Sunday, September 9, 2012

Wish You Were Here by Graham Swift

Jack Luxton is a farmer. He has grown up on a farm in England that has been in his family for generations. He looks and moves like a farmer; built large and solid and moving deliberately. He has the farmer ethical mindset; he is there to care for others and do his duty by all. It is even more surprising, then, to find that Jack moved from the farm over a decade ago. He is on his final trip back and reviewing his life.

Life was not easy growing up. His father is remote and withholding, setting high expectations for his sons. His mother is warm and supportive, but dies early. Jack and his brother Tom are raised in a bleak emotional landscape with only each other for support. Tom leaves the night of his eighteenth birthday and joins the Army, never contacting the family again. After that Jack stays on the farm until his father dies. Then he marries his longtime love, Ellie, from the neighboring farm. As things change in the farm environment, Jack and Ellie sell both their farms and move to the Isle of Wight where they become the managers of a seaside resort.

Now news has come that Tom has been killed in combat, and Jack must return to the old life to take Tom home and bury him. It brings all the past up and leaves Jack questioning all his life choices, unsure if he has done the right thing, the honorable thing, in all cases.

Graham Swift has written an intricate family drama that outlines the emotional battleground of one good man. Even a man with honor has regrets and questions about how he has chosen to live his life. It leads the reader to make the same sort of evaluation of their own life and choices. Readers will end up liking Jack Luxton and wishing him the best. This book is recommended for modern fiction readers who are interested in how we each must determine for ourselves if our life choices have been ones that had value, and what we owe to those around us.

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