The death of James affects everyone in the family, but the author chooses to focus on Margaret and Roger, James' grandparents, and his mother, Maura. Interestingly enough, Pete, James' father and Maura's husband, seems to take a back seat. It would have been much more interesting to read a first hand account of how he dealt with his son's death than hearing it third person, or even reading about how either of the grandparents coped.
Margaret, a modern day June Cleaver, is the family martyr. Always there to lend a helping hand, she takes charge when James dies and makes valiant efforts to get Maura and Pete back on the right track. Through her comments and flashbacks, we learn that she has always been the person everyone in the family depends on in times of need. But beyond that, we really don't get the idea of Margaret as a whole person. Her life, it seems, has been solely dedicated to raising her children and catering to her husband, but her children are adults with children of their own and Roger travels non-stop for work. So who has Margaret been for the past forty years when she wasn't being Roger's wife or the kid's mother? Beyond a gardener that likes to sneak an occasional cigarette, readers have no idea.
Maura's guilt has forced her to push people away, including her husband Pete, who she suspects is well on his way to being an alcoholic. Even before the death of James, they were distant. Now the gap between them is more noticeable to everyone. Prior to losing her son, Maura was on her way to destroying her marriage, repeating the same mistakes her father made. A year later, she's still not sure if it's worth fighting to keep.
At 65, Roger is the consummate business man. He helped build the real estate firm where he's been employed for as long as anyone can remember. On his many travels he's dipped his toes in other waters, but he's always come back home to Margaret. And what she doesn't know won't hurt her, or will it?
When Roger's unforgivable act leaves Margaret to pick up the pieces, I hoped she'd finally get herself together and start living for herself. Then it dawned on me that this was the life she wanted, good or bad, whether I could relate to it or not. While I can't imagine setting my daily schedule around everyone around me except myself, that's exactly what Margaret wanted. She felt most in control when caring for those around her.
Those We Love Most is the first novel from Lee Woodruff. It's a slow read, not because it's difficult to read, but because it's difficult to care about the characters. The story line of James dying could have been removed completely. With a few exceptions, very little about these people's lives is affected by the event. In fact, the story doesn't even pick up until about a third of the way through the book when everyone has returned to their everyday lives. The fact that the author dwells on the grandparents still seems strange to me. If she wanted to tell a story about them, she could have done so without bringing in the other characters, including the grandson.
Published: September 2012
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher, opinions are my own.
Theme: Coming Around Again by Carly Simon