Saturday, May 18, 2013

So Long, See You TomorrowSo Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Maxwell's novella, at just 135 pages, comprises so much narrative and emotion that it could have been written no other way. It has the spareness of Hemingway and of the Midwest, where it is set in a small Illinois farm community and follows the demise of two farm families and a young boy who is on the periphery.

Wracked with guilt at slighting an old friend in a new setting, the narrator writes what he knows of the circumstances that led him to make that choice; the values that dictated he keep his distance even when basic human kindness demanded otherwise.

Although it is short, the point of view changes often, and the author uses pronouns so often that the reader must go back in order to clarify to whom he is referring. Toward the end, the point of view is that of the faithful farm dog, Trixie, who is longing for her boy to come home from school on his bicycle. This will never happen again, and her grief at the upheaval of her world is one of the saddest passages I've ever read.

Sometimes the best we can hope for in life is to keep wise counsel and make good decisions, and perhaps spare ourselves the pain eloquently poured forth on these pages. This is a masterpiece.

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