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Author Topic: EP344: The Homecoming  (Read 11817 times)

eytanz

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on: May 11, 2012, 07:39:45 AM
EP344: The Homecoming

By Mike Resnick

Read by Patrick Bazile

Originally appeared in Asimov’s

---

I don’t know which bothers me more, my lumbago or my arthritis. One day it’s one, one day it’s the other. They can cure cancer and transplant every damned organ in your body; you’d think they could find some way to get rid of aches and pains. Let me tell you, growing old isn’t for sissies.

I remember that I was having a typical dream. Well, typical for me, anyway. I was climbing the four steps to my front porch, only when I got to the third step there were six more, so I climbed them and then there were ten more, and it went on and on. I’d probably still be climbing them if the creature hadn’t woke me up.

It stood next to my bed, staring down at me. I blinked a couple of times, trying to focus my eyes, and stared back, sure this was just an extension of my dream.

It was maybe six feet tall, its skin a glistening, almost metallic silver, with multi-faceted bright red eyes like an insect. Its ears were pointed and batlike, and moved independently of its head and each other. Its mouth jutted out a couple of inches like some kind of tube, and looked like it was only good for sucking fluids. Its arms were slender, with no hint of the muscles required to move them, and its fingers were thin and incredibly elongated. It was as weird a nightmare figure as I’d dreamed up in years.

Finally it spoke, in a voice that sounded more like a set of chimes than anything else.

“Hello, Dad,” it said.

That’s when I knew I was awake.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
« Last Edit: May 12, 2012, 05:53:17 AM by eytanz »



Darwinist

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Reply #1 on: May 11, 2012, 11:23:44 AM
Another Resnick short.  Hooray!

Like most other Resnick short stories I've listened to since jumping in to the EP back around episode 70 or so, this one really got me.  I had to wipe my eyes a time or two while driving.   Good stuff.  SSS also did a nice job with this story.  You just can't go wrong with Resnick.  I'll keep this on the iPod for a while and listen again. 

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.    -  Carl Sagan


InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #2 on: May 11, 2012, 02:13:15 PM
This was deja vu all over again for me, because I'd just heard this yesterday while catching up on old (long) Starship Sofa (Episode 234, if you're interested).

This story ripped my heart out, because I recently lost my SO (like, Sunday), and I almost stopped listening, but I'm glad I continued. Yes, Dad is a bit of a jerk, but of course that makes his coming around that much more moving. And while this is a problem - parents' expectations of and disagreements with their children's choices - is as old as the hills (the story of the prodigal son, and I believe there are hieroglyphics about it), I think the father's argument is not entirely without merit.

At what point are you no longer human? Resnick argues that appearances aren't as important as the "heart", and I agree, but perhaps there is some ne plus ultra line. If Phillip had NOT been so concerned about his mother, I think that line would be crossed, but of course that's the point of the story.

This also gives me a rare opportunity to make a head-to-head comparison of two readings of the same story. I'm not going to be mired in some dumb argument over which is "better" (I don't much care for superlatives, or sometimes even comparatives), but I will say that the Starship Sofa narrator, Matthew Stephens, while also reading in something of a drawl, was even slower and if more possible more heartbreaking. I did like Stephens' voicing of Julia more. But EP has the sound effects for Phillip's voice, which was nice.

(Hey! No feedback!)
« Last Edit: May 12, 2012, 02:48:00 PM by InfiniteMonkey »



schizoTypal

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Reply #3 on: May 11, 2012, 03:53:58 PM
Personally, I found the jingling of Philip's voice to be just a little distracting, to say the least. I was entirely nonplussed by the story itself, unfortunately. I felt like the whole alien world, Philip's appearance, and anything else remotely sci-fi in nature were added in as an afterthought for no purpose other than to appeal to a sci-fi audience. I wanted something that could have only happened in the world this story was told in, and got nothing of the sort.

The story itself has been told, and retold, and retold millions of times over. While that doesn't automatically make a new telling without merit, this definitely doesn't strike me as anything to write home about. And I'm one to write home about a great story.

The emotional tugs seemed to be the center of the story, and also had a very manufactured feeling to them.

I suppose in the end, I can see the appeal, and I'm not who it appeals to.



