I'm reading one of Pat Conroy's less famous novels.
Some of it is good, but the main character verbally abuses those around him; the character hates people, and then one is supposed to agree with him.
His hatred of his parents may or may not be right...but his hatred of his dead wife's parents is because they tried to get custody of his daughter.
Yet even in the novel, his daughter is the "parent" in many ways, and it is the maid and neighbors who are bringing her up (in Italy).
So unless there is something more, one wonders if the wife's parents might have been right in thinking he should not raise a child.
And there is the self righteous "we opposed Viet Nam" subplot.
This always annoys me, because those supporting the war are shown as dummies.
But the main reason is that, like all the yuppie biographies and novels, the war is assumed to be not merely a mistake, but evil.
Yet evil in reality is ignored. One MaiLai is deplored, correctly, but thousands of families of village headmen massacred don't count...nor is there any sympathy for those who suffered because the pristine peaceniks won...
The Catholic bishops and priests who were jailed don't count.
The 350 000 boat people don't count.
The Hmong, who are still being persecuted, don't count.
The thousands of ethnic Chinese who were ethinically cleansed (some becoming boat people, but many more who fled to China as refugees) don't count.
The hundreds of thousands placed in concentration camps, many of whom died of disease, don' t count.
And, of course, the one million Cambodians killed are blamed on Kissenger, not on those who actually killed them.
And those opposing it are therefore good (one character, who killed two people in war protests, is being hidden by the narrator...guess he doesn't care that a policeman was killed...)So we add to the list:
Working class people don't count. Especially if they are killed by politically correct people in politically correct anti government prostest.
This is compassion?
Finally, one other problem.
It is Freudian.
That absolutely dates it.
You see, all the characters, including a schizophrenic brother, are assumed to be depressed/schizophrenic because their parents screwed up, and therefore the main character is correct in blaming those parents.
However, in the last 20 years, most of Freud has been thrown out the window.
Say it after me:
It's neurochemistry, stupid.
If the guy's wife killed herself, maybe it was familial depression ( or more likely an unrecognized bipolar illness).
If the guy's father is alcoholic, maybe there is a familial depression.
Does parenting count? Of course it does.
Does environment count? Of course...
But one is reminded of Carol Burnett's reply to her daugher's accusation that she used drugs because she had such a bad environment.
Carol, who was raised in severe poverty by a grandmother since her mother was alcoholic, and who essentially raised her younger sister by herself, replied: YOU THINK YOU HAVE PROBLEMS?
Sorry, Pat, I know you are supposed to be great, but your character is an asshole projecting his own self hatred on all those around him...and by making him the narrator, it means your novel is merely a story, leaving out the real nuances of life.
And yes, I think the daughter would be better off with her grandparents.
I've treated too many adults who had to parent their own parents...