Don’t Put the Boats Away
This saga about the Sutton family spans the years from the end of World War II to 1971. Tragedy had struck with the death of the elder son in the war, and every member of the family is grieving. The mother, who suffers from PTSD after driving an ambulance in World War I, drinks to cover her guilt for not telling this son the horrors of war. Saddened by his son’s death, the father, George, is unable to pass his successful company on to him. George’s daughter, Harriet, tries to fill her dead brother’s place in the firm, choosing a college major and career path that could lead to working at her father’s company. The younger brother, Nat, who doesn’t want to work at the company, intentionally flunks out of Yale in the hopes that his father will allow him to go to music school. Much unhappiness ensues with alcoholism, career choices, failing marriages and divorce as each family member deals with their grief and the life choices following from it.
This book is a quiet read. The author takes us to the edge of a cliff, like mother and daughter needing to bail the family’s boat in the midst of a storm, and then backs off by letting everything go swimmingly well. Much of the story line seems inevitable. For example, the mother goes to a rehab facility to dry out, and it’s a great success. I’d have liked more tension and less predictability.
(Ed. note: this review has been corrected to clarify plot points.)