Seeing characters see their parents again after a somewhat or very long time can be interesting for novel readers. There’s a lot of emotion involved, whether the reunion is joyful or reluctant. And anyone who has parents (that’s quite a few people 🙂 ) can relate.
It so happened that I just coincidentally read three consecutive novels containing parent/child meet-ups as strong elements — Albert Camus’ The Stranger, Martin Cruz Smith’s Gorky Park, and Philippa Gregory’s Earthly Joys. All very different books, all excellent books.
Mearsault’s mother has just passed away as The Stranger begins, but the “reunion” of dead mom and living son is still fraught — and will have a huge impact on Mearsault’s fate in the second half of Camus’ famous absurdist novel.
In the riveting Gorky Park, there’s a pivotal scene between Russian investigator Arkady Renko and his father — a famous World War II general who Arkady hadn’t visited in years. The meeting is uncomfortable — the dad is seemingly near death and far from friendly, and the long-ago suicide of the father’s wife/Arkady’s mother hangs between the two men. But the meeting is an important part of Smith’s intricate plot.
The absorbing historical-fiction book Earthly Joys includes an awkward encounter between 17th-century royal gardener John Tradescant and the mother and stepfather of Elizabeth — the woman John promised to marry six years earlier and hadn’t seen during that time because he was to return only when able to financially support a wife. John’s willingness to accept delayed gratification and the patient way he talks to the mom and stepdad say a lot about his personality. Then, as the novel goes on, John’s months-long trips in the service of the masters he serves so devotedly (too devotedly?) make for resentment from John Jr. whenever dad returns.
Belated parent/child meet-ups are also in various novels I read in years past rather than this winter. For instance, there’s a very dramatic meeting between the title character of George Eliot’s masterful Daniel Deronda and the mother Daniel never knew while raised in another household.
Fanny Burney’s entertaining 18th-century novel Evelina includes the scenarios of the raised-in-the-country title character meeting her not-nice biological father Sir John Belmont after many years and then, following Evelina’s long stays in places like London, her again seeing the kind Rev. Arthur Villars who raised her.
Then there’s Jhumpa Lahiri’s excellent The Lowland, in which Bela has a very resentful reunion with the mother (Gauri) who abandoned her years earlier. (A scene that commenter bebe mentioned under my previous post.)
In Geraldine Brooks’ intense March, the family from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women sees their father again when he returns home traumatized by his harrowing Civil War experiences.
And L.M. Montgomery’s superb The Blue Castle has Valancy Stirling reluctantly coming back to the house of her mother after Valancy’s wonderful relationship with Barney Snaith hits an eye-opening snag. The narrow-minded mom soon treats her daughter with more respect for all the wrong reasons.
Novels you remember in which children see their parents again after a period of time?
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