Read Wish You Were Here by Stewart O'Nan Online

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Award-winning writer Stewart O'Nan has been acclaimed by critics as one of the most accomplished novelists writing today. Now comes his finest and most complete novel to date. A year after the death of her husband, Henry, Emily Maxwell gathers her family by Lake Chautauqua in western New York for what will be a last vacation at their summer cottage. Joining is her sister-iAward-winning writer Stewart O'Nan has been acclaimed by critics as one of the most accomplished novelists writing today. Now comes his finest and most complete novel to date. A year after the death of her husband, Henry, Emily Maxwell gathers her family by Lake Chautauqua in western New York for what will be a last vacation at their summer cottage. Joining is her sister-in-law, who silently mourns the sale of the lake house, and a long-lost love. Emily's firebrand daughter, a recovering alcoholic recently separated from her husband, brings her children from Detroit. Emily's son, who has quit his job and mortgaged his future to pursue his art, comes accompanied by his children and his wife, who is secretly heartened to be visiting the house for the last time. Memories of past summers resurface, old rivalries flare up, and love is rekindled and born anew, resulting in a timeless novel drawn, as the best writing often is, from the ebbs and flow of daily life....

Title : Wish You Were Here
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781555847913
Format Type : ebook
Number of Pages : 528 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Wish You Were Here Reviews

  • Alexandra
    2019-04-24 04:41

    Time and time again I have heard people state their disappointment with this book. On some level I can understand where they are coming from. One of the first things I was taught about writing stories was that there were two necessary elements: some sort of conflict followed by a resolution or redemption. This novel never reaches a point of climax, and rather than ending in some sort of resolution it merely drops off, almost as if the author grew tired of narrating the story. I think that in order to truly appreciate this novel one must lay aside any preconceived notions of what makes a book "good". It is unlikely that the reader will finish the novel without the sense of wanting more, but in my opinion this is what makes the novel great. O'Nan has an uncanny ability to draw the reader not only into the character's world but into their very hearts. The story itself is unremarkable. There is no drama, no closure. There are only moments. That is the beauty of this novel. Even as life surrounds us with its grander scheme, we live only in moments, and ultimately they are the things that define us. This novel is unfinished because, at the end of the day, life is unfinished. Situations can be resolved but we as human beings- emotional, cognisant- cannot be. Therein lies the heart of this book, and what gives this book heart.

  • Jeanette
    2019-05-08 05:33

    Too long, like a two week vacation with extended family. But also holding the poignant points of the each "best" day. But one week at the lake is just about right for this family whose matriarch is selling the "place" this year. Losing that star for its length, this novel gained another right back from the true 3 star form by its constant REAL life versatility. And its incredible attention and point of detail. Nearly a dozen characters, all ages- except for baby or toddler stages. And all nuanced to near perfection. Now watch those slippery stones by the garage, everyone. Who hasn't stubbed their toe or fallen at those spots!O'Nan knows the average human American. O'Nan knows the older mind, the hubris of the middle, and the young's impulse. IMHO, his 40 something characterizations are phenomenal. The hubris in their own success, their own lacks or failure both in realization and in ignoring an opportunity for changing outcomes, their own quirky dithers or their own pet peeves which have set a constant pattern completely unrealized by the proponent. His middle aged are 10 star perfect in immense psychological depth. And they never think (not truly at any depth of actual perception) that they, themselves, will age or be like those pathetic and annoying elders- their parents who are still alive and still frothing some expectations. LOL!Were there a single or a number of beloved characters I loved/liked or rooted for in this book? NO. Not really. A few of them like Lise left me nuts. Were there a dozen similar I have known and loved in reality, nearly twins? YES!O'Nan does normal family- in any shape- better than at least 90% of all the rest.Now if you really want to have a story, you need to have competing dogs from 3 families as I do. Rufus simply didn't have the energy to really mix it up. Let's make out a list right now everyone, of who will bring what and where to put it! I would not suggest this book to the young, to those who want action, or to those who want plot progressions. It's quite closer to reality. A million long moments. Loved it.

