Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Review of Eli the Good by Silas House

eli There is so much sadness in this book. The first paragraph kind of tells it all:

“That was the summer of the bicentennial, when all these things happened: my sister, Josie, began to hate our country and slapped my mother’s face; my wild aunt, Nell, moved in with us, bringing along all five thousand or so of her records and a green record player that ran on batteries; my father started going back to Vietnam in his dreams, and I saw him cry; my mother did the Twist in front of the whole town and nearly lost us all. I was ten years old, and I did something unforgivable.”

Whew. The story lives up to all of that, too. In fact, there’s even more sadness. Eli’s best friend, Edie, is abandoned by her mother, and has to live with her alcoholic father. Eli finds out (by eavesdropping, which he indulges in whenever possible) that the reason his Aunt Nell moved in with them is because she has cancer. His mother and Nell are very close, but Eli's father and Nell --not so much. While Eli’s father was off fighting in Vietnam, Nell was protesting the war, and because of one very famous photograph, everyone in the country knows her, which Eli's father takes as a personal affront. Eli watches everything, and, despite the closeness of Eli’s family, he doesn’t really feel taken care of by anyone. He’s never forgiven his mother for something he overheard her say to his father once, “I love you too much. More than anything. More than anybody.” Eli’s great sadness is that he feels his mother doesn’t love him or his sister as much as she loves their father. The writing in the book is so beautiful, and it really captures the essence of the time (1976). Review by Stacy Church