Thursday, February 25, 2016
Book Review: "All the Lasting Things" by David Hopson
"'Life will always be disappointing,' he said with pressing emotion. 'Even if everything looked exactly as you thought it would, even then, there would be disappointments. Deep, even ruinous disappointments. Compromises we think we can't possibly live with. But we do. We do because we must. It's the contract we sign for being here. We have to treat life like it's precious. Even when we think it's not. Especially then. Because then we see how easily it can be thrown away.'"
The Fisher family has had more than its share of ups and downs, and more than anything, now seems to be a time of more downs than ups. Henry, the family patriarch, is a famous writer who is in the throes of Alzheimer's disease. His condition is becoming more of a burden on everyone, especially his wife, Evelyn, but she isn't ready to seek full-time care for him or move him to a nursing home, even as she suffers emotionally and physically.
Their son, Benji, was a child actor famous for his stint in a 1980s sitcom, but he's never quite gotten back to that level ever again. He spends his days pitting his ego and his desire for fame against his increasingly self-destructive behavior. In the midst of a less-than-glamorous regional theater production of Hamlet, Benji hits rock bottomalthough not quite as rock bottom as his family is led to believe. It's up to his older sister, Claudia, usually the stable one, to keep her family together through Benji's recovery and Henry's continued decline.
Then a more-than-20-year-old secret is revealed, and suddenly the stable one has her life rocked to the core. And while this secret shakes up the entire family in different ways, it also sets into motion a chain of events which will further knock the family for a loop, and confront the question about whether hiding the truth from someone is the same thing as lying.
David Hopson has created a compelling look at a family dealing with more than its share of crises. Benji and Claudia are the most fleshed-out characters (along with a third), but they're not always sympathetic, so it's difficult at times to get fully engrossed in their stories, and I didn't really understand what made them do many of the things they did. Hopson has a vivid ear for language and emotion, even if he sometimes uses three metaphors when one would suffice.
Although I didn't like how the bulk of the story was resolved (even though I anticipated that was how things might end), and I felt the epilogue was completely tacked on and didn't really flow with the rest of the book, I still enjoyed All the Lasting Things. It made me feel and it made me think, and I look forward to seeing what Hopson's career has in store.