Women on the block called Mac's sister Madeline a beauty, a 'real Princess Grace'. But in spite of her height and mature body, to Mac, his sister never looked any different to other children. Until one summer evening in 1960, when his cousin Buddy taunted him with the odd truth of their family: Madeline was not really Mac's sister, but his father ...
Women on the block called Mac's sister Madeline a beauty, a 'real Princess Grace'. But in spite of her height and mature body, to Mac, his sister never looked any different to other children. Until one summer evening in 1960, when his cousin Buddy taunted him with the odd truth of their family: Madeline was not really Mac's sister, but his father's first wife. A terrible accident had left her brain-damaged, with the intellect of a seven-year-old. When his father remarried, Madeline became part of his new family, devotedly cared for by his second wife like one of their own children. In 2003, Mac, now a middle-aged doctor, attends the funeral of Buddy's son, killed in Iraq. There, the divisions that drove two branches of their family apart are brought sharply into focus: on one side, belligerently liberal doves, on the other, defiantly patriotic hawks. Also revealed is the impact of Madeline's tragedy on the family, how it has shaped and altered forever the boundaries of love. In this moving story that follows one American family over several decades of wars fought on foreign soil, Jane Hamilton, with her usual humour and keen observation of family relationships, deftly explores notions of innocence and experience, loyalty and betrayal, sacrifice and devotion.
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Publishers Weekly, 2006-05-22 An unusual menage poses moral questions in this fifth novel (after Disobedience) from Hamilton, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award for The Book of Ruth. Aaron and Julia Maciver are living in a 1950s Chicago suburb with their two children and with Aaron's first wife, Madeline. Aaron has insisted on caring for Madeline after she suffered a brain injury soon after their wedding, leaving her with the mental capacity of a seven-year-old. Refusing to consider this arrangement inconvenient, Julia treats the often-demanding Madeline like a beloved daughter, even letting her snuggle in bed with Aaron and herself when Madeline becomes distraught at night. Decades later, the Macivers' son, Mac, now a middle-aged family practitioner with a wife and teenage daughters, prepares to attend the funeral of his estranged cousin's son, killed in Iraq, and muses about the meaning, and the emotional costs, of the liberal values of his parents. Hamilton brings characteristic empathy to the complex issues at the core of this patiently built novel, but the narrative doesn't take any clear direction. Though Mac suggests there are "gothic possibilities" in his parents' story (partly inspired, Hamilton says, by Elizabeth Spencer's The Light in the Piazza), the Macivers' passions remain tepid and unresolved, and Julia remains an enigma to her son. (Sept. 19) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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