A two-time winner of Australia's prestigious The Age Book of the Year Award, Joan London's debut novel, Gilgamesh, was published to rapturous acclaim both in her native Australia and in the United States. Now, London has delivered The Good Parents, a tender and compelling tale of mother love and the harrowing moment when a daughter spreads her wings and vanishes from her parents' orbit. Maya de Jong is an eighteen-year-old country girl who moves to Melbourne and begins an affair with her new boss. When Maya's parents, Toni and Jacob, arrive for a visit, Maya is gone--no one knows where. Maya, for reasons of her own, leaves haunting clues in late-night calls to her brother at home, carefully avoiding detection by the two people who love her most. Ultimately, to find her daughter Toni will have to revisit a part of her past that she thought she had shut off forever--the closest she ever came to being a lost girl herself. The Good Parents is at once utterly contemporary and a story as old as humanity itself: a stunning portrait of familial love and how far we can drift apart in the moments between the words we speak.
London (Gilgamesh) delivers an excellent family drama rooted in rural Australian lives. The novel opens with a lengthy glimpse into the life of 20-year-old Maya de Jong, who has recently left her small hometown for a new job (and subsequently an affair with the new boss) in Melbourne. As early as the second chapter, however, it's clear that the narrative interest lies with Maya's parents, Toni and Jacob, who arrive for an extended vacation to discover Maya's gone missing. Maya's puzzling, abrupt absence--which will leave readers perplexed nearly as long as the de Jongs are--leaves Toni and Jacob with little to do but wait for her to contact them; this period of enforced helplessness and isolation provides a metaphorical insight into the parents of adult children, who, as Jacob reflects, reveal their own self-doubts and self-awareness once their parental role is finished. The narrative shifts subtly among the past and present of a wide cast, each of whom has his or her own story of abandoning one life for another. This insightful novel illuminates with seeming ease the fraught relationships among friends, families and entire communities. (Feb.)
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February 02, 2009
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