Ordinary Love & Good Will
by Jane Smiley
1989 / 208 pages / Kindle
Two different novellas with the same theme – Ordinary Love is the first person tale of a woman who destroys her marriage because she wants to have a love affair with a neighbor. She has five children including one pair of twins. Their father is a very ambitious doctorwith exacting demands. The story is told from 20 years after the events that split the family and looks back from the stories of each of four of them – the mom (first person), the twins, and one daughter. One of the twins has been gone for almost 2 years in India and has just returned. All were affected by Mom but she wasn’t their only input.
Good Will is about a Vietnam vet who creates his own home on his own land and pretty much lives off the grid, back to nature, entirely from his own hands. His wife seems largely in accord with his except that she wants a life of her own so she joins a church. The son is the problem when he can’t quite adjust to the desires he has for a “normal” life. It’s fairly obvious from the narrative that the family is living out of time – this would have been a dream 20 years prior – in the late 1960s but in 1989 it’s falling apart. The one man’s desires have affected everyone.
But all 4 parents, 2 in each novella, were pure-d selfish which impacted their kids big-time. The parents were all expecting things, getting things whether it broke moral codes, the bonds of relationships, the law or something. All the kids paid high prices except, perhaps, the daughter of the woman in the first novella.