The New York Times
The Good Parentsby Joan London
A two-time winner of Australia’s prestigious The Age Book of the Year Award, Joan London’s debut novel, Gilgamesh, was published to rapturous acclaim both in her native Australia and in the United States. Now, London has delivered The Good Parents, a tender and compelling tale of mother love and the harrowing moment when a daughter/i>/i>/i>
A two-time winner of Australia’s prestigious The Age Book of the Year Award, Joan London’s debut novel, Gilgamesh, was published to rapturous acclaim both in her native Australia and in the United States. Now, London has delivered The Good Parents, a tender and compelling tale of mother love and the harrowing moment when a daughter spreads her wings and vanishes from her parents’ orbit. Maya de Jong is an eighteen-year-old country girl who moves to Melbourne and begins an affair with her new boss. When Maya’s parents, Toni and Jacob, arrive for a visit, Maya is goneno one knows where. Maya, for reasons of her own, leaves haunting clues in late-night calls to her brother at home, carefully avoiding detection by the two people who love her most. Ultimately, to find her daughter Toni will have to revisit a part of her past that she thought she had shut off foreverthe closest she ever came to being a lost girl herself. The Good Parents is at once utterly contemporary and a story as old as humanity itself: a stunning portrait of familial love and how far we can drift apart in the moments between the words we speak.
The New York Times
London (Gilgamesh) delivers an excellent family drama rooted in rural Australian lives. The novel opens with a lengthy glimpse into the life of 20-year-old Maya de Jong, who has recently left her small hometown for a new job (and subsequently an affair with the new boss) in Melbourne. As early as the second chapter, however, it's clear that the narrative interest lies with Maya's parents, Toni and Jacob, who arrive for an extended vacation to discover Maya's gone missing. Maya's puzzling, abrupt absence-which will leave readers perplexed nearly as long as the de Jongs are-leaves Toni and Jacob with little to do but wait for her to contact them; this period of enforced helplessness and isolation provides a metaphorical insight into the parents of adult children, who, as Jacob reflects, reveal their own self-doubts and self-awareness once their parental role is finished. The narrative shifts subtly among the past and present of a wide cast, each of whom has his or her own story of abandoning one life for another. This insightful novel illuminates with seeming ease the fraught relationships among friends, families and entire communities. (Feb.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
London, winner of the Age Book of the Year Award for Gilgamesh, tells the story of a family history repeating itself and being redeemed. Maya, a young woman fresh from Australia's outback, leaves with her boss for Thailand after his wife's funeral, although her parents, Jacob and Toni, are on their way to see her. When Jacob and Toni arrive, they are devastated by Maya's disappearance, which sets them to thinking about the patterns of their own youth-for Toni, of her marriage to a controlling mobster and for Jacob, of falling in love with a young woman who died in an accident. They do their best to track down Maya and wait for her to return, to herself and to them. The story frequently changes time and perspective, weaving together patterns between characters and eras. London's narrative is deft, transcending a typical family saga and poignantly illuminating not only the harsh truths but also the gentle nobility of her characters' lives. Absorbing and suspenseful; recommended for medium to large libraries.
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I'm going to check back to see if other reviews come in on this one, because although I had a tough time keeping interested in the story, I feel as though I may have missed some deeper message. The story takes place in Australia, although it could have been anywhere. It is about a young woman, 18 years of age, who moves away from her family in the country to the big city--Melbourne. There she becomes involved with her much older boss and when he leaves the country after the death of his wife, she follows him. He isn't abusive, but he isn't all that good to her either, and she simply follows the path of least resistance. All this happens in the first chapter, but the book is not so much about her as it is about her parents. Their daughter was expecting their visit, but left anyway, and they don't know where she went. They end up setting up camp in the apartment she shared with a roommate while they alternately wait passively, but anxiously, for her return or try to track down where she could have gone. Meanwhile, the reader is taken on a ride into both mother and father's past lives before they met each other and then afterward and what brought them to this point in their lives. We also get another story about what is going on with their teenage son at home and a relationship that blossoms between the father's sister and a neighbor whose wife recently abandoned him. Little of it interested me to any great extent. The mother seems less interested in her daughter as she is in running away to an ashram. The father becomes preoccupied with the roommate. I wanted to know what was happening with the daughter, but little is learned until near the end of the book--where we find that just as she is persuaded to leave Melbourne, she is persuaded to return. No big drama. There were interesting parts from time to time in this book, but nothing at all that made it difficult to put down.
Everyone has his own story. It might be funny or frightening, instructive or entertaining. It might bore some and excite others. Telling a story well, so others can relate to it easily, is the duty of the writer. Stories about ordinary people are particularly difficult. When crafted with excellence, the characters hit highs and lows, have flaws and fortes. They face the challenge of surviving in a world that often is cruel and uncaring, nourishing within themselves a careful consideration for their own well being and the same for others. I’ve found a book that meets my qualifications and is a joy to read. “The Good Parents” by Joan London. It features a teen-aged daughter seeking to reach adulthood through the time-honored fashion—an older man—along with the turmoil experienced by her mother and father, aging semi-hippies. There’s a mystery, in fact several mysteries: will the daughter meet a terrible fate, and will a disreputable but powerful man in the mother’s past bring doom? The beauty of this book, however, is neither plot nor action. Rather, the intricate weaving of the inner thoughts, the external impacts, the complex relationships, of the characters make you read faster and faster, to track the lives of people who somehow seem as close as dear friends or beloved relatives. The main characters as well as the secondary ones upon whom only a few pages may be expended are as faceted and radiant and entrancing as a diamond. Through this treatise on one family’s lives, I grew to appreciate my own more. “The Good Parents” is truly an example of how ordinary people can have extraordinary lives.