  • Erin Malone
    2019-05-01 22:45

    Folks, I've gotta be honest here: this book is 528 pages of being stuck at a lake house with family members you don't really like. All of the characters are whiny and utterly unsympathetic. As for the plot, it goes like this--Emily's husband has died, and her kids, grandkids, and sister-in-law join her at their lake house for one last vacation before she sells it. There's a lot of rain and sitting around. There's a lot of talk about dinner and what's on the mostly empty shelves of the refrigerator. We go inside each character's mind to find their distrust and blame of the others. So, you may be wondering, why did you keep reading? Why? Well, in other reviews, I may have mentioned my compulsion to finish books. A book has to be unreadable for me to stop. But really I kept reading this one because I like other things by O'Nan. And because I was CONVINCED THAT SOMETHING HAD TO HAPPEN.Sucker.

  • Lynne Spreen
    2019-04-22 02:42

    I'm on page 221 out of 517 and I can't finish this book. I loved Emily, Alone, but this book is not grabbing me, and I can't spend any more time on it. Let me illustrate some of my concerns:I couldn't follow the writer's thoughts at times. Here's an example, of an adult son (Ken) thinking about his childhood and his now-deceased father:"Ken had never heard him seriously complain about anything...as if a Zenlike acceptance was proof of his wisdom. But to a child his self-possession could seem an illusion, the usual adult insistence on infallibility. For years he seemed backwards to Ken, out of touch, but later his calm seemed ideal, his silence not empty but dignified. Ken still could not figure him out."And I still cannot figure out what that passage means. To a child, such calm and wisdom would NOT seem like an illusion. A child would take it as true. As an adult, that child might look back and consider it might have been an illusion. This passage is an example of some of the writing in this book, wherein I think O'Nan goes so into his own thoughts that he didn't edit severely enough, or objectively consider how his words might sound from outside his head. Another aspect I didn't appreciate was the one-dimensional portrayal of Emily. Halfway through the book she's still a fairly narcissistic, superficial character. I anticipate this may change later in the book, but I don't have another several evenings to pursue it. Finally, there are too many indistinct children's voices in this story. The book may have benefited from pruning back to where the only characters we'd follow would be the five (!) adults, but with the addition of four kids (!) there is too much going on. Of the children, the two girls are both elder sisters to a younger brother. I don't see why that configuration was so interesting it needed to be repeated, or in a broader sense, what all those kids' voices added to this story. There is too much going on in this book, and none of it very compelling. I appreciate the author's efforts, but this book lacked dramatic tension, had too many points of view, and many of the characters were insufficiently developed.

  • Lindsay
    2019-05-20 05:00

    I read this book after reading EMILY, ALONE (255 pages), a much shorter novel that is actually the sequel to WISH YOU WERE HERE (516 pages). I Liked EMILY, ALONE and didn't like WISH YOU WERE HERE. How could this be? O'Nan's minutely detailed descriptions (which are the substance of both books) are absorbing. However, there is no plot -- something that is more burdensome in a long novel than a short one. There IS a major red herring that O'Nan abandons after stringing the reader along for a few hundred pages. The only surprise the novel delivers is the impression at the end that the characters had a good time during this family vacation on Lake Chautauqua. This is surprising because for 500 pages all they do is snipe, backbite, judge, and belittle each other, while feeling sorry for themselves.I wondered at my willingness to finish the book until I realized how skillful O'Nan is at presenting the literary equivalent of a reality show. He kept me reading, but at the end I felt let down.

  • T. Greenwood
    2019-05-11 01:36

    I am O'Nan fan through and through. After reading "Last Night at the Lobster," I knew I would read anything he wrote. Warning: this is a big fat book in which almost nothing happens. A lot of readers will put it down when it becomes clear that the plot is little more than what happens when a family convenes at a summer cabin for one final week before it is sold. For some readers, the details will be cumbersome, the pace sluggish, the characters frustrating. But for me, I just didn't want to end. The details were intricate, illuminating, meticulous. The pace was like the leisurely pace of summer itself. And the characters were absolutely vivid and authentic. Flawed and terrific. I was happy to hang out with them for this week...and I plan to read Emily, Alone so that I can follow Emily into her twilight years.I think that this novel is, quite simply, a rumination on finality. There is an inevitability felt throughout the 580 some odd pages. The cabin has been sold, there is nothing that can be done to change that. This is the end of this piece of the characters' history. It parallels Emily's widowhood as well. And that, coupled with the beautiful writing and complex characters and a setting that was so close to home for me, enough to make for a seriously pleasurable read.This book really contributed to an ongoing question I've been pondering, and that is: what is the point of fiction? What is the storyteller's obligation? I used to be able to answer that question quite assuredly. But now I'm not so sure. As a writer, I am constantly grappling with what my responsibilities are to the reader. What sort of contractual obligations must I fulfill? Does the lack of an arc (in plot or character) break that contract? Is a book allowed to simply ponder ideas without coming to some sort of climax? I don't know. What I do know is this: I loved this book.

