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A hard lesson in growing up
on 31 December 2006
The core of the plot in this novel is around the reaction of a family to the rape of their idolised daughter. However, what I really took out of the book is not how to cope with a specific catastrophe, but the importance of inner strength compared to people who rely on external validation to make them feel good about who they are. The degeneration of the father is centred around his perception of what his family think of him, his clients and the various people of the town. His daughter, while somewhat supported internally by her own faith also appears to measure herself through external recognition, while feeling uncomfortable with it at the same time. The catalyst of her rape flings the characters apart, in some instances across the country and while there is more focus on some family members than others, the theme for all is the same in that they avoid a reconciliation with each other until they have come to terms with themselves and formed their own roots away from the central unit.
The lesson they are learning is that the family of one's childhood is never a permanent fixture and that growing away from it is an essential part of truly growing up. The wonderfully strong character of Corinne Mulvaney, the mother of the family, is fortunately the character that her children have inherited and while sometimes they lose their way on the journey, all 4 children are able to leave and develop the various next generations of Mulvaney.
The family is completely different at the close of the novel, but fundamentally intact as, with the exception of Michael Mulvaney Sr, they are all people who have learned to love and appreciate themselves for who they are before returning to the family unit to share their experiences and ensure that the whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts.
One note on this edition - the editing is slack, with some grammar and spelling errors, plus some continuity issues in the detail.