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The Forms of Water Paperback – August 1, 1994
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From Publishers Weekly
A troubled family is reunited during a journey to an aging uncle's Massachusetts home.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
After spending his productive years in a monastery near his childhood home, 80-year-old Brendan Auberon is now confined to a wheelchair and a nursing home, where his family pay him occasional obligatory visits. When Brendan convinces his nephew Henry to help him return to the home of his youth, now covered by a reservoir supplying water to the city of Boston, Brendan steals the nursing home van for the adventure. The trip doesn't turn out as planned, but with Brendan and Henry on the run, and various family members in pursuit, it is anything but dull; Brendan, through his last capricious act, serves as the catalyst to set errant family members on the right path again. Barrett ( The Middle Kingdom , LJ 2/1/91) combines family dissension and adventure with healthy doses of faith and optimism. The result is a satisfying analysis of family dysfunction in the spirit of Sue Miller.
- Thomas L. Kilpatrick, Southern Illinois Univ. at Carbondale Lib.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The journeys are clearly more personal and metaphysical than geographical, as is where they end up, both when they all meet and later. Though there is nice, neat symmetry (and a bit of contrivance but since it's the only one we can give it to her) in getting all of them together, the book itself does not tie itself up anywhere near as neatly with regard to the characters or the plot. There are unintended consequences, surprising decisions (ones that surprise even those that make them), poor decisions, misunderstandings, revelations. A few of the characters are sketchy and one or two too easily drawn in broad, one-note strokes (though even these are given by the end a more full, if still cursory, interpretation) but none of the characters at any point ever acts like anything less than a real character and the family dynamics are never less than messy (in other words-also real).
What we see here are the after-effects: the after-effects of a community drowned for "progress", the after-effects of isolating oneself from family and the world entire, the after-effects of death (children brought up by grandparents when their own parents die in a car accident), of witnessing death en masse (several characters were involved in WWII) as well as intimately (one character acts as the caregiver for a dying family member), the after-effects of separation and absence. Some of it is clearly drawn for us, at other times we have to fill in the blanks, and sometimes the blanks are filled in for us but not until the end. It is a subtle work of metaphor and connections lightly but tightly drawn.
It is not a page-turner. It is slow. It is quiet. It is sad at times, funny at times, but always human, always real.