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Home Before Dark (Contemporary Classics (Washington Square Press)) Paperback – January 1, 1999
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Newsweek A fine, very brave book...one of the best portraits of an American writer.
The New York Times Book Review Intimate, deeply felt, and often harrowing.
John Updike Whatever biographers and literary historians of the future make of John Cheever, their ur-text, their indespensible place of beginning will have to be Susan Cheever's beautiful book about her father.
The Washington Post Book World One of the most moving and intimate books I have read in years.
The Wall Street Journal A restrained and haunting elegy.
The New York Times Book Review Home Before Dark clearly demanded more from its author, more courage and force of heart than will be required of any biographer of John Cheever.
Los Angeles Herald Examiner Out of the pain of real life Susan Cheever has created a document that is ultimately a paean to family love, as humane and bittersweet as the best of her father's work, and as completely believable....her depictions of a family, albeit an extraordinary one, in extremis reads like the best fiction.
Joyce Carol Oates A powerful book -- beautifully written....I don't know when I have read anything that absorbed me more.
Chicago Tribune Book World An act of love, a compassionate, well-written account not just of the father, or the writer, but of the whole man -- his exhilerations and his darker impulses.
About the Author
Susan Cheever is the bestselling author of thirteen previous books, including five novels and the memoirs Note Found in a Bottle and Home Before Dark. Her work has been nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award and won the Boston Globe Winship Medal. She is a Guggenheim Fellow, a member of the Corporation of Yaddo, and a member of the Author's Guild Council. She teaches in the Bennington College M.F.A. program. She lives in New York City with her family.
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Susan Cheever writes with descriptive elegance about her father 's life. She does not however explain or even hint at the great mystery of how he managed to create his best work. And she does not really tell us what the work consists in, or how it best expressed what her father was.
I also felt the work lacking in another way. It does not really get inside Cheever and reveal to us the world the way he might have seen it. Nor does it trace the effect of his celebrity and alcoholism , of his wit and capacity for friendship on his children. Susan Cheever is silent about her father's effect upon her.
I found that is with all the basic admiration and sympathy that she expresses for her father, a certain coldness in the work- a coldness which was perhaps her father's also.
But again perhaps I found Cheever's story much less 'moving 'than I might have because I too am not a great fan of his stories.
Susan Cheever's obvious love for her father comes through, and certainly her view of him isn't as objective as a disinterested party would be, but his humanity and endearing qualities shine through, along with his weakness and frailties.
I enjoyed the way she interwove aspects of her life and his, and the construction of the book. I regretted seeing it end and wanted to know more about everyone. There is some obliqueness as another reviewer mentioned, this is definitely not a 'tell all' with a lot of dish.
I found Cheever to be insightful, open and yet delicate toward the more unflattering and painful aspects of their life. A good read.
In the same way, Susan Cheever brings passion and honesty to the telling of her father's life. In her hands, John Cheever's own outwardly unremarkable search for the suburban dream life of wife, kids, dog and station wagon in Ossining, New York becomes a dark romantic quest of longing, passion, success and disappointment. She is thoroughly honest (sometimes brutally so) in detailing Cheever's alcoholism, philandering, phobias and parental shortcomings -- so it is all the more remarkable that the final portrait of Cheever that emerges is so rich and full of love.
This book is the perfect companion piece for Cheever's indispensible Collected Stories (with that famous red cover). Think of Home Before Dark as a sort of lexicon to John Cheever's world. I keep both books on a special bookshelf -- easily accessible -- containing the books I come back to again and again, like old friends.