Monday, May 7, 2007

William Maxwell: So Long See You Tomorrow

So Long See You Tomorrow is one of those books that sticks with you. It's short, and the writing is so restrained, and the story so simple, that it wasn't until I had finished the last page that I was struck by how full and rich and stunning the book is.

This perfectly crafted, very brief novel is about an old man looking back and piecing together an event that happened in his youth. It's about those small, simple moments (like choosing to ignore a boy at school who you once played with) that haunt us all our lives. Those moments that we replay and try to imagine what would have happened if we had done things differently...or would it have made any difference at all?

It's a story about childhood, and about growing up. It's about memory, and how untrustworthy memory can be. It's about home and family, and what happens when those foundations are shaken.

There are some absolutely beautiful moments. Washington Post Book World sums up the story like this:

On an Illinois farm in the 1920s, a man is murdered, and in the same moment the tenuous friendship between two lonely boys comes to an end. In telling their interconnected stories, American Book Award winner William Maxwell delivers a masterfully restrained and magically evocative meditation on the past. "A small, perfect novel."
I love a book that sticks with you. I gave it to my father almost 10 years ago, simply because he likes a good story, and he called me recently and said something like "Why did you give me that book? I didn't think there was much to it when I read it, but I still think about it." Obviously, I still think about it, too.

William Maxwell is best known for being the fiction editor at the New Yorker and wrote So Long See You Tomorrow when he was in his 70s.

William Maxwell on Wikipedia
Washington Post Book Club Review

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