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Monday, August 9, 2010

No Regrets

So Long, See You Tomorrow
William Maxwell

Knopf, 1980

Haunted by a memory of human failure, an aging man recalls his friendship with a neighbor boy whose father killed a close friend. The story takes place in the early part of the 20th century in a small Nebraska town. The narrator does not know what would cause such a tragedy, so he imagines the circumstances surrounding the close friendship between two families and recreates the events that may have led up to the murder. The narrator, who is dealing with the loss of his own mother, has a great deal of guilt and remorse associated with his brief friendship with the boy, and these strong feelings have been present more than fifty years. As he says at the story’s beginning, this murder would not have such a strong impact on him if he had personally known the boy whose father was murdered, and if he had done something later that he was ashamed of.

This is a slender volume packed with power. Two seemingly separate stories about two separate boys somehow merge together to become one. There are common threads between the two boys: both lose a parent, both are powerless to change an outcome, both lives change dramatically because of the actions of adults. But the narrator’s story is a common enough one – no tragedy to mar it, no scandal to be gossiped about, no publicity in the newspaper. Even so, he is so affected by the murder and subsequent events that he is moved to tears years later when recalling them. Guilt and remorse are strong emotions and universal themes that create a heartbreaking story that will be with the reader for quite some time after its end.


Other books by this author:
The Folded Leaf (2006)
Early Novels and Stories (2008)

Other books you may like:

Montana, 1948, by Larry Watson (1994)
The events of that cataclysmic summer permanently alter twelve-year-old David's understanding of his family: his father, a small-town sheriff; his remarkably strong mother; the Hayden's Sioux housekeeper, Marie Little Soldier, whose revelations are at the heart of the story; David's uncle, a war hero and respected doctor. As their story unravels around David, he learns that truth is not what you believe it to be, that power is abused, and that sometimes you have to choose between family loyalty and justice.

Alice Adams by Booth Tarkington (1921)
In the lower-middle-class Adams family, father and son are happy to work in a drugstore, but mother and daughter Alice try every possible means to climb into a higher social class. When Alice finally meets her dream man, the mother persuades Alice’s father to attempt a risky business venture and plans to impress Alice's beau with an "upscale" family dinner.

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger (2001)
Eleven-year-old Reuben shares the story of how his father, trying to raise his sons alone in 1960s Minnesota, takes their family on a quest to find Reuben's older brother, who has been charged with murder.

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