  • Sue
    2019-05-03 05:43

    It is August, and the cicadas are my Muzak for reading on warm and lazy evenings. I don’t need a beach novel (never go there), but I do welcome something easy and a little nostalgic for this time of year. A perfect time to read about a lakeside family vacation, replete with hamburgers, water fun, unwelcome rain, and family tensions. This three-generation event is especially poignant, because the Maxwell vacation cottage on New York’s Lake Chautauqua is about to be sold. Grandfather has died, and grandmother Emily has decided she needs the cash for her years alone. Daughter-in-law Lisa does not want to share her husband with his birth family and is generally not pleased to be present. Daughter Margaret’s unstable life is about to lose one of its anchors when the house goes. And the grandchildren are in varying stages of compliance and rebellion. One boy has sticky fingers. A teenage girl is confused about her burgeoning lesbianism. Grandmother Emily tries too hard to keep everyone organized. Son Ken longs to be a great photographer but limps along in other kinds of jobs.The strength in the book is that it moves languidly, like the August days, into the thoughts of each of the nine people. We see each person slipping uneasily between polar feelings – sometimes isolated from the enforced family togetherness, but sometimes connected to family and tradition. I think it takes a lot of courage to write a book in which so little happens. O’Nan is willing to leave us with a heightened awareness of people’s unfulfilled longings, their muddled memories, and their need for one another.

  • Jennifer
    2019-05-17 01:56

    I have longed dreamed of writing a novel about an extended family returning to their childhood home for a reunion, from the point of view of each member of the family and highlighting the different expectations, hopes, fears, and dreams each individual had. Well, it seems i am too late now. Wish you were Here is a great story of a family who is doing exactly that and honestly, I felt like Mr. O'Nan was writing about my family, I saw so much of myself and the rest of my family in his complex, imperfect charactors. His style of writing is honest and genuine and the ending is not tied up in a nice neat bow, although I wounldn't have it any other way. This is a great book to read before your next family reunion...It will remind you to be gentle with your loved ones even as they drive you crazy. Just because you believe you know what motivates them doesn't mean you know everything.

  • Bess
    2019-05-04 22:35

    I've tried to pick this back up to finish -- well, to start, really -- at least three or four times over the past six months, but every single time my eyes just glaze over and I either very soon nod off or end up reading the same page over and over again in a loop without being able to advance, like running in place in a dream or something. It's not that it's boring; it's just not ABOUT anything -- which is fine, since apparently (according to my boyfriend, who read it and didn't completely hate it) it's SUPPOSED to give off the summer-vacationy feel of nothing meaning anything at your family's lake house where you laze around all day staring at clouds until it's time to return to your "real life" in the city.It's page after page of not-altogether UNpleasant descriptions of things, but it just goes in one ear and out the other for some reason. For me, anyway. This guy's other book was similar -- to me, anyway -- but it was only, like, 200 pages. This one's closer to 400, and I'm only on page 17. Maybe if it were the beginning of summer things would be different, but right now I need something more exciting to jumpstart me into the "real world" of fall.

  • Marsha
    2019-04-24 01:49

    Most of the time, I hated reading this book. I recognize the author's brilliant wordsmithery (some of his turns of phrase are like little poems unto themselves), and occasionally he offers an insight that rings disconcertingly true. Aside from those highlights, though, this book is yet another example of late-20th-century American literature that features a dysfunctional family with sometimes sympathetic but mostly dislikable characters. These sorts of books are a dime a dozen these days, and even O'Nan's moments of brilliance can't make this novel stand out from the crowd.

