State of the Union
Atria, Mar 15 2011, $16.00
In 1969, eighteen years old Hannah Latham has A Special Relationship with her parents; dysfunctional. Her father is a radical activist protesting anything; while her mother is an artist with mental issues. To them she is a major disappointment as she ignores the rebellion of her peers against authority. Instead Hannah wants out of the frantic family soap opera; so she marries medical student Dan Buchan; becomes pregnant; and moves to rural Maine. She becomes a librarian-housewife until her father’s radical friend Tobias Judson arrives in Maine.
In 2003, Hannah feels her world imploding. Her college age daughter Lizzie vanishes after mentally breaking when she learns an inconvenient truth. Hannah’s BFF is dying so she cannot turn to her for solace as she must provide comfort. Finally Toby reappears on national TV as her secret transgression from over three decades ago becomes known to all.
This is a profound character study as Hannah learns sometimes you get what you wish for only to regret you made the wrong wish. Although the issues seem relatively minor, the cast is solid especially the lead female who on any page seems over the edge of the emotional cliff. Through Hannah and her cohorts, Douglas Kennedy takes a close look at the hypocrisy of family values; pointing out that values can be negative and cherry-picking convenient; for instance the previous indiscretions of a born again are ignored by his or her peers regardless of what they might have been.