Monday, September 9, 2013

The Rockin' Chair

17739489Memories are the ultimate contradiction. They can warm us on our coldest days or they can freeze a loved one out of our lives forever. The McCarthy family has a trove of warm memories. Of innocent first kisses. Of sumptuous family meals. Of wondrous lessons learned at the foot of a rocking chair. But they also have had their share of icy ones. Of words that can never be unsaid. Of choices that can never be unmade. Of actions that can never be undone.

Following the death of his beloved wife, John McCarthy (Grandpa John) calls his family back home. It is time for them to face the memories they have made, both warm and cold. Only then can they move beyond them and into the future.

*May Contain Spoilers*

From secrets hidden behind carefully forged masks to ghosts that haunt their waking lives, every family has problems. This McCarthys are no different. Steven Manchester reveals their heavy hearts and their journey to light in his novel, The Rockin' Chair

When Grampa John requested his grandchildren to return to their Montana home, he was only thinking how much it would mean for them to see their grandmother before she passed on. He wasn't expecting to discover that despair had overwhelmed the lives of each of his family members. When he learns how much help his family needs, Grampa John vows to stay on earth long enough to help each member find their way out of darkness. 

The greatest thing about this novel is the variety of characters. Each reader will be able to connect with at least one of the members of the McCarthy family, if not more. Grampa John has just lost his wife and is determined to put the pieces of his family back together. Hank is John's son and has never felt accepted, nor completely loved by his father. Their relationship is estranged, even though they live on the same farm. Hank wants trust and openness with his father, but his stubborn nature threatens to keep the two men apart. 

Elle is Hank's wife and she's always been strong, for other people. She puts everyone ahead of herself and doesn't think twice about it. She takes care of her mother-in-law as she suffers from Alzheimer's while remaining solid in her role as a wife. 

The grandchildren each have their own demons that Grampa John soon recognizes. George is in the military, just returning from an overseas tour where he killed a young boy. He feels nothing but guilt and remorse as he tries to adjust to civilian life. Readers will feel the regret in George's heart and connect with him easily. Evan has just lost the love of his life - or so he thought. With Grampa John's advice and age-old wisdom, Evan learns to live for others and come to terms with the fate of his relationship. Readers  won't have any problem relating to Evan. Though he can be a little too soft-hearted (maybe even corny) at times, his personality comes through stronger in the second half of the novel. Tara dreamed of being an actress but instead fell into alcoholism and drug addiction. Though she's the least explored character in the book, readers will connect with her plight to overcome her ailment. 

The plot of The Rockin' Chair is simple and straight-forward, emphasizing the growth of the characters instead of the events that occur around them. As the McCarthy family heals, the reader/character connection strengthens. The dialogue has an awkward feel at times, and certain situations allow for more fictionalized reactions, but the overall sense of the novel is powerful. It's amazing to see a family pull together after a tragedy and Manchester captures the essence of familial love in this new novel.

 Rating: 3/5 Cups

1 comment:

  1. Look forward to reading this book. I agree that family ties are very important. I was very close to my grandmother but she is no longer with us.