I confess the book lost my attention in the final third. I felt like I had understood enough, so I skimmed. I enjoyed reading it, even though I do not ordinarily like American family drama novels (I live it, what’s the point of reading it?). This is a quiet, meditative family drama. Unusual in that the characters are regular intelligent people (rather than Franzen-Eggers types) leading everyday lives. Their mental life is rich, but normally rich. The writing is what makes you continue to read, because Cunningham has here a style that I found interesting and hard to put my finger on. New York Times reviewer says Woolfian… I don’t know enough to say yes that is it… but I did appreciate that the writing style was complex and interesting.
The brothers have been close since their mother’s sudden death (golf, lightning) years ago. These motherless boys, so gifted in their youth, have become middle-aged without ever quite finding their vocations or making a go of their talents. Barrett, “who’d seemed for so long to be the magical child,” developed an array of “languid capabilities (he can recite more than a hundred poems; he knows enough about Western philosophy to do a lecture series, should anyone ask him to”), but never “the ability to choose, and persist.” Tyler, blessed with “athletic ease” and a “singular gift for music” as a boy, has become, at 43, “an unknown musician,” tending his dying girlfriend in a dingy apartment with slanting floors in the depths of ungentrified Bushwick.