Monday 13 May 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of At the Far End of Nowhere Christine Davis Merriman

At the Far End of Nowhere

"A good read for anyone, but especially ideal for American readers."



family drama/coming of age

1950s - 1970s

"In this hauntingly unconventional novel, young Lissa Power challenges the imagination and captures the heart as she struggles to grow up under the guidance of her father, Stouten a watchmaker, inventor, and mechanical wizard who is easily old enough to be her grandfather. When Lissa is twelve, her mother dies from breast cancer, and the reclusive old watchmaker, now 84 years old, must oversee his daughter's coming of age. Faced with the loneliness of celibacy, the vulnerability of old age, and the responsibility of supporting two young children, Stouten remains determined to protect his beloved daughter from all harm. As Lissa matures, Stouten's authority becomes increasingly restrictive. Immersed in Stouten's old-fashioned and eccentric world view, Lissa becomes her father's close companion, the mother of the house, and eventually her ageing father's caregiver. Enmeshed in a powerful bond, father and daughter fall back on obsessive-compulsive behaviour to cope with sexual trauma, sickness, poverty, old age, and death. Against a backdrop of tumultuous events in the 1950s, '60s, and '70s the Cold War, political assassinations, the Vietnam War, peace protests, the Civil Rights movement, the moon landing, and the women's liberation movement Stouten uses storytelling to transport Lissa back with him to the time of his childhood much quieter time, but not an idyllic one, when horses and oxen ploughed the fields and folks moved more slowly, with the rhythm of nature. Here At the Far End of Nowhere, father and daughter weave fact with fiction and merge reality with fantasy to reveal a broader truth."

Lissa Power has a somewhat unique family and lifestyle, an elderly father and a mother who dies when Lissa and her brother are young. And her death means difficulty for the family, it will not be easy for a somewhat set in his ways, elderly man to bring up young children during the turbulent events that form the history of the 1950s through to the 1970s.

Then there is the matter of prejudice, women's rights, equality... And when her father dies, the challenge for Lissa is to face the world, one in which she has, throughout her childhood, viewed from what seems like a cocooned existence.

This was an enjoyable read, bringing back and stirring my own memories of the years of my younger age, (I was in my late teens during the '60s). My only comment is that these were American memories and American events, and as a Brit, I felt a little cheated that there was not much about this period and events that happened on this side of the Pond, But then, to be fair, Lissa would not have known any more of what was going on in Britain than we did about the US - outside of the big issues of the Cuban Missile Crisis,  JFK's murder, the Moon Landings and Watergate.

A good read for anyone, but especially ideal for American readers.

© Mary Chapell 

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