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[141] The Music Room – Dennis McFarland

“My grandfather crashed his plane into the side of a mountain and killed himself and my grandmother because he was drunk. My father drank himself to death at a point in life when most men are coming to their own. I just lost my only brother–I don’t know exactly why, but I see it as some kind of link in this chain. And now that Perry’s dead, I’ve finally started to believe something he’d been telling me these last few years, that I have a drinking problem of my own.” [248]

After her second marriage, Madeline decides to divorce Martin Lambert–a difficult decision that breathes relief in both of them, for they have succumbed to a stubborn disappointment that refused forgiveness, refused sexual and emotional healing. They were life fugitives of themselves when they met–that Madeline decided to marry Martin out of anger for her ex-lover did not bode well of the marriage. When the news of his brother’s suicide impinges him, he realizes that not only that he can’t erase memory and escape the resonant sway of the past, the tragedy forces him to replay sad memories of his affluent youth, when his parents were riding the high gay wave of their alcoholism, when their study and mindfulness for his baby brother had begun to wear off, when he had been inevitably turned into the nurse’s little judicious helper, attentive to Perry’s welfare.

Perry Lambert, who has fallen to his death from a midtown hotel, has always been Martin’s focus and legitimate link to his family. Besides sorrow and the haunted past is a poignant realization of a foregone era: It could no longer be true that his life began with Perry as he always believed, for what did that mean now that Perry, with whom he shared fond memories in their father’s music room, sometimes under the Steinway, and with whom in tow in Harvard studying music, was gone? As he slowly comes to terms with the aftermath of Perry’s suicide, he uncovers some grisly harbored family secret that has fettered his mother, whose drunkenness Martin fiercely blames for the blaze that erased more thoroughly his father’s life with him and Perry. The fire burned burned the forty-year-old grand piano and his entire music collection. Annihilation of all trace of father plunges the brothers into isolation that persists into their adult life.

“Sorrow’s arrival was not marked by tears but by clarity.” After the initial shock, the denial, and the sidestepping grief over survival of his wrecked marriage, Martin finally resigns to the truth that the reason for his brother’s suicide was not a single answer. But the nostalgic journey to his childhood, which McFarland has painted with a precision of language and devastating beauty, reconciles him to a future of understanding and hope. I’m not keen on his falling in love with Jane Owlcaster, Perry’s ex-girlfriend who is a music student; but this transient liaison makes the story all the more convincing and credible, because Martin is on a trance for uncovering the truth and events that led to the death of his brother. That he has been repressed by his father’s dying young and his failing music career growing up have finally dawned on him that it’s time to really make reconciliation to himself and his life.

Recently review: Letter From Point Clear by Dennis McFarland

2 Responses

  1. Hey Matt! I really like the depth to your writing… More than just blogging BLA BLA.

  2. How am I going to catch up with you in reading? 🙂 I am reading Letter From Point Clear thanks to your avid recommendation. I’ll have to search for this one.

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