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[382] The City of the Final Destination – Peter Cameron

” Perhaps, she thought, we do love each other in a way, for the kiss had been—what? Real? Yes, the kiss had been real, so perhaps we do love each other, but it is not a practical love. It was all right. The fact of it happening doesn’t mean anything: it doesn’t mean it’s meant to be acknowledged, or fostered, or consummated. ” (223)

Omar Razaghi is in possession of a grant to research and write a biography of an esoteric Latin American author Jules Gund, whose only published book bridges worlds, cultures, and religions. When Gund’s family—a quirky bunch—his wife, mistress, brother, denies his request for authorization, Omar must leave behind his life in Kansas and appeal to them in person, at their crumbling country estate in Ocho Rios, Uruguay.

I think I finally understand this sad propensity you, and so many others, have, to till this miserable earth. It is Eden you are after, vainly trying to regain a paradise lost. (122)

To each one of the family members Omar makes the case; and his relationship with every one of them develops all kinds of unforeseen complications. Adam, the late author’s gay brother, has always been in favor of the biography, despite the family’s qualm that the book might delve too deeply into the moral caverns of all their lives. He, too, tries to grapple happiness, as he denies the love shown to him by a much younger partner, Pete, from Thailand. The young mistress, Arden, has not only changed her mind about the proposal but also finds in Omar the courage of love, which she has forfeited long ago. The one who obdurately refuses any negotiations is Caroline Gund—-cynical, unyielding, and extremely unhappy. Her past has been on her scruple.

There could be any reason. With unhappy people it’s always complicated. (231)

The City of Your Final Destination, despite it’s being simple and lightly comic, is a finely crafted work that penetrates to the heart of the matter, that is, the matter of the heart. Everyone is at life’s crossroad, trying to reclaim happiness (Eden). Each one of them is unhappy and neither of them can see the end of the unhappiness. Little do they know that the biography proposal holds the key of opportunity to let go of a past, that unhappiness doesn’t have to last.

For there must be an explanation, of course: everything makes sense, or can be made sense of, with people like you around to do that for us. To pick up the pieces and put them back together, even if they have been shattered. Or burned. (237)

This is a real charm of a book, ponderous of facing and avoiding life choices. In the midst of the Gund family, Omar is hurled into the center of a drama that confronts his own choices. Like anyone who is cowed by reality, he has to make the choices to change his life. This is yet another wonderful Guy-Lit book.

312 pp. [Read/Skim/Toss] [Buy/Borrow]

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