Every now and again, we may come across an author whose writing style really touches us. And, every now and again, we may come across a story that stirs in us some indescribable, inexplicable, deep emotion within the core of our very soul. I believe I have found that author and that book. Anna Quindlen would be that author, and Object Lessons would be that book.
The first book I had read by Anna Quindlen was Black and Blue, which I had borrowed from my sister. Black and Blue was a highly captivating book because there was a lot going on with the plot of the book, but it was a bit sad at the same time. Black and Blue dealt with an abused woman who ran away with her son, and changed her identity so her husband wouldn't find her. As a result, that book was a bit on the darker side. Object Lessons has a total different feel to it. In this book, it's about an Irish-Italian family named the Scanlan's. This book centers mostly around Tommy Scanlan, and his Italian wife, Connie, and their 12-year-old daughter, Maggie. The couple has three other boys who are mentioned, but only in passing. The other three children are just background characters. Many a time, there's too many characters in a book, and in this case, it's very obvious that Anna Quindlen had an objective to focus on only a few main characters.
Tommy had married Connie when she became pregnant, and his Irish family -- his father, John Scanlan, in particular -- didn't approve. Since then, Connie had felt like an outsider with the other wives, and more than put out by her controlling father-in-law. John Scanlan was one of those larger-than-life characters, as he made a drama about most everything, and felt he had to control his sons, and only daughter, Margaret. Margaret escaped by going into the convent, but Tommy, as well as his brothers, found that John would take control of their lives by putting them in the family business, or buying a house, or sending their children to private school. John had such control over Mark, one of Tommy's brothers, that he prevented him and his wife from adopting children, as Mark had difficulty getting his wife pregnant. John Scanlan even had control over his wife, Mary Frances, making her drift into the background like faded wallpaper. Without much warning, John Scanlan became gravely ill one day when he had a stroke, and the family started changing. Maggie, Tommy's and Connie's daughter (and John Scanlan's favorite grandchild), was going through a tough growing-pain period. She was about to enter her teen years, and she was having a hard time coping with the things that were happening around her. Her relationship with her best friend, Debbie, was changing when Debbie started hanging around other kids who had a negative influence on her. Maggie's parents always seem to be distant or fighting, and now her grandfather was sick and she was seeing how her family was changing. This wonderful story takes you though this family's life, the Scanlan's, in such a realistic and creative way.
One of Anna Quindlen's best talents as a writer is her characterization. This is only the second book I've read of hers (One True Thing is another book I have put aside to read in the future), but I can safely say that her characters are so three-dimensional, and full of depth. They are so human. You don't only get a peek into the minds of her characters, but you also get a glimpse of what is in their hearts. Feelings are what Anna Quindlen is all about. I especially had a kinship with Connie and Maggie Scanlan. I could relate to the feelings of this mother-daughter pair, and I loved getting to know them with such intimacy.
I cannot rave enough about this book, because there are no accurate words to describe how good it really is. To experience it, you would have to read it for yourself.
I do know that this is one of my favorite books, and I do know that Anna Quindlen is one of my favorite authors. She's right up there with other favorites of mine: Connie May Fowler, Pearl Cleage, Alice Hoffman, , and Wally Lamb. Each of these authors are special in his/her own way, and Anna Quindlen has her own voice, and it's a strong one that you can't help but listen to.
Object Lessons was truly an enjoyable experience to read, and it's a book I'm going to have to purchase for myself (since I borrowed it from the library). It's one of those books you would want to go back to for seconds.