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A Home at the End of the World: A Novel Paperback – November 15, 1998

137 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This poignant and absorbing novel, parts of which have already appeared in the New Yorker , is one of a kind: at once a bildungsroman that reveals a remarkable gay sensibility, a serious appraisal of how parents and children relate over the years, and a clear-eyed account of '80s ways of looking and living. It is the story of two young Clevelanders, Jonathan and Bobby, who become boyhood friends in spite of, and partly because of, their unhappily adjusted parents. They eventually emigrate to New York, where they end up living together--and with a superbly realized eccentric, Clare, a very hip but desperate woman who tries to relate to them both, ends up having Bobby's child, attempts to share life in the country with them and eventually drifts away. Other characters rendered in detail include Jonathan's mother, Alice, a firm-minded survivor; her ever-optimistic husband, Ned; and Jonathan's sometime lover Erich, who comes to agonizing life for the reader only as he is dying of AIDS. No praise can be too high for Cunningham's writing. He worked six years on the novel, and it shows in the careful way he evokes fleeting thoughts and states of consciousness, in the lyrical sense of the ordinariness of place, whether Cleveland, New York, Arizona or upstate New York, in the musical background that accompanies much of the action, almost as in a movie, and in the unexpected ways that characters who have not met before interrelate when they do. His story is told from several alternating points of view--Jonathan's, Bobby's, Clare's and Alice's--and though this works well in narrative terms, the voices are not as different as one would expect from such fully realized characters. And some scenes, like the birth of Clare's baby, are unaccountably missing. Still, this is a gripping, haunting piece of work from a writer of real promise and power. 35,000 forst printing; $50,000 ad/promo; BOMC and QPB selections; movie rights to Sinecom.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Cunningham's novel focuses on the close friendship of Bobby and Jonathan. As boyhood friends growing up in Cleveland in the late Sixties and Seventies, Bobby and Jonathan form a relationship that is both average and far beyond what most kids would consider "normal." After high school Jonathan moves to New York City, where Bobby soon follows. They become involved with Clare, a slightly older woman who finds each one appealing in his own way. The rest of the novel centers on their unusual life together. This well-written book has lots of good dialog and will appeal to readers who want something other than the tried and true best seller.
- Mary K. Prokop, CEL Regional Lib., Savannah, Ga.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; 1st Picador USA pbk. ed edition (November 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312202318
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312202316
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (137 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Cunningham is the author of the novels A Home at the End of the World, Flesh and Blood, The Hours (winner of the Pen/Faulkner Award and the Pulitzer Prize), and Specimen Days. He lives in New York.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

