I love babies. Seriously. I think my biological clock started ticking when I was three. It doesn’t matter if it is one I know or don’t: If I see a baby, I want to kiss, hug, and take care of it. I have no qualms with changing poopy diapers, being spit-up on, or dealing with the ridiculous whims of a sleepy-yet-fighting-sleep infant. So when I tell you that The Arrivals had me reconsidering my love of children, you can imagine the kind of problems the parents have to deal with because of their children. Excuse me, their adult children.
William and Ginny = empty nest-ers but minus the sadness and the lack of things to do/feelings of uselessness. William spends most of his time taking care of a beautiful garden, watching baseball games, and sneaking out for the occasional ice cream sundae. Ginny is part of a book club and enjoys the peace (not silence) that cocoons her home since her children left. That’s not to say that William and Ginny don’t miss their children. Just that they are happy with where life has taken them.
Enter chaos. On various dates at the beginning of Summer, Lillian (with her own two children), Stephen (with his totally workaholic and preggo wife), and Rachel swarm home all looking for the same thing from their parents: to be taken care of and coddled while also being made to feel like accomplished, independent adults. Hu-wah?! Is that even possible? No, people. And when you ask for the impossible with haughty entitlement, you are on a one-way plane to Sleaz-ville, party of YOU.
But Lillian, Stephen, and Rachel don’t see this. Lillian expects her parents to take care of their grandkids while she goes out with a friend or simply disappears for hours on end. Stephen demands that his Mom respect his over-worked and defensive pregnant wife (Jane) while not requiring the same the other way around. And Rachel. God, what a mess. Ever since she broke up with her non-committal (and suspiciously hipster-sounding) boyfriend, she can’t get her life together enough to pay the rent for her exorbitant NY apartment or be responsible enough to manage her finances in general. And William and Ginny do it! All! With a smile! They sigh and hum-ho to each other about their children, but only after they’ve done their laundry, made them breakfast, and shopped for their groceries.
Look, all of this would be fine if there was some mutual respect going on between the parents/children or if the children recognized that they are asking a lot of their parents considering the fact that they proclaim to be self-sufficient adults. But they are so indignant when their parents ask for details of the problems that led them into hiding out in their home. I mean, when either William or Ginny broach the subject of the whereabouts of her husband with Lillian, she flips out and accuses her parents of not wanting her around.
And around they are for the Whole. Summer. Like from June til late August with little explanation to their parents. And when William and Ginny get the courage to ask their children to help out around the house, maybe tidy-up their sleeping areas, they all flip out and belittle their parents for their callousness or concern for money. Hey, I’m all for a little rebellion (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3HKRbZx3d4). But only within certain bounds. If you’re an adult, act like it.
We get a peek into why Ginny endures all this when she reluctantly admits to William that she wants to see her children be happy and successful because they represent her life work. This – I think – is what the novel should have been about: the “modern” woman v. the admitted “housewife” of yester-year. And I imagine that Moore kind of wanted to discuss this through her characters. But she only skirts the surface of this issue while depicting spoiled children and their accommodating parents.
And the writing! Gha! Check out this sentence:
Sitting back down, he pushed aside a stack of coloring pages on which Olivia, who had been up for two and a half hours already, had begun making halfhearted scribbles and swirls and even, in the corner of one sheet of paper, a small triangular object that she claims was a dog (Moore 3).
Yeah, that’s a sentence. I had to read that sucker a couple of times before I got the message. And the whole novel is littered with sentences like that. Sentences that run on and on and on until you’re left wondering who or what the subject is, what is going on, and if you really care to find out.
I had really high hopes for this book but instead of loving the characters and the familial-dependency it depicted, I finished the book praying that I don’t have kids like William and Ginny’s and that, if I do, I have enough strength to call them out on what they are: adult babies.
2.5 coffees of out 5.