  • Christine Rebbert
    2019-05-17 06:58

    A friend recently gave me her copy of "Emily, Alone" by the same author, and when I read the jacket, I saw it was a sequel to this book, so wanted to read this first. It is the story of Emily, a long-time Pittsburg-ian, recently widowed, spending what will be the last summer vacation with her children, grandchildren and sister-in-law at the family beach home in Chautauqua, NY. She has already contracted to sell the house after this vacation, which is spent reminiscing about a lifetime of visits and going through items in the house which family members wish to preserve. Each chapter is from a different family member's point of view, from the matriarch Emily on down to the youngest grandchild, Justin. How they view both the past and the present in different ways is the heart of the story, described in a detail that makes you feel you are there. It was interesting that when a chapter was written from the point of view of oldest son Ken or his wife, Lise, she is referred to as "Lise", but from everyone else's point of view, she is "Lisa". I think that says something about the others' provincialness, not recognizing the alternative of "Lise", and also of their distance from and lack of acceptance of her, that they can't even get her name right. Of course, I identified most with Emily herself, who I guessed to be a little older than myself, as she goes through her memories of her family growing the past near-50 years, and all the doubts about the things we (or some other family member!) could have done better...I grew up in the Northeast, and have always wanted to spend some time at Chautauqua, so this gave me a flavor of what that would like. I also grew up very near a lake so could identify with that whole milieu of spending summer days swimming, boating, lazing near the water. That probably added to my sense of "being there" as I read. I definitely enjoyed and would recommend this book, but be prepared for the detail and the length of it (517 pp)! It is a great summer read; take it to the beach! Here's a quote that resonated with me, as Emily muses on the past -- and present: "She was obsolete, the product of another century, like her grandparents. Everything she had loved was gone, everything she knew was useless, all the songs and dances, the trendy recipes, like an old lady whose clothes had long gone out of style. But that's what she was, that least desirable of things: an old lady. She'd never have thought it possible." If you're old enough, you know how that feels. But that doesn't make the book depressing -- only real...

  • Trin
    2019-04-21 22:39

    After the death of the family patriarch, a large clan gathers for the last time at their soon-to-be-sold lake house. The POV shifts around between the various characters, each of whom has assorted issues: the recovering alcoholic daughter, the kleptomaniac grandson, the maybe-a-lesbian granddaughter, the shiftless son, the judgmental and demanding mother. They all struggle with themselves as they simultaneously struggle to find ways to fill up the week, over the course of which, as with many vacations, almost nothing happens. Which for the reader translates to: over the course of this novel’s 500-plus pages, almost nothing happens.O’Nan is a good writer, talented at cracking open his characters’ skulls and making pretty patterns with the grey matter. I really loved his Last Night at the Lobster, but what differentiates Lobster from Wish is that the former is a glorious exercise in nuance and restraint. It’s a tiny tiny novel that says a lot, while Wish is a huge novel that never seems to arrive at any kind of conclusion. Which, I admit, might be true to life: I find it easier to believe in this family failing to resolve all their issues in seven days than I would a magical last-minute burst of understanding. But while I can take 200 pages of sound and fury, 500 pages of every single detail of every single moment of every single day—from multiple POVs, no less!—becomes downright painful. I mean, I get the whole “form equals content” concept, but I’ve been on endless family vacations that felt shorter than the time it took to slog through this novel. Next time just send me a postcard.

  • Maureen
    2019-05-16 22:56

    I wish I could say I was finished with this book, but unless totally skimming the last 200 pages is finishing, then I truthfully just gave up. I wouldn't have minded that there basically isn't any plot, nor any climax or even any closure.....if this book wasn't about 350 pages too long. I put up with it for the first 200 pages but it was just soooo dull. I found the characters to be fairly well developed and though most of them seemed quite miserable, they actually were believable as written. And I could totally visualize the minutae of each day that passed but illustrated in excruciating detail made it unbearable! None of the characters really liked each other much yet out of some sense of familial duty, they return to the vacation cabin one last time before it's sold. I understand that. However we are led to believe that none of them really wants to be there. They seem to begrudgingly tolerate each other's presence. But then, on page 409, when discussing whether it's possible not to sell the home, one of the main characters actually says in what appears to be all honesty, "we love coming up here.". Seriously? Not the impression the author has been giving for the last 408 pages!I suppose if you are interested in a very long book with strong character studies, this is the book for you. If he could've done it with about 200 or so less pages, I might have appreciated it more.As I'm about to embark on a week long beach vacation with extended family, I'm so thankful we appreciate each other's company and actually want to spend time with each other rather than looking for ways to escape. This book was one vacation I couldn't wait to end!

