03 January 2011

Post 282: The Clearing

The Clearing by Heather Davis.  ISBN: 9780547263670 (ARC - published April 2010).

Henry Briggs is trapped in the past, forced to live the summer of his 18th birthday in 1944 over and over again.  He has done this by choice, because he lived through the summer and the start of fall and Bad Things Happened.  To avoid those bad things he prayed that he could relive that summer over and over again so that nothing bad would happen to his family.

This is both an admirable and a completely boneheaded wish on the part of Briggs.  I can certainly understand the desire to protect your family, but keeping them trapped in a time loop isn't so much protecting them as it is insulation, like the kind of insulation that Midwestern moms provide any child planning to go anywhere in weather under 30 degrees; complete with three layers of sweaters, thermal underwear, five pairs of socks, and the dorkiest hat she can possibly find.  Just because these things might actually protect us does not mean that they are in any way good for us.  Often, over-protection can be more harmful than none at all.

The contrast between Henry's overbearing protectiveness of his mother and the lack of interest from Amy's mother regarding her daughter's romantic relationships is actually pretty ingenious.  It's as if Davis is very finely demarcating the boundary between familial obligation and responsibility versus controlling and manipulative behavior.  In fact, I wonder how much Amy's observation of Henry's behavior may have influenced the resolution of the conflict with her mother and ex-boyfriend.

In any case, I wonder how many parents might loosen up a little bit if they could step back from their relationships with their children and say, "Is this something that I needed my parents to have control over when I was X years old?"  I'm not saying parents ought to step back from their children's lives completely, but if your child is 22 years old and living on their own, it's probably about time you let them set the majority of their own rules and relegated yourself to advice-giver rather than parent, although the former role can also be annoying if you are pushy about it. After all, your kid has to learn how to ask for help when they need it as much as they need to learn to balance their own checkbook and make appropriate wardrobe decisions on their own.

My review can be found on Goodreads.
LibsNote: Free copy received from the publisher's booth at ALA 2010.

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