Cattfish

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Reply #4 on: May 12, 2012, 07:41:06 AM
This was deja vu all over again for me, because I'd just heard this yesterday while catching up on old (long) Starship Sofa (Episode 234, if you're interested).

Aha, I thought I was having future flashes, thank you for clearing that up...

To my mind a good story is one where even if the sci-fi is kind of superficial to the plot it doesn't really matter because it's the emotion that drives it.  You could have thrown out the whole alien ambassador part and substituted any sort of long absence and had fundamentally the same story--and that's a good thing.  When you have a good core to your story it can work across any genre. 

Of the nominees i've read so far this one is on top of the list.



BlueLu

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Reply #5 on: May 12, 2012, 06:58:43 PM
Hmmm.  A bit too on the nose for me, I'd have to say.  It's heart was in the right place, but I just found it too sentimental.

It's nice that the mother's Alzheimers presented as beatific and child-like saintliness. As someone who's seen dementia up close, I can tell you, that's pretty unusual.

Lena


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Reply #6 on: May 13, 2012, 02:53:07 AM
While this story didn't move me to tears, as with some, I did wholeheartedly enjoy it. Resnick is truly a master. I disagree with schzoTypal's suggestion that the sci-fi aspects were added as an afterthought. As an avid sci-fi fan, I love it when an age-old tale is told through futuristic means. I think it implies the consistency of human nature. Even in a future where they can cure cancer, surgically reconstruct an entire being, and travel to other worlds, mankind still struggles with things like parental acceptance and the fear of slowly losing a loved one. These trials transcend time.

I very much enjoyed Patrick Bazile's reading. His voice made the character of Jordan real to me. It put the image of Jordan in my head without Resnick ever having to describe the man. Very well done.

I agree with Cattfish, this one has my vote so far...

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dragonsbreath

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Reply #7 on: May 15, 2012, 07:26:13 PM
I loved the story. When listening to the story, I could not help to think of it as a metaphor for a parent coming to terms with a gay/lesbian child. That being said, I thought the use of fairy tale within the story was a great way to open the path toward reconciliation between parent and child. I disagree with earlier comments about Sci-fi superficiality and the notion that this is an old story retold. Stories about reconciliation and forgiveness can never be old. As for the description of Philip's new world, what a place to see. Nothing better than carefree plants doing math. Now that's Sci-fi!



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Reply #8 on: May 16, 2012, 01:02:39 PM
I loved the story. When listening to the story, I could not help to think of it as a metaphor for a parent coming to terms with a gay/lesbian child.

I got that impression as well. Which is why, sadly, I couldn't really get into the story. I'm all for allegory, but this one wasn't very subtle.

I did enjoy the sort of Ray Bradbury-esque feel of the story, though, with the undertones of small-town Americana juxtaposed with space travel. I thought that was a refreshing change from what you normally see in Sci-Fi these days.

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Devoted135

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Reply #9 on: May 16, 2012, 03:24:23 PM
I thought that this was an honest story extremely well told. I loved the used of the fairy tale as an oblique method of helping his parents get a better glimpse into his life. However, as often happens with Resnick stories, I found that I couldn't unsee the "man behind the curtain". For some reason I usually fail to really resonate with his writing because I can't shake the feeling that he's deliberately pushing all the emotional buttons he can find.



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #10 on: May 16, 2012, 04:18:37 PM
Oh, Mother of Lizards, I hated this story.

For the first time, I think Resnick completely missed the freaking point.

I like to be open about this sort of thing, because I think that's the best way to create the change I want to see in the world. I come from a controlling and emotionally abusive family - especially my mother - and part of how I escaped this was by moving from New York to San Francisco. In order to become emotionally healthy, I've had to depart from a lot of the ways my family does things. It's pretty easy to imagine that I seem like a space alien to them - I know they seem like space aliens to me.

What Resnick missed is that, like me, most people don't flee across a continent - or across a galaxy - unless they have a good reason to. What Resnick also missed is that the father's behavior in the story - whatever behavior he might have had in the past that drove Phillip to leave - is abusive and inexcusable. It is a child's responsibility to grow up and make his or her own life; it is the parent's responsibility to shut up and deal with it.

