Sunday, November 27, 2016

So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell

A man brings to life a vanished world and a long ago crime of passion

In a small Midwestern farming town, during the 1920’s, a man murders his wife’s lover. A sensitive boy, his mother dead and father recently remarried, the narrator is thrown together with the murderer’s quiet son, Cletus, igniting an odd friendship. Years later, in the much larger city of Chicago, the narrator encounters Cletus, and, from fear and shock, ignores him. Feeling guilty, the narrator imagines the scenes before and after the murder.

This was a novel? The entire time I was reading, I thought it was a memoir. An artful, technically proficient memoir. Slight in size, the book touches on numerous themes. Childhood. America, the passage of time. Fate, I guess. Lloyd Wilson, the murdered man, the lover. Clarence Smith, the insecure cuckold, the murderer. I kept mixing the two men up – I think that was supposed to be part of the book – their generic “American” names. The prose was pellucid and went down as easily as rain. Maxwell skillfully used different points of view – including that of a dog. The community felt claustrophobic, and then the writer punches holes to let in the light.

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