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The Good Parents

by Joan London

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17111120,507 (3.51)26
From the author of 'Gilgamesh' comes 'The Good Parents', a tale of loss and longing that gets right to the heart of the struggle to belong.

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Maya, a young ‘country’ girl, has left home to make her own way in the city. She takes a clerical job in a tiny office and almost immediately begins a clandestine affair with her boss, who seems to be preoccupied with business troubles. When her parents arrive at her flat for an expected visit, it seems Maya has disappeared. Her flatmate has no helpful intelligence. The parents are of conflicting feelings; understandably concerned by her disappearance, but telling themselves that they did “let her go” and well, she is an adult. They decide to stay in the flat and continue their vacation locally in hopes to eventually connecting with her.

London’s excellent novel is not a mystery, but an engrossing family tale, well-populated with a few generations of 'ordinary' people. Her familial focus moves effortlessly across time, to and from various family members, covering: Maya, her brother Magnus, her parents and their siblings and parents, but also the flatmate, old flames, close friends.… The result is a thoughtful meditation on the psychological "stuff" we drag behind us, the "stuff" we seem to inherit, and the "stuff" we leave behind.

The book has obvious mentions of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy & Chekhov, and clearly some philosophy of each writer informs the story. This is NOT the kind of family saga once so popular in the 70s and 80s, it’s much more penetrating and compassionate, and there is something about the nobility of the ordinary or what the New Yorker said in a review —"turning the past into a living, unfinished thing, still bristling with what could be."

Note: I admit I had to create a cheatsheet showing how everyone is connected to keep everyone straight. It was worth it. ( )
  avaland | Oct 14, 2020 |
Dreamy and internal, this book shifts points of view between Maya (who chooses to go missing), her parents, Toni and Jacob, and her brother Magnus. They each explore their relationships to their past, and the places and people who formed them. An interesting view of a family - placed in qan area of the world I would like to know more about. ( )
  Lcwilson45 | Feb 9, 2014 |
Thoughtful, reflective, writing with insights about humanity woven throughout the story. ( )
  autleaves78 | Jul 24, 2012 |
Maya de Jong is 18 and moves to Melbourne to escape the small-town life and a failed relationship and to get a job and assert her independence. She ends up in an affair with her 50ish, married boss whose wife is dying of cancer. Under suspicious circumstances, Maya is spirited away by the boss. This is almost at the same time as her parents, Jacob and Toni, travel to the city to visit Maya and have a vacation. They leave Maya's teenage brother at home because he's still in school. Jacob and Toni stay at Maya's rental house even though she's not there and begin looking for clues as to what happened to their daughter. In this process, the reader is taken back to their own young-adult lives and the people they were then. Toni was married to a mobster, and Jacob was a hippy. Going through the de Jong family history is a strange and fascinating journey. Each member of the family, including Jacob's sister Kitty, is flawed but real and likeable. This book was a slow starter, but I'm glad I didn't give up because I eventually became wrapped up in the characters and their stories and enjoyed it very much. ( )
1 vote CatieN | Jun 11, 2011 |
Joan London should write more books as her lyrical sensitive prose is a pleasure to read. ( )
  bhowell | Apr 30, 2011 |
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From the author of 'Gilgamesh' comes 'The Good Parents', a tale of loss and longing that gets right to the heart of the struggle to belong.

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