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Thursday, January 27, 2011

"HOUSES" ~ by Cynthia Rogers Parks ~ Breathtaking Novel & Nostalgic 20th c.

"Houses" is about the many beautiful, enduring and literally earth-shattering epidodes that women and men experience in life.  It's how the locust-like numbers of "baby boomers"...in our gusto for living, for challenge and change, helped bring about impassioned awareness, and long standing, meaningful new ways of living in our generation...not just social unrest, mindless war, entitlements and greed.  And, we continue to effect social, spiritual, political and cultural change even today.

Ms Parks processes the conflicts of being a woman during the turbulent years of the mid-to end of the 20th century. Specifically, we follow the life story of Lacey, a girl whose growing up years to current "golden years" will leave a lasting impression on readers of all ages.

Readers are taken on a nostalgic trip through childhood days of playing outside with neighborhood friends, the Kennedy and Martin Luther King days, civil and women's rights, the Viet Nam War, the bliss of first love, and the self-affirming conviction of being politically active for the first time. We come to know and love her family members, her friends both male and female and her loved ones.

We relive Lacey's agonies, [the agonies we, ourselves, may have endured, possibly still do!] to be a "good Mom" while minding the house and budget, working for a pittance at a boring/stagnant job, and trying to take one or two classes at a time to finish a college degree so that some day it might be possible to become what she "is."  All of this only to find herself alone and most of those she loved gone by the time she "got there."

Ultimately, Lacey does find a satisfaction from things fought for and won, and they give some consolation keeping her in the game, though the questions and conflicts of the nature of being a nurturer and/or a concerned parent still linger even to our childrens' generation.

In chosing the title, "Houses," Ms Parks chooses a metaphor relating to the different houses either lived in, toured, loved or hated, by Lacey to define the stages of her life, and the expressions of her "self." This brilliant symbol leaves an indelible mark, causing us to examine ourselves in the same context.  Parks is a powerful writer.

I want to leave these quotes of so many brilliant ones in this novel:

"Maybe I'm naive, but I'm hopeful that our daughters and granddaughters will find it easier.  The internet and telecommunicating now offer the promise, not just of a greener way of working, but of an avenue, for both men and women, to productive and fulfilling work that doesn't require abandoning the home, especially the children, whose needs don't always correspond to nine to five scheduling. We have the Family Leave Act now and the notion of daycare in the workplace seems less radical.  The stay-at-home dad is not such a joke."

and this:

"This, chickadees, is (sic) the things about happiness.  You must take it where you find it.  Don't question or second guess or wish for minor modifications.  Laugh, eat, joke.  Bounce the baby on your knee.  Don't look forward or back.  Keep your eyes focused on the faces around you.  One of them may be missing come next year. Come next year everything may be entirely different.  Memory may have to darken your perfect day with its tincture of melancholy and the happiness will never seem so clear and real again...Should you find yourself happy, as happy as I was that Thanksgiving Day, don't even think. Just be....Eat all you want."

This book is for everyone of this mid-to-late 20th century generation and even those of us at the dawn of the 21st century.  There's beauty and wisdom for you here.

If you think those battles of life and liberty are all over, please, think again.



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