Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Book Review - Family Values - Lorna Wood



At first I was not  taken by Mister Bennett. Anyone who has Wagner as a ring tone is a bit of a tosser. Nor did I much like his homophobic tendencies. He didn't strike me as being remotely like that other Mister Bennett the one whose wife and daughters, apples of his eye all, sat in quiet contemplation observing the goings on of his family. It soon became apparent that this Mister Bennett, this modern day Professor Emeritus, this retired scholar was not dissimilar at all from his historical namesake. He isn't really homophobic, is he, he just has bad taste in music. 

There is daughter Chloe. Trying to see an individual who once danced like a ballerina as a child turn into someone whose taste in men and whose life choices bring consternation to the parent is problematic even if they have delivered you one grandchild.. There is Robert. Having a son whose latent homosexuality is not so much disapproved of as disappointed with but from the perspective of wanting a traditional twentieth century nuclear family rather than a new age twenty first century atomic fusion. The words fag are never far from Bennett's lips.

It is when Chloe's marriage breaks down following some overly rigorous and rather unappealing sexual role play that things slide off kilter. When a daughter has left her husband with offspring in hand where can she turn apart from Mom and Dad? Then Grand daughter Elizabeth, at the tender age of four, exhibits signs of being hooked to the PC. Less the PC but the world therein -games, unrestricted access etcetera . Gwen suggests Grandpa should help. Possibly not the brightest suggestion she, Gwen, had made.


There are a deal or telling observations used to add character to the key protagonists. Edward's taste in ringtones to one side, he wears an antique Timex, a watch that neatly places him among the scholarly bohemian set implying that any timepiece can tell the time and at half the cost.He is a studious thinker and yes, okay, slightly homophobic.

Lorna Wood captures with delightful insight and wit a family, as all families do, struggling within their own framework to come to terms with member parts autonomous decisions, life styles and outlook.. All the bits so neatly  tangled by the author create a sense of claustrophobia, of chaos consuming Family Bennett. It takes a fine writer to manage this mess but manage it Lorna does. The relationships are well crafted especially that of Jack and Robert whose camp rages at each other made that tortuous TV show, 'Vicious,' look positively lame by comparison. There are also some hilarious scenes featuring Lizzy the four year old who knows more about electronic games than pacman and has an attitude to match.

 Ideally this would be a film starring Spencer Tracey and Katherine Hepburn (not sure who could play Lizzy) but since they are otherwise engaged perhaps Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton. I enjoyed this book immensely. The humour is dry but acid. The tale glitters in rather dark hues but remains captivating and Edward Bennett is one character I shall never forget. Him and his Timex. I laughed at the scenes where Robert and Jack argue/discuss things, the same with Edward and Gwen. There is a shared intimacy that only comes with strong relationships. This is ably presented when either couple are alone and, or, are in bed. The dialogue is electric.

I read the book far too quickly which I think is a clear sign of having enjoyed it. Now I must return to it again to fully digest all of it. A bloody good read.


 Lorna Wood was raised in Oberlin, OH by a composer and an art historian. She received degrees in violin performance and English from Oberlin College and a Ph. D. in English from Yale University. After graduate school, she was an instructor for six years at Auburn University before turning full time to violin and homeschooling her children. She plays in three orchestras, and her violin and viola students have won local, state, and national prizes. Her daughter is a violin student at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and her son is in the International Baccalaureate program at Auburn High School. In addition to FAMILY VALUES, Lorna has published poetry in UNTITLED, WITH PASSENGERS (http://untitledwithpassengers.wordpress.com) and fiction in BLUE MONDAY REVIEW (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HYH4JBS), as well as essays on the American Renaissance and children's literature. She is a reader for GEMINI MAGAZINE.
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Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

8 comments:

teresa martin said...

russell - can you read the bio for lorna without squinting or getting a headache? help a girl out, could you please - i'm not ready for bifocals. :)

this sounds quite delightful and your enthusiasm for it is undeniable. my library currently doesn't have it. i will have to rectify that soon.

Russell Duffy said...

Oh, alright then. There, is that better? :)

Pansi Barbee said...

All I no, is if this book isent about ME then I am not going to bothur reeding it!!!!!
PANSI!!!!!!!

Russell Duffy said...

Pansi>>>Oh but it is. I am confident that the author was thinking of you when she wrote it. A good author always knows which demographic they are aiming for and that which they are not. :)

Hobbes said...

I tried to leave a comment before: Thank you!
The ringtone is Gwen's. Bennett doesn't have a cell phone.

Hobbes said...

Thanks for your interest, teresa martin. It is only available on Kindle.
Lorna Wood (via Hobbes)

Hobbes said...

Sorry, Pansi. I do hope to make your adventures into something one of these days.

Russell Duffy said...

Hobbes>>>I like the 'Ride...' by Wagner but not the ruddy ring cycle. :)