Anyway, I feel like my personal history short-circuited this story for me. Instead of sadness at the poignancy of Phillip and Julia's too-little too-late homecoming, I found myself distracted by anger at Jordan's continued bad behavior. And speaking of too-little, too-late, I was not impressed by Jordan's efforts to reconcile with his son. Reconciliation is impossible without explicitly acknowledging bad behavior and apologizing for it. Jordan's "peace" was, frankly, half-assed, and the "happy" conclusion felt trite and tacked-on. I can only imagine Phillip going home and chiming to his friends "yeah, my dad was still just as much a douchebag as he always was, but at least he let me stay for three days, and I got to spend some nice time with my mom."

And for me, that's not transcendent or cathartic - that's just life.

So, The Homecoming was a total miss with me. No zeppelins for you.

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DKT

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Reply #11 on: May 16, 2012, 05:17:56 PM
What Resnick missed is that, like me, most people don't flee across a continent - or across a galaxy - unless they have a good reason to. What Resnick also missed is that the father's behavior in the story - whatever behavior he might have had in the past that drove Phillip to leave - is abusive and inexcusable. It is a child's responsibility to grow up and make his or her own life; it is the parent's responsibility to shut up and deal with it.

I could be misremembering, and I'm not trying to defend the story per se, but didn't Philip leave because he wanted to explore the galaxy and far-off distant planets? I don't think his relationship with his parents - particularly his father - was the motivation for his explorations. I thought the estrangement occurred once he chose to leave, and wasn't a result of a traumatic childhood. Or did I miss something?


Farseeker

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Reply #12 on: May 16, 2012, 05:26:13 PM
I was really pulled in. The plot, such as it was, was fairly predictable (really, there were only two possible outcomes). But Resnick's skill in getting me there, detailing along the edge of the path, seduced me.

Perhaps the emotional impact of this story varies widely depending on personal circumstances. My wide is estranged from her daughter (by the daughter's choice, which drives the knife pretty deep). Perhaps that was a reason why it hit me so hard.

I was impressed enough to mull whether I wanted to get a supporting membership to the Worldcon to vote for the story.



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #13 on: May 16, 2012, 05:35:58 PM
What Resnick missed is that, like me, most people don't flee across a continent - or across a galaxy - unless they have a good reason to. What Resnick also missed is that the father's behavior in the story - whatever behavior he might have had in the past that drove Phillip to leave - is abusive and inexcusable. It is a child's responsibility to grow up and make his or her own life; it is the parent's responsibility to shut up and deal with it.

I could be misremembering, and I'm not trying to defend the story per se, but didn't Philip leave because he wanted to explore the galaxy and far-off distant planets? I don't think his relationship with his parents - particularly his father - was the motivation for his explorations. I thought the estrangement occurred once he chose to leave, and wasn't a result of a traumatic childhood. Or did I miss something?

This is more "ElectricPaladin comments on human nature" than "ElectricPaladin recalls something in the story that you don't." Considering my own experience of life - and reflecting on the abusive nature of Jordan's behavior during the story - I got the feeling that something was left out, that Phillip had motivations for leaving that were not explored. Or, that he should have had those motivations, and Resnick left them out for some reason. Either  he choked or simply he fails to understand the nature of an abusive parent-child relationship. Either way, the story lacked reality for me as a result.

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patriciomas

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Reply #14 on: May 16, 2012, 06:47:00 PM
I didn't dislike this story, but I agree with a lot of ElectricPaladin's points. I came at it from a queer perspective -- I'm gay, and although my family didn't disown me, I have friends whose parents did. In particular, the changed body suggested transgender to me (although his body change being a simple choice changes a few things). So from that perspective, Phillip was almost a pushover. His desire to be with his mother did feel authentic, but I feel like Phillip should have been much more resentful, probably even angry toward his father. After all, if Jordan felt abandoned, Phillip felt Jordan cast him out, refused to respect his decisions, and consciously tried to keep him away from his dying mother. Those aren't insurmountable issues, but it should really be Phillip who has more emotional baggage to work through, not Jordan.

P.S., ElectricPaladin's av is awesome.