  • Gerard Tarpey
    2019-05-01 00:35

    I purchased this book after reading a good review of the author's following publication - Emily Alone. Since as I understand it both books highlight the same family I thought it'd be worthwhile to read the first then the second. After finishing this one I'm not sure I'll pick up the second. The story is about a family visiting their summer house in upstate NY for the final time. Emily, the mother, recently lost her husband and is there for the final week with her 2 grown children, her sister-in-law and her 4 grandchildren. If it's true that a large number of middle class American families lead collective lives of quiet desperation, then this family is high on that list. No one in the book is happy. They are all unhappy about their current status, their past choices, and their future perspectives. And, to make it worse none of the characters are interesting. The tension is nonexistent. And, for me the only highlighted conflict in the tale is the son playing one last round of golf with Emily where he replays in his mind the last time he played with both his parents and his dad scored an ace. Can he duplicate that? Could he ever? Spoiler alert - he fails to duplicate the feat. I'm unsure why so many people reviewed this book as highly as they did. It was a bear to get through and I finished it without any feeling of empathy or understanding about the family.

  • Shama
    2019-04-24 23:54

    The author is clearly a talented writer as evidenced by his writing style...every detail is captured, to an excessive level IMO, but you get a very vivid picture of the scenes and what is taking place. But do I really need to know that someone is swatting a fly or going to the bathroom in that much detail? The story is filled with mostly unlikable characters, and the story goes nowhere. Maybe it was not meant to and is just a slice of life tale but not any life I cared about. The family was too dysfunctional but the reasons for their dysfunction are unclear. Even a proposed "mystery" about a missing minor "character" is never resolved much to my dismay. If capturing the ennui of a boring, rainy summer week on a lake house in Western NY was the point, then it did that but who wants to spend their summer doing that? That is how long it took me to finish this book--an entire summer into fall because it was so uninspiring that I could easily put it down and not come back to it for weeks. I rarely will not finish a novel and I kept going because I wanted to see where it went but nowhere apparently. One of my least favorite stories that I have ever read.

  • Meryl Evans
    2019-04-25 23:36

    This is a book club read, otherwise I would've stopped reading after 100 pages. I can understand why the ratings are all over the place. One reviewer explained it very well -- we have preconceived notions of what makes a good good with mystery, suspense, conflict, etc. and the book never has any of these.That's OK to do. But this one spent an entire week with the family and the sections divided up into Monday, Tuesday, etc. You're almost a fly on the wall into a family's last vacation at a lake house. Frankly, there was little to like about the family, their thoughts and their doings. I hardly cared about a single character. I skimmed a bit and it still took too long to read.I love hearing people's real-life stories and they're not all exciting and intriguing. So that tells me I can enjoy a story of a typical family. Just not this one.

  • Judy
    2019-04-28 03:40

    Have you ever spent a week in the summer with extended family? As a child it is non-stop fun with cousins and outdoor activities. As a teenager it is mostly a crushing bore. As adults, it is more work than vacation: the meals, the clean up, the excursions, sharing bathrooms and bedrooms. As grandparents, possibly you look forward to it all year, but when the week comes you are quickly exhausted by all the random activity of having so many people in such close quarters. The scenario of Wish You Were Here includes all of the above. Grandmother Emily, who lost her husband to cancer some months ago; Margaret, the black-sheep recovering alcoholic daughter who is about to be divorced with her teenage girl and eleven-year-old son. Kenneth is the nice but dreamy son who just quit his job to pursue being a photographer, with wife Lisa, teen girl and eleven-year-old son. In addition is spinster Aunt Arlene, sister of Emily's dead husband. They are all crammed into the family summer cabin on Lake Chautauqua in New York State. It will be their last time there before the cabin is sold. Stewart O'Nan is a realist writer. Every object, meal, mood, activity and surrounding area is enumerated in exquisite detail, like an early French slice-of-life novel. In 517 pages, seven days are covered from waking to bedtime. The pace is about the same as what I remember from teenage visits to my grandparents. And of course, there are constant issues. Should we drink around Margaret? Kenneth's wife is rather an insecure, spoiled brat who is jealous of her husband's closeness with his family and annoyed constantly by Emily. It goes on and on. As I was doggedly plowing along through those seven days and going slowly crazy, I wondered if any of the thousands of tense scenes would ever explode into some action or tragedy or release (they don't). It suddenly struck me. The author has exactly created what such a week is like from each viewpoint: grandmother, adult children, daughter-in-law, teen girl, young boy. Emily talks just the way my mother did and has similar quirks. The high maintenance daughter-in-law could have been me in my younger married years.Honestly it was as if O'Nan held up a mirror to my extended families, of which I have had three, since I divorced and remarried. As I read, I felt exposed, self-conscious, sometimes ashamed and once in a while amused.I don't know that it did me any good to read this novel. I made it to the end as did Emily's family make it through the week, relieved to know I could go back to my usual life. I guess that was the point. We all have families, we are all self-involved and petty. Along with the fun of such gatherings is a somehow equal level of annoyance. I may never attend another family reunion but if I do, I am not sure if I will laugh or cry. I will certainly know that my family is not that much different from anyone else's and that we are all just a little bit crazy.

