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170 of 176 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "..."
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,...
Published on June 10, 2003 by Eric J. Matluck

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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Light and Enjoyable
Instead of rehashing all that's good with this novel (and there is a lot) I'll simply focus on its one major problem: that this novel, told from several different first-person perspectives, never changes tempo. Simply put, all of the characters speak identically. And this was disturbing. Clearly, Bobby and Claire have distinct personalities. So why was it impossible...
Published on January 27, 2000 by Manny


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170 of 176 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "...", June 10, 2003
By 
Eric J. Matluck (Hackettstown, NJ United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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. In New York, Jonathan meets his "half-lovers" Clare, with whom he ends up living, and a bartender named Erich. He is committed to Clare emotionally but not sexually and to Erich sexually but not emotionally. Then Bobby moves in with them and, after a brief idyll, Bobby starts sleeping with Clare, at which point Jonathan feels pushed out ("triangulated"). Feeling no emotional connection to Erich, and now seemingly alienated from his "true loves," Jonathan turns to the seeming sanctuary of his family, but even there he cannot manage to connect. In the most beautiful and perfect line in the book, Jonathan reflects, "For a moment I could imagine what it would be like to be a ghost-to walk forever through a silence deeper than silence, to apprehend but never quite reach the lights of home."
Rather than self-absorbed, these characters are self-aware, but just to a point. The tragedy is not that they constantly put stumbling blocks in their own paths, but that they know enough to realize what they're doing, yet not enough to realize how to stop.
When another tragedy brings Jonathan, Bobby, and Clare back together, it seems that, with time, they finally will all learn to love each other and start "a new kind of family." Even the less cynical among us could accurately predict that they don't, but the last 85 pages of the book, in which allegiances among the three shift moment by moment, are among the novel's finest, a winnowing out process through which some relationships are finally broken and others cemented, but always with the feel of unerring rightness.
Unfairly, almost any description of this book is bound to make it seem full of contrivance and improbable coincidence. In fact, it is the author's genius to set up a background of absolute inevitability in the characters' lives, in which every action is linked to every other, and to contrast this with the inability of the characters to see those links and make those connections, within their lives, with each other, and, ultimately, with themselves. So even the reintroduction, toward the end, of Jonathan's old lover Erich, who is now dying of AIDS, is not a melodramatic ploy but an essential plot component whereby Clare comes to see her true role in the lives of the men around her, the reader is left in no doubt about Bobby's sometimes equivocal-seeming sexual identity (the nighttime encounter between Bobby and Erich is both surprising and utterly in keeping with Bobby's character), and brings to the fore Jonathan's sense of pervasive guilt (among other things, his guilt over still not loving Erich even though the latter is dying), which leads, ultimately, to Jonathan's epiphany in the final chapter: an ending both radiant and resplendent that, in hands less "cunning" than Michael Cunningham's, might have seemed like a deus-ex-machina but here caps the story of one man's quest to feel.
Obviously, this book will not affect everyone the way it did me. A few years before he died at the age of 91, Somerset Maugham was asked by a critic why, having poured his entire life into Of Human Bondage, he was never able to write another book of equal worth, to which Maugham replied, "Because I had only one life." This book made me feel as though someone had been observing my one life for the past 43 years and turned it into a novel. But since it was someone else who wrote it, there will be others who will read it, weep and bleed over it, and come away from it appreciating their own lives in ways they never thought possible. You don't have to be gay to appreciate this very great book, but I would think it helps. Pride is stamped all over its pages.
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61 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing, satisfying, deeply imagined, March 4, 2000
By 
Petsounds "petsounds" (The great Great Lakes) - See all my reviews
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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56 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Literature!, June 12, 2000
By 
JCB (I Love Seattle!) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
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 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Intimate Work, March 31, 2005
By 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
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 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, beautiful, moving novel, July 30, 2003
By 
Robert Elgie (Ajax, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreakingly beautiful, November 19, 1998
I first read an excerpt of this novel as a short story in the New Yorker. When I saw it on a bookstore shelf after it was first published in hardcover, I snapped it up. I wasn't disappointed; Cunningham manages to take the immediacy of the short story and sustain it throughout the novel. The writing is among the most heartbreakingly beautiful I've ever read. Cunningham's imagery and the voices of his characters (the book is alternately narrated by Jonathan, Bobby, Clare and Alice) give the novel an emotional intensity that is breathtaking and, in many scenes, shattering. Definitely on my list of top 10 novels of all time.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars idealism, love, friendship, & the 80's, February 3, 2000
I've just finished re-reading this book and had to put my two-cents in. The four voices Cunningham uses to tell his story are facinating, well-drawn and unique characters. I've read some reviews of this book criticizing Cunningham's "lack of voice" in differentiating character, but nothing can be further from the truth. While reading, pay attention to, say, the difference between Bobby's "inner monologues" and his tone, word choice, etc. in conversations. The difference between the two is intentional, and paints a very real and empathetic picture of Bobby and how he feels about life and about himself. Blah blah blah. Sorry, but I really adore this book. It's a wonderful look at idealism, love, friendship, and the 80's
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Light and Enjoyable, January 27, 2000
By 
Manny (PhilaPA (not far from the Angstroms)) - See all my reviews
Instead of rehashing all that's good with this novel (and there is a lot) I'll simply focus on its one major problem: that this novel, told from several different first-person perspectives, never changes tempo. Simply put, all of the characters speak identically. And this was disturbing. Clearly, Bobby and Claire have distinct personalities. So why was it impossible to differentiate between them?
A novelist who attempts to tell his tale through multiple voices has a tough road ahead of him. In terms of storytelling, Cunningham succeeds. In terms of voice, he has a ways to go.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Empathy, insight and depth not found in the movie..., August 20, 2004
By 
If you've seen the movie, please, please, please read the book! If you have not seen the film, read the book instead. Cunningham's charactars are real and interesting, and even when they disappoint you, you want to know them better. Though this book examines the meaning of family and explores alternatives, it neither paints an idealized portrait of "traditional" heterosexual families nor presents experimental forms as the easy way out. The gay man/bisexual man/straight woman/child composition of family, though it sounds far-fetched, is exactly fitting for these characters. Still, it does not fully satisfy them. And though we're surprised and disappointed at some of the choices made by the characters, they make perfect sense as we consider the inner lives of the individuals making them. I think the omission of Erich's character from the movie took away from the power of the relationship between Bobby and Jonathan. In the book, their life together in the house caring for Jonathan's sick ex-lover provided some of the most emotionally resonant moments in the whole novel. Just as they had in their adolescence, they ended up only with each other, and somehow in this home at the end of the world, it was almost, though not quite, enough. Some of Cunningham's emotional insight is so empathic that you'll find yourself aching from the truth of it. Don't miss this read.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but claustrophobic, November 13, 1999
By A Customer
Take three extremely self-absorbed people. Throw in a few parents, one lover. Speaking from the interior voices of the four main characters gives a wonderful look at how these people perceive and process the world. But even though they live in a working-class Latino neighborhood in New York, you never ever get a sense of place or that other people exist, which made me lose patience for the lost opportunity and richness. And well I guess I know a few too many people who lead the same kinds of insular lives. I stopped caring about these characters after awhile.
I also found the characterization of Bobby lame--his words in conversation with the others didn't ring right.
Michael Cunningham has great gifts with his prose--I'd be jolted by a description of someone's "moth-colored pajamas." I'm now reading The Hours and am pleased to see that he's been able to make his characters' world much less insular. This book hints at the genius of the Hours.
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A Home at the End of the World: A Novel
A Home at the End of the World: A Novel by Michael Cunningham (Paperback - July 1, 2004)
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