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #15 on: May 16, 2012, 06:57:50 PM
I didn't dislike this story, but I agree with a lot of ElectricPaladin's points. I came at it from a queer perspective -- I'm gay, and although my family didn't disown me, I have friends whose parents did. In particular, the changed body suggested transgender to me (although his body change being a simple choice changes a few things). So from that perspective, Phillip was almost a pushover. His desire to be with his mother did feel authentic, but I feel like Phillip should have been much more resentful, probably even angry toward his father. After all, if Jordan felt abandoned, Phillip felt Jordan cast him out, refused to respect his decisions, and consciously tried to keep him away from his dying mother. Those aren't insurmountable issues, but it should really be Phillip who has more emotional baggage to work through, not Jordan.

That's a really good point. Personally, I took Phillip as just a really well-adjusted guy who has evolved past a lot of his issues - that's where I like to think I am, or where I'm getting. I can grapple with a lot of the B.S. my parents throw at me with a lot of Phillip's patience and grace. It wasn't Phillip I was expecting to change and grow, but Jordan, and the relationship in general.

P.S., ElectricPaladin's av is awesome.

Thanks!

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lisavilisa

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Reply #16 on: May 16, 2012, 07:24:35 PM
This reminds me of PC 190 "A Window, Clear as a Mirror", where someone the MC loves dearly decided to leave them to explore another world. However, this was a son leaving his parents not a wife leaving her spouse. In this case I'm more sympathetic to the kid who wanted to leave. I don't think I could leave my parents for another planet, but I can easily believe that someone else would.



Listener

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Reply #17 on: May 17, 2012, 01:30:19 PM
However, as often happens with Resnick stories, I found that I couldn't unsee the "man behind the curtain". For some reason I usually fail to really resonate with his writing because I can't shake the feeling that he's deliberately pushing all the emotional buttons he can find.

Yes. And, to be honest, the framing of the intro and outro didn't really help me avoid that feeling.

To me this was more of a "generic Resnick story" than anything else -- good writing, good points, but in the end I've seen him use similar character types, tropes, and arcs in the past so many times that I just didn't get into it. I couldn't. Additionally, because this is a Hugo-nominated story, I'd set my mental bar higher than, say, if this was episode 308 or whatever and it just happened to be a story by Mike Resnick. I want my Hugo-nominated stories to really explore things I haven't explored before, which is why so far my favorite of the five is "Movement" -- it's much rarer (I think) to have a story from the POV of someone who is autistic than to have a story from the POV of someone who is dealing with a loved one who has Alzheimer's. (Full Disclosure: I haven't read Scalzi's story yet. I might like it better than "Movement"; I don't know.)

However, I cannot heap enough praise on the performance, which was excellent. I do agree with others who've said the chiming was a little distracting.

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zoanon

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Reply #18 on: May 17, 2012, 04:26:56 PM
this story did nothing for me.
same old story blah blah blah, I really didn't see anything new in this retelling, just one of the characters happened to be a bit glittery.




MacArthurBug

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Reply #19 on: May 17, 2012, 06:33:29 PM
I wanted to like this. I love The rest of his stuff.
I couldn't like it! The pathetically repetitious and at times aggravating Julia character just felt "off" to me. The "angelic sweet saint" I suppose was supposed to lend some likability to the hostile and disturbing father figure. The chime voice was a bit too off putting. Good idea in theory but less so in practice.
The end felt saccharine and tacked on after all the hostility.
It could have been worse, since I DID listen all the way through, but..
I wanted to really LIKE it.

Oh, great and mighty Alasdair, Orator Maleficent, He of the Silvered Tongue, guide this humble fangirl past jumping up and down and squeeing upon hearing the greatness of Thy voice.
Oh mighty Mur the Magnificent. I am not worthy.


SF.Fangirl

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Reply #20 on: May 20, 2012, 06:16:42 PM
Same here.  I liked this okay, but wasn't really engaged and drawn in at all.  I didn't cry at all and didn't come close, but I did feel like it was written specifically to have the reader tear up.  I know that's a trait of MR's stories, but between that and Murr's warning I really felt like we were being manipulated.

Actually I do really appreciate Murr's warning because I usually listen in the car or while working out.  I'd hate to listen to an actually sad, cry-worthy story on my way anywhere but home and emerge red-eyed and tear streaked. 


this story did nothing for me.
same old story blah blah blah, I really didn't see anything new in this retelling, just one of the characters happened to be a bit glittery.