  • Roberta
    2019-05-05 03:47

    Tanto mi è piaciuto Emily, Alone (il 'seguito' di questo romanzo) tanto mi ha annoiato questo Wish You Were che racconta la settimana di una famiglia nella casa al lago che sta per essere venduta (a nemmeno un anno dalla morte del capostipite, Henry, marito di Emily). Se nel seguito mi sono sentita molto vicina a Emily, qui ne esce come una donnetta stizzosa, maniacale, passiva-aggressiva, mal tollerata dai figli e nipoti, dalla nuora e dalla cognata. Ho trovato poi abbastanza noiose/incredibili/esagerate/risibili le fisime dei vari personaggi:- Emily sta vendendo la casa e ovviamente sta cercando di gestire la perdita del marito, ma soprattutto sembra seccata dal fatto che i nipoti siano maleducati, la nuora maldisposta, i figli incapaci di fare esattamente quello che vuole lei- il figlio Kenneth (Ken) è un fotografo alle prese con la realizzazione che probabilmente non sarà mai un artista famoso. La moglie, Lisa o Lise (ma è intercambiabile davvero o sono refusi?) è annoiata dalla sua vita banale (a un certo punto è gelosa della fascinazione che il marito prova per la storia di una ragazza che proprio durante il soggiorno al lago viene rapita in pieno giorno e non viene più ritrovata, e riflette che la sua vita è sempre stata noiosa, priva di avvenimenti _interessanti_) gelosa del rapporto del marito con la sorella, incapace di gestire la suocera, sempre alla ricerca delle attenzioni del marito.- la figlia Margaret (Meg) annuncia il divorzio dal marito Jeff, da cui è separata da un anno ormai. Inoltre rivela di essere un'ex alcolista. Fuma erba, la sua macchina è una discarica ambulante, ha problemi di soldi. Questo personaggio sembra una macchietta.- I figli di Kenneth e Lisa sono Ella, che scopre di essere innamorata della cugina Sarah e passa tutto la settimana (e tutto il romanzo) torturandosi perché sa che è un amore impossibile, e che lei è bruttina mentre la cugina è bellissima - e Sam, che a quanto pare ha problemi comportamentali e quando l'orologio della cugina sparisce viene incolpato da tutti di essere stato lui (cosa peraltro vera) ma di cui non viene spiegata bene la situazione- I figli di Margaret e Jess sono Sarah, ormai adolescente, molto bella ma con problemi di amore (il suo ragazzo non le sta scrivendo) e Justin, impaurito praticamente di tutto.L'unico personaggio con cui mi sono identificata un po' è stata Arlene, la cognata di Emily, ma è un personaggio secondario in quanto non ha fisime/lamentele particolari, ovviamente.

