In her debut novel, The Arrivals available this Wednesday, May 25, 2011, Meg Mitchell Moore writes in the genre of a “quiet little novel” focused on everyday people leading everyday lives. Except if that book is based on a three generation family all living together in one household for the summer — and this book is –, then the storyline may not be that quiet.
Ironically the idea for The Arrivals came from the upheaval of the first novel Meg began to write. Halfway through that work-in-progress, realizing it wasn’t working for her at all, she salvaged some characters and their relationships to use in an entirely new book that would become the debut. However the themes of grandparents, and adult children leaning on their parents remained — albeit with a fresh tone and more relevant problems consistent with each generation.
Mother and first-born daughter, along with her own three-year old daughter and infant son, formed the initial relationships and then the rest of the family joined the fray that evolved into this synopsis for The Arrivals:
It’s early summer when Ginny and William’s peaceful life in Burlington, Vermont, comes to an abrupt halt.
First, their daughter Lillian arrives, two children in tow, to escape her crumbling marriage. Next, their son Stephen and his pregnant wife Jane show up for a weekend visit, which extends indefinitely. When their youngest daughter Rachel appears, fleeing her difficult life in New York, Ginny and William find themselves consumed again by the chaos of parenthood—only this time around, their children are facing adult problems.
By summer’s end, the family gains new ideas of loyalty and responsibility, exposing the challenges of surviving the modern family — and the old adage, once a parent, always a parent, has never rung so true.
While the adage rings true, so does the Praise.
One of the reasons for Meg Mitchell Moore’s success with this novel is in her ability to show, rather than tell. The family members — introduced with good pacing — are defined/described/identified primarily by their dialogue and behavior. Yes, for each character’s present problem, there is a backstory as explanation, yet not a detailed one. There’s just enough information given to pique readers’ curiosity to wonder what will they do next? And, because there are five adults and two small children living in the house, the struggles, reactions and dynamics are constantly changing. As a result, this is a natural page-turner exploring how individual crises affect the family as a whole.
However don’t expect The Arrivals to feature a dysfunctional family — i.e. one that implodes in ager and blame at the dinner table. For the most part, the adult children keep their problems private until they need to ask for help. Coming home is their safe haven, a place of comfort, temporary escape and where they know their parents will care for them.
As parents Ginny and William are loving and accepting, even avoiding prying into their childrens’ problems. But they do have their limits and feeling overwhelmed by the disorder that their children and grandchildren create inevitably tries their patience. So, in addition to the obvious theme of once a parent always a parent, there’s also: Coming home reverts even an adult to his/her childhood self. The author, agreeing with this observation, says:
“It’s so true! I recently wrote a guest blog post about things NOT to do when bringing your young children to your parents’ home, and most of the items on the list are things I have done. I leave things lying around at my parents’ house that I would never leave around at my own house. It’s completely obnoxious of me, and I think it’s very common too: you go home, you want to be taken care of, no matter how old you are.”
On the other hand, Meg’s description of family/home also holds the book’s message:
“Home is a rest stop on the highway of life. It shouldn’t be the final destination.”
She proves this with an insightful clarity to variations of timeless family problems, including the question of how best to raise children. Stay-at-home Mom, stay-at-home Dad, or something to accommodate both parents’ careers? Nurturing/caring with love is essential, but so is the need to foster independence and allow the children to one day be able to leave home for good.
When asked, though, what would she like readers to know most about The Arrivals, Meg Mitchell Moore said:
“I love these characters. I know they are flawed, and I know they’ve made mistakes. (They wouldn’t be very interesting if they were perfect.) The cover of the Australian edition, which is a fantastic depiction of a crowded toothbrush holder, says that the book will make you “’laugh, cry…and want to phone home.’” I think that’s very apt. I hope at least some readers feel that way when they close the book.”
And what this Fairy Godmother would like readers to know most about The Arrivals: It is a lovingly honest, and engagingly thoughtful story of how a family — of all ages — comes together with universal love.
Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, May 25, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.