awakened dormant desires within Stuart, and although Rachel is not that talented and seems to be struggling, the ageing professor steadily becomes more besotted with her. Stuart confesses that he has lived most of his life in books, "though he for his part had been content to stop short at their pages." Rachel's point of view is presented in summer; she's just found out that her father is dying, and now she must navigate the murky waters of her bickering parents. She eventually comes to Stuart, using her stunning beauty to wile him, but also to get him to act as a type of confessional.
All the characters are bound by their past, and the choices they have made. Family bonds are important, fathers and daughters often relying on other people to supply them with the usual human furniture - anger and love. Amy is ultimately ambivalent about Charles, and hopes she hasn't fractured her relationship with her dad; Howard has learned to break the bonds of his relationship with Tomas and has been forced to grow up; and Stuart has learned to feel desire again, whilst also trying to keep his love for his wife intact; Rachel, who makes up this odd quartet, she herself with the sickly father and a self-obsessed mother, has perhaps ultimately become a seeker of truth.
Hughes has written a poignant and powerful tale, full of richly drawn characters, mired in vanity, hunger, and grief. He exposes the inner lives of his characters with all their flaws and failings, "a great score of emotional fuel, burning inward and building up warmth." Marvovit's prose is complex, insightful, and deeply empathetic, and every decision that the author makes, shows his great command of the fictional art, a deep personal intuitiveness and contemplation. Mike Leonard January 06.