173 of 180 people found the following review helpful By Eric J. Matluck on June 10, 2003
Format: Paperback
I haven't got the words to describe what this book did to me. I wept and bled over its 343 increasingly magnificent pages only to be left in a state of such disorientation that I'm not sure I can write coherently (and certainly not objectively) about it. Yet I'm determined to explain some things, so here goes.
This story is not, I think, so much about two boys' (and, eventually, two men's) search for love as it is about one boy's (Bobby's) search for love and one boy's (Jonathan's) search for how to love. The two are brought together, more by instinct than fate, on their first day of junior high school. Bobby, the less excitable if less conventionally "disciplined" of the two, brings with him a tragic past: he had recently lost his beloved brother to a freak accident, and his mother, a few years later, to suicide. Jonathan is the only child of loving but repressed parents; each, therefore, has something the other craves. At an early point in their friendship, Jonathan, acting rashly, almost gets killed in an accident that brings home to Bobby the loss of his brother. I can think of no more beautiful passage in recent literature than the one that describes Bobby's reaction while helping his friend home, swearing at him in a rage (notably Bobby's only outburst in the book) while holding Jonathan to him tighter and tighter. Thus does Bobby establish Jonathan, in his mind, as his surrogate brother, which allows him to fall in love with his friend without (at this point) having to admit to his sexuality.
As time passes the two begin to inhabit each other's skin (both figuratively and literally), and when Jonathan finally leaves for college in New York, Bobby moves in with Jonathan's parents.
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62 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Petsounds on March 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
The friend who recommended this book to me called it "a perfect novel." I was skeptical, especially when I read the plot synopsis on the back cover--it sounded trendy and just 'way too 90s for me. But lucky for me, I trusted my friend, so I got to live for awhile in the wonderful world that Michael Cunningham has created.
First, the writing is simply magnificent; I don't think there's a weak or false sentence anywhere in the book. This is rare prose--lyrical and restrained. Second, I think that Cunningham knows every one of his characters inside out--he knows more than he tells us--because these people are utterly real and convincing. This book is packed with beautiful insights into the human condition, but they are completely embodied in the characters. Finally, the story is vividly and compellingly told--you'll stay with it to the satisfying end.
As to the controversy over the various voices, I agree with the previous reviewer.
My friend said this is a perfect novel. I agree. How often do you get to say that?
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57 of 62 people found the following review helpful By JCB VINE VOICE on June 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
A HOME AT THE END OF THE WORLD introduced me to Michael Cunningham--someone who I now consider one of my favorite contemporary authors. He manages to write honestly about friendship, love, sexuality, and life; and even though the story is told in different voices, there's hardly a break in the narrative--the novel flows beautifully and keeps readers turning pages; Cunningham is a master of words. I found Jonathon's friendship with Bobby very compelling. In fact, the chapters in Part I of the novel are, I think, the best chapters; they reveal the innocence of youth between Jonathon and Bobby and captures their friendship so beautifully. I liked this book a lot because I found it easy to relate to many of the events and experiences in Jonathon and Bobby's life. It was like reading a mirror image of my own life. Novels that are able to draw up those memories and connections in readers are the best ones. One reading of this novel isn't enough; it's a novel to be read over and over again.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By S.G.R. Black on March 31, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For a person who hardly ever reads books due to the fact that I have very particular and specific tastes, I come to find that most books I do read are unsatisfying and dull. Shortly after watching the impressive, "The Hours", I was interested in the works of Michael Cunningham. No, I never read "The Hours". I love the film too much and I'm scared I won't like it. Moving on, I picked up "A Home at the End of the World" and began reading it. I found myself staying up late and filling my spare time with reading. By the end I felt something I hardly feel when it comes to reading most books; a strong emotional satisfaction.

The book is told by four people: Johnathan, Bobby, Claire, and Alice (Johnathan's mother). It spans through Johnathan and Bobby's childhood in the 60s through their adulthood in the 80s. Cunningham does a masterful job writing these charaters to the fullest. You'd swear you've seen and met these people before. The ideas of Love and Family are put to a test. Jealousy and Loss also make their way into a story so well written and constructed. It can make you laugh and yes, cry. Take the time and read this. Please.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Robert Elgie on July 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
Towards the end of this wonderful novel, Alice, mother of one of the main characters, remarks that she stayed with her feckless husband for decades because she couldn't imagine a life without her plates stacked in the corner cupboard of her kitchen. It's the little daily things that trammel us, she means, that prevent our flying free.
What Michael Cunningham accomplishes in this book is to show how much of our lives falls into that gap between our dreams and our reality. And being the writer he is, he does this deftly and subtly. This, Cunningham's first novel (or his second, if you count "Golden States", which Cunningham apparently does not), has the insight that makes "The Hours" so brilliant but not yet that book's layered complexity.
It's a beautiful read, though. Some chapters take my breath away because I am so impressed by the truth of the interactions between the characters and by Cunningham's command of his language. The prose is not flashy; there are few clever images; there are no prose-poem descriptions. But when I reach the end of a chapter, I realize that I've been moved by the words without being aware of them. Writing like that only looks easy. It's very, very hard to do.
Each chapter is told in the voice one of the characters. My only quibble with the novel, then, is that, while the points of view are distinct, the voices are not much differentiated. So, it was Cunningham's first successful novel, and he was still learning. Big deal. "A Home at the End of the World" still stands out way ahead of most.
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