Review of The Rockin' Chair by Stephen Manchester
Overview from www.bn.com: Memories are the ultimate contradiction. They can warm us on our coldest days – or they can freeze a loved one out of our lives forever. The McCarthy family has a trove of warm memories. Of innocent first kisses. Of sumptuous family meals. Of wondrous lessons learned at the foot of a rocking chair. But they also have had their share of icy ones. Of words that can never be unsaid. Of choices that can never be unmade. Of actions that can never be undone.
Following the death of his beloved wife, John McCarthy – Grandpa John – calls his family back home. It is time for them to face the memories they have made, both warm and cold. Only then can they move beyond them and into the future.
I am heading back to the present with this week’s review of The Rockin’ Chair. This is really the story of four generations of one family but we are introduced first to John, Alice and Elle.
John and Alice are an older married couple though at this stage Alice mostly forgets that’s she’s even an adult, let alone that she’s married. She is in final stage of Alzheimer’s and though the local doctor has advised John to have her institutionalized, he will have none of it. He made her a promise that she could die at home and he intends to keep it.
After she’s gone, John doesn’t want to live anymore. He asks God why he shouldn’t go too and at her funeral the answer comes to him—he is still alive so that he can repair the broken relationships in his family and that is what he sets out to do.
But it won’t be easy. The hardest bridge to cross might be the one leading to his son Hank’s house. The way John sees it; Hank left the farm driven by his own pride and is the main culprit for their bad blood. Hank sees it in the reverse; he never felt loved by his father and he carried that same bitterness into his relationship with his own three children. And those three children are about to come home though none of them will make it home in time to say goodbye to their beloved grandmother.
At the funeral John finally faces up to his own stubbornness as well as his destiny to try to bring the family back together again. He will pull out all the stops to get them to rid the family of its demons.
However, I didn’t find any demons in this story, other than the ones that the characters were facing. John’s story could be anyone’s, though it takes place mostly on his Montana farm, it could be anywhere. John’s family are everything to him but he has trouble telling him that.
Both the children and grandchildren and even the little great-granddaughter seek his approval but aren’t sure if they can live up to his high standards. He tries to show them that as long as you live up to the values they were raised with and do your best, you can hold your head up high when you go to meet God. His simple, folksy wisdom might be his family’s undoing. And if you’re like me, you just might shed a tear or two in the process. I liked this one a lot and am recommending it highly.