A HOME AT THE END OF THE WORLD by Michael Cunningham


Email this review


A wise, penetrating first novel, marred only by occasional passages of soap-opera, about two boys from troubled families whose adolescent homosexual affair ends, decades later, in an improvised extended family where one is heterosexual and the other faced with a dying ex-lover. Jonathan Glover, whose family is the kind that appears in the Sunday supplement of the Cleveland Post in 1968, comes to love Bobby Morrow, whose family falls apart after his older brother is killed in a freak accident. They have a boyish, inarticulate affair (Jonathan: ""love between boys was best treated as a commonplace"") before Jonathan leaves Cleveland for New York, where he lives, still homosexual, with Clare, who, after a failed marriage and a lesbian affair, wants a child. He gets involved with Erich (""somewhere towards the middle of the risk spectrum""). Meanwhile, Bobby has lived with Jonathan's parents for years; Alice, Jonathan's mother (and one of the narrators), takes him under her wing. When the parents move to Arizona, Bobby goes to New York; he and Clare become lovers. In short order, then, Jonathan disappears but finally leaves a message that his father has died; Clare and Bobby hightail it for the funeral to Arizona; Clare discovers she's pregnant; the mÉnage à trois transplant themselves to an old house to raise baby Rebecca (Clare: ""a love so ravenous it's barely personal""). When Erich visits, clearly dying with AIDS, the family takes him in; Jonathan, still an emotional adolescent trying to accept that he no longer lives at ""the beginning of an orgiastic new age,"" must face his own mortality and learn to take some responsibility. He reaches such maturity in symbolic fashion when he scatters his father's ashes. Some of this originally appeared in The New Yorker. Despite a few melodramatic blemishes: a surprising, very promising debut.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1990
ISBN: 0374707596
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux