Finished the delightful The Family Markowitz by Allegra Goodman (Washington Square Press, 1996) this morning. It is one of her earlier, maybe lesser known novels. I am not going to do a full review of it, but will say that I thoroughly enjoyed my visit with this funny, real family. I always love her eye for detail and her insightful observations of humanity and all its quirks. It also gave me a lot to think about in terms of character and plot.
For one, I noticed that I really love a character having any degree of good nervous breakdown. Maybe something about a nice unraveling really allows characters a lot of freedom to say what they feel, to be provocative or outrageous, to break all kinds of social norms, to strip down emotionally and find something new. In this book I am thinking of the very-responsible-but-increasingly-impatient-0ldest-son Ed. Other examples of recently read characters that come to mind are Gabriel in Monica Ali's In The Kitchen, or pretty much any one of the Berglunds in Freedom. (I'm sure a good therapist would have something to add about why I enjoy this, but let's not go there, shall we?) Do you have favorite examples of Characters On The Verge of A Nervous Breakdown? How did you feel about them?
It also left me thinking about purpose and endings. In The Family Markowitz, we accompany the characters on their journey through some ups and downs of life, events, and issues, but there is not a single, huge emotional climax to the story, or a neatly packaged, obvious soundbite-of-a-takeaway message. In another recent read, the outcome didn't provide the resounding justice I'd hoped for, but on the other hand, maybe the conclusion was more poignant and probably more realistic. Must there be a Big Purpose? A clearly defined resolution? Must it be the resolution the reader hoped for? Do such endings leave you thinking, or wanting, or both?
What recent reads have left you pondering? Share below, and enjoy a relaxing Sunday!