  • Kathleen
    2019-05-11 00:54

    How could I have not read anything by Stewart O’Nan until Nancy Pearl’s recent recommendations? So skillful is his storytelling, his sparse writing style despite rich details about the every day moments of our lives, the tension he creates, the sense of foreboding, I alternately devoured pages and then had to leave the book for a short time.A year after Henry Maxwell’s death his family returns to their summer home on Lake Chautauqua in western New York. His widow, Emily, and his sister, Arlene, and dog, Rufus, make the drive from Pittsburgh; their son, Ken and his family, from Boston; and daughter, Meg, and her family from Detroit. While the summers in the distant past were generally happy, the family has spent their adult years struggling to find themselves and a meaningful life. Emily is prickly and fractious, wanting a close relationship with her children and grandchildren, but her opinions and questions freely shared have taken their toll. I cut her some slack because she was working so hard through her grief. I found it difficult, however, to work up any compassion for Emily’s adult children who were so self-involved. (I find those adult children incapable of having a decent relationship with their parents so challenging unless their parents have committed atrocities against them.) I did like the grandchildren, confused by relationships, unsure of themselves, and became annoyed with the adults who denied their very reasonable vacation requests.The secrets the adults harbored surfaced and unraveled parallel to the local mystery of an abducted teenager. Central to the plot is Emily’s daunting decision to sell this summer home, which serves to provide her some financial security but raises unexpected emotions for others to settle. The family vacation serves as a strong and familiar context; readers will identify with the traditions of the first and last night, the challenges of recreating special memories. Most of all, readers can immediately indulge themselves and learning how lives turn out by reading the sequel, “Emily, Alone.”

  • M
    2019-05-12 03:36

    This is really more of a 3 star book, but it hit me at a particular time and place where it really resonated so I am going to round up.I have read a couple of Marilyn French novels, and although they tended to be meandering and deeply flawed, I always felt a huge sense of loss when I finished them, because for all of her details and yapping, she ultimately created real life people whose groping for their car keys in deep purses and picking up milk at the grocery somehow sucked me out of my life and into theirs. Wish You Were Here was a lot like that as well - which is to say that there are three kinds of books out there: good books, bad books, and books I think are good that everyone else thinks are bad. Most people would find a book about three generations of a family vacationing for the week and ABSOLUTELY NOTHING HAPPENING intensely dull, and I get that. However, while I have been bored when it's not done well (I forget the titles now but there have been a few), I really enjoyed getting to know these people even though the plot remained static.O'Nan sandwiches Emily, the aging grandmother who has lost her husband to cancer and is now having one last hurrah in their summer cottage with her kids and their kids, her kids Margaret and Ken who are both disappointments to her, and their kids, four cousins who each have their own issues.What I liked about this book was how very very real it was. Some people hate that in fiction - they want wizards and flying brooms. I say, give me a painting of a bowl of fruit any day over some three eyed cubist freak. The dialogue was awesome, the characters' interactions very true to life, and while I didn't find any of the characters particularly likable, they were each very relatable and sympathetic to a degree.

  • Jay Phillippi
    2019-05-04 06:48

    Stewart O'Nan may be the best American novelist you have never heard of. I read the book that followed this one first (Emily Alone) just last year. It was recommended to me as fine writing that centered in Pittsburgh with a touch of Chautauqua. This one reverses the locations with the vast majority around Chautauqua Lake. Having grown up near Pittsburgh and lived Chautauqua County for almost thirty years, the locations are very familiar. It's obvious that O'Nan has spent some time there because he has picked up the kind of details that come from some familiarity. I was a little troubled by his depiction of the communities around the lake. They border on the grim at times and don't really match my memories of that time and place. It was only later in the book that it dawned on me that I was seeing the place through the eyes of the Maxwells, a family that seems to relish their family squabbles and negative world view.That doesn't sound like much of an endorsement of the book, but once again O'Nan has taken the mundane routines of life and created something magical. These are flawed, broken people trying to find a way forward through a lifetime of familial angst that they don't have the ability to express. They know they're broken, they know that something needs to be spoken. But they don't know what it is and have no idea how to say it if they did. Simply delightfulFor my full review and other reviews The View From the Phlipside

  • Judy
    2019-05-03 22:52

    Family ties bind us close together even as they have the power to tear us apart. And this book is a good example of the power--both positive and negative--of family bonds. Emily Maxwell's husband, Henry, has been dead for a year and Emily has decided to sell the family's cottage at Lake Chautauqua in upstate New York. She gathers the family together for one last vacation at the cottage before it is sold. Joining Emily are Arlene, her sister-in-law, who is grieving over the loss of the cottage that has been in her family for generations, Meg, Emily's daughter, who is separated from her husband, is a recovering alcoholic who lives with her two children in Detroit, and Ken, whose wife is very cool to his family and who doesn't want to be there, and their two children. As the three generations try to coexist as peacefully as possible for a week, old jealousies, anxieties, behavioral patterns, and unresolved arguments are ever present. Nan records all of the throughts and behaviors of each of the nine family members over the course of the week. In recording the attempt of this family to deal with grief and loss, readers will certainly see reflections of their own experiences within their individual families.

