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[139] Letter From Point Clear – Dennis McFarland

“Over the weekend Morris had been preparing himself for the foray into Alabama, which, oversimplified, meat girding himself for inevitable brushes with racism, homophobia, unwholesome cuisine, and pandemic bad taste; it was purely mental exercise that seemed, mysteriously enough, to continue subconsciously even while he slept.” (72)

The Owen siblings had never been close to Roy Owen, who had never been sober for a single day in the 28 years after his wife bled to death giving birth to the youngest girl. This is especially true for Morris, whom Macy, the wry and ironic housekeeper, thinks he should not have been born into the house. The old man used to shoo him away like a cat. It’s been a year since all three of them–Ellen, Morris, and Bonnie–had reunited at their father’s funeral. Bonnie, who sported an unsuccessful career as an actress in New York City, moved back to the family mansion and took care of her father in his final days.

It occurs to Ellen that she hasn’t heard from her younger sister for months after the funeral and that makes the message the letter delivers all the more shocking: Bonnie has married a fundamentalist preacher whose parents prophetically named him Pastor. Pastor is a few years junior of Bonnie whom he has converted to the faith and rescues from drugs. Although he shows depth of his understanding of her lifelong trouble–which she sees as a train wreck–he cannot make sense of her not having Ellen and Morris at the wedding. The truth is, Bonnie hates herself for thinking of Morris, a 41-years-old professor, his being gay, as something to avoid and put off, and she reminds herself that Pastor’s primary message is love, and that whatever he believes about homosexuality would be filtered by that.

While there is nothing wrong with Bonnie getting married, the Massachusetts Owens are suspicious that their sister’s newfound love has as much to do with her financial resources as it does with true compatibility. Pricks their mind is the uneven division of Roy’s legacy, which they have not broached about in any occasion. Bonnie’s leaving her out of the wedding doesn’t so much provoke hurt feelings as it does a deep disappointment in Ellen, who has seen herself as reserving judgments of her. Senses a quibble in Bonnie that is other than her fear of Ellen and Morris’s reactions to the news, the Massachusetts Owens head to Alabama, believing they must extricate their troublesome sister from her latest mistake. To their surprise she is in love with the young charismatic preacher who now undertakes a campaign to save Morris from homosexuality, enlisting effort of one Bobby Delk, a church member who recently has a religious conversion to heterosexuality.

From here the novel withdraws into the emotional and psychological terrain of sibling relationships as interactions between them touch on the delicate matter of faith, forgiveness, prejudice, and sins. It’s eventually left up to Ellen, the big sister, who increasingly finds herself diffused across the prospect of rescuing everyone, including her troubled marriage with Dan, who acquiesces with bitterness to her selfish pursuit of a brief separation that spoils the summer. She also frets about Morris, who resorts to silly barb at the hint of any emotion discussion, and how Pastor’s manipulations, well-intentioned or not but wrongheaded for sure, might hurt him and how it might affect Bonnie’s marriage. Tension builds as these issues emerge in small talks. McFarland deftly resolves the conflicts pulsing subtly but insistently through the pages, which grapple with the dynamics of family love and reminiscence in all their infinite depth and complexity.

6 Responses

  1. […] [139] Letter From Point Clear – Dennis McFarland […]

  2. […] review: Letter From Point Clear by Dennis […]

  3. […] New Fiction (Published in 2008) The Future of Love Shirley Abbott Letter from Point Clear Dennis McFarland Finding Nouf Zoë Ferraris The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Mary […]

  4. […] Letter from Point Clear, Dennis McFarland. This is not really GLBT literature, but one of the characters, a gay brother, […]

  5. […] Runner –…GLBT Literature … on The Big Gay ReadsGLBT Literature … on [139] Letter From Point Clear …GLBT Literature … on [157] Landing – […]

  6. […] four years ago, I read a book called Letter from Point Clear, a novel the love, need, discomfort, resentment, and warmth shared among grown siblings. […]

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