Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Summons to Memphis: The Verdict

Pre-Script: This is too long and I didn't bother editing. It is not meant to be a proper book review. This is just me, telling my friends about a book I read.

A Summons to Memphis is the story of the Carver family, a genteel bunch, long-time residents of Nashville, Tennessee. George Carver's business relations turn sour and rather than dealing with them head on, he decides to move his family to Memphis.

As the story unfolds we find out about the effects of the move on his wife, Minty, and his four grown children: Josephine and Betsy, Alex and Georgie. Mr. Carver's wife and children are not only unprepared for the move but also are never able to recreate in Memphis the kind of blissful living each one of them had gotten accustomed to in Nashville.

What makes the novel a pleasure to read is the way in which Taylor can give a straight-forward account of a person's actions and how those actions are perceived by others but then swiftly turn things around and allow those very same people to reconsider their initial impressions. The most moving such turn is the main protagonist Alex's journey of fear, awe and resentment towards his father to studying, understanding and ultimately learning to admire the old patriarch's character.

As someone who often struggles with my sense of self as determined by my birthplace, my upbringing, my education and other people's ideas of how best I can be fulfilled, I got to really sympathize with Taylor's characters' search “for an otherness to everything I had been taught was mine or might be mine.”

I think that anyone who is a parent or has at some point felt various resentments towards one's parents would really enjoy this book.

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