  • Vivian Valvano
    2019-04-26 22:46

    I read it for my Night Owls Library Reading Group. It reminded me of the old-fashioned stories in GOOD HOUSEKEEPING magazine that I used to read when my mother's monthly issue would arrive to our home in Jackson Heights. It is a story of one week in the lives of a very pedestrian family; they are at their summer cottage on the lake in Chautauqua, NY, and the cottage is being sold because the paterfamilias has recently died. I do not mean to sound like a snob, but I thought this book was simply boring. I believe the author meant to portray three generations of a "typical" family at a meaningful time of crux. But oh: the details! I don't think I ever want to read about cole slaw, macaroni salad, sliced tomatoes (all unfortunately recycled for several meals), paper dishes, taking turns in bathrooms. . . ever again. The novel has no style whatsoever. It made me scream for Hemingway. I have nothing against the characters here (I liked Arlene the best); I blame the author for the fact even serious issues like a post-rehab mother and a kleptomaniac child and a child who believes she is gay and can tell no one could actually be boring.

  • Joan Colby
    2019-05-07 22:59

    This is just the sort of detailed precise book that focuses on characterization which I love. One becomes immersed in the family happenings and tribulations of the Maxwells as they vacation for a week at their Chautaqua cottage that is to be sold following the death of Henry, Emily's husband. Henry's sister Arlene regrets the sale but won't protest. Emily's children Kenneth, a prospective photographer who has quit his well-paying job to concentrate on his art and his supportive but possessive wife Lise have two children, the brilliant Ellen and the disturbed Sam. Emily's daughter Meg is being divorced from her husband Jeff. A recovering alcoholic, without many prospects, she faces losing her home. Meg's children are Sarah, beautiful and boy-crazy, and Justin who fears most everything and idolizes his absent dad. The story plays out in this limited time period and is masterful in its comphrehnsion of the human psyche.

  • Jen
    2019-05-02 04:39

    This book is a very long story about a bunch of self-involved, whiny family members who come together for one week in the summer and obsess about ridiculous grudges and don't say much or do much and then they go home. That's about it. I read the entire thing, thinking surely at some point something was going to actually happen...but unfortunately, not much ever did. The actual writing is lovely, and the book has some lovely moments of insight - which is why I can't bring myself to give it one star. But with few exceptions, the characters are really unlikeable and very hard to care about. (Toward the end, I found myself skipping whole pages until I got to an Emily chapter b/c she was the only character that really fascinated me.) I finished this book feeling angry that I'd wasted my time.

  • Midge
    2019-04-30 22:41

    Don't waste your time. This is the longest book about absolutely nothing. It seems like the characters spend more time in the bathroom than doing anything else and the author likes to describe those visits in detail, including one totally unnecessary description of an episode of diarrhea. The author seems to be suffering from verbal diarrhea herself. Things happen but nothing gets solved. A young girl disappears from the local convenience store. You keep turning the pages waiting to find out her fate. A few mindless clues are given here and there but in the end.......nothing. You're just left hanging. It is a book that goes on and on and on endlessly. The longest book about nothing.

  • Savannah
    2019-05-01 01:57

    I really loved Emily, Alone, and hoped I would also love this one. One thing that bothered about this book is that none of the characters grow or change at all. The tension remains the same throughout and it's never resolved and never even really comes to a head. I would be okay with that, but all of the characters felt flat because they never really address the real issues. There are also a lot of characters' perspectives covered in the novel, and that could be what caused the disjointedness. I didn't hate that novel, but I didn't love it as much has I thought I would.

  • Diane Barnes
    2019-05-21 01:41

    A family vacation at the lake with 3 generations of the Maxwell family. A last week in the lake house before it is sold, and 3 of the days are filled with rain and storms. We've all been there, and you'll recognize the interior dialogue of all the characters. O'Nan has the ability to enter the minds and souls of each of his characters, from 9 year old boys to 75 year old grandmothers. Not much plot, and the book is dense and not a fast read, but a very satisfying one.

  • Vivienne Strauss
    2019-04-26 01:35

    This book was fantastic - told from many family members' points of view, all of them believable and touching. I wanted to weep with feelings of nostalgia many times thinking of my own family's home on the lake.

  • Liz
    2019-04-30 06:51

    Booooooring.