Firstly, and most importantly, I just want to comment that, even though this book ends at Christmas, none of the characters are in any way thinking about Christmas (with the possible exception of Enid). I'm not trying to say that just because it's Christmas, no one should have any troubles and everyone should just be constantly eating turkey, but not one of the characters is excited, or humming jingle bells, or doing any of that good sweet Christmas stuff they should be doing. Try telling me it's because they're all grown ups, and I will punch you because Christmas is aweeeeesome and always will be.
Try some singing, Lamberts.
Actually, I've just remembered the carollers, and that one bit where Chip arrives. THOSE were pretty Christmassy. But that's it.
- Gary- Gary is kind of a terrible human being. I know, I know, his wife sucks. But you know who married his wife? Gary did. Because he ALSO sucks. I can't even, with the stringing Enid along about Jonah, and oh hey, you owe me $5, mom; and also did I mention that I invested in that company that sort of short changed my dad and am making a mint off of it? Oh yeah, and remember when I said I was depressed? Turns out I was just an asshole! Fucking Gary. Above all things, though, I hate this about him the most: "It frustrated him that people could so happily drop out of the world of conventional expectations; it undercut the pleasure he took in his home and job and family; it felt like a unilateral rewriting, to his disadvantage, of the rules of life." Firstly, Gary, comparison is the thief of joy, so, you might want to work on that. Secondly... You wife is a sociopath, your kids don't like you so much, how's that conventional life working out for ya? Oh yeah, I don't care.
- Denise- I don't know if it's just because her narrative came straight after Gary's which, trust me, was a welcome break, but I feel a lot more positive towards Denise now. Actually, it's not that uncomplicated- I hate that now she's allowed to have Robin she doesn't even want her anymore, and what was with that domestic violence thing? But, still, Denise seems to see people better than any of the other characters, to realise the things that they want and need AND- more importantly- she tries to help them get them. Like an ultimately good person would do. She tries, anyway.
- Chip- Oh, Chip. Has he redeemed himself? It's basically impossible to forget what an absolute dick he was at the start, but... Looking after his parents! A wife! Twins! Moving to Chicago! And, maybe most importantly, realising that his script (and, by extension, his life) is/was not a thriller but a farce. I don't know- if it's possible to forgive a character for the bad things they did/were, then I think I did that with the knowledge that he stayed in St Jude for SIX WEEKS, sacrificing the image he had of himself in the process and, just maybe, becoming better. In my brain sequel, Gary's kids are as messed up as these three, but Chip's twins are fine, but that's just me.
- Alfred- I don't really know what to say about Al. He's been tyrannical, distant, hugely racist, and helped to mess up three human beings, but he's also a sick old man who can't tell his left from his right any more. The main feeling left behind from his character is of never ever wanting to grow old in such an undignified, and yeah, upsetting way. Fuck this shit: "The clarity to think and the power to act were still vivid in his memory. Through a window that gave onto the next world, he could still see the clarity and see the power, just out of reach, beyond the window's thermal panes."
- Enid- I don't really know what to say about Enid. On the one hand, yay for standing up for gay rights, on the other... I'm really uneasy about her 'correcting' Al. I get it- she's put up with all his bullshit for YEARS, has been his caregiver for the past few, and now it's time for her to get her own back. Ok, fine, BUT the man who did all the bad things to her isn't even there anymore, so really she's just taking it out on a sick person. I am happy about her eventual freedom, only... I'm not so sure she has it in her to use her last years in a good way. But hopefully I'm wrong.
Sorry, that was really long!
Just one more thing and I'll leave you be. I found this really really interesting:
"He'd lost track of what he wanted, and since who a person was was what a person wanted, you could say that he'd lost track of himself."The reason I find this interesting is, IS a person what they want? Are we just bundles of desires, making decisions that satisfy our most pressing current want, or is there more to us than that? I'm not even sure I know what I think about it, but I think what Franzen thinks is... Yes, we are more than a grouping of wants, because what we also are is what we are to other people. Even if we don't know what we want anymore, there's still the essential facts of where we came from and people who know us and a whole lot more than just wanting stuff like horrible little capitalists. I understand why Chip thinks people are what they want, but I think he's wrong.