SF.Fangirl

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Reply #21 on: May 20, 2012, 06:22:16 PM
ElectricPalidin, are you projecting?  I detected zero sign of Phillip's choice as an attempt to flee an abusive home.  It seemed he was honestly offered a once in a life-time opportunity.  Really if he wanted to get away from his parents, he would have many opportunities before becoming such an expert in his field that he was selected out of 6000 for an entirely unique opportunity.  Dad was indeed a jerk, but I don't think Phillip's decision was made as an escape.  It was an amazing opportunity that his dad did not understand.

Oh, Mother of Lizards, I hated this story.

For the first time, I think Resnick completely missed the freaking point.

I like to be open about this sort of thing, because I think that's the best way to create the change I want to see in the world. I come from a controlling and emotionally abusive family - especially my mother - and part of how I escaped this was by moving from New York to San Francisco. In order to become emotionally healthy, I've had to depart from a lot of the ways my family does things. It's pretty easy to imagine that I seem like a space alien to them - I know they seem like space aliens to me.

What Resnick missed is that, like me, most people don't flee across a continent - or across a galaxy - unless they have a good reason to. What Resnick also missed is that the father's behavior in the story - whatever behavior he might have had in the past that drove Phillip to leave - is abusive and inexcusable. It is a child's responsibility to grow up and make his or her own life; it is the parent's responsibility to shut up and deal with it.

Anyway, I feel like my personal history short-circuited this story for me. Instead of sadness at the poignancy of Phillip and Julia's too-little too-late homecoming, I found myself distracted by anger at Jordan's continued bad behavior. And speaking of too-little, too-late, I was not impressed by Jordan's efforts to reconcile with his son. Reconciliation is impossible without explicitly acknowledging bad behavior and apologizing for it. Jordan's "peace" was, frankly, half-assed, and the "happy" conclusion felt trite and tacked-on. I can only imagine Phillip going home and chiming to his friends "yeah, my dad was still just as much a douchebag as he always was, but at least he let me stay for three days, and I got to spend some nice time with my mom."

And for me, that's not transcendent or cathartic - that's just life.

So, The Homecoming was a total miss with me. No zeppelins for you.



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #22 on: May 20, 2012, 07:58:05 PM
ElectricPalidin, are you projecting?  I detected zero sign of Phillip's choice as an attempt to flee an abusive home.  It seemed he was honestly offered a once in a life-time opportunity.  Really if he wanted to get away from his parents, he would have many opportunities before becoming such an expert in his field that he was selected out of 6000 for an entirely unique opportunity.  Dad was indeed a jerk, but I don't think Phillip's decision was made as an escape.  It was an amazing opportunity that his dad did not understand.

Oh, Mother of Lizards, I hated this story.

For the first time, I think Resnick completely missed the freaking point.

I like to be open about this sort of thing, because I think that's the best way to create the change I want to see in the world. I come from a controlling and emotionally abusive family - especially my mother - and part of how I escaped this was by moving from New York to San Francisco. In order to become emotionally healthy, I've had to depart from a lot of the ways my family does things. It's pretty easy to imagine that I seem like a space alien to them - I know they seem like space aliens to me.

What Resnick missed is that, like me, most people don't flee across a continent - or across a galaxy - unless they have a good reason to. What Resnick also missed is that the father's behavior in the story - whatever behavior he might have had in the past that drove Phillip to leave - is abusive and inexcusable. It is a child's responsibility to grow up and make his or her own life; it is the parent's responsibility to shut up and deal with it.

Anyway, I feel like my personal history short-circuited this story for me. Instead of sadness at the poignancy of Phillip and Julia's too-little too-late homecoming, I found myself distracted by anger at Jordan's continued bad behavior. And speaking of too-little, too-late, I was not impressed by Jordan's efforts to reconcile with his son. Reconciliation is impossible without explicitly acknowledging bad behavior and apologizing for it. Jordan's "peace" was, frankly, half-assed, and the "happy" conclusion felt trite and tacked-on. I can only imagine Phillip going home and chiming to his friends "yeah, my dad was still just as much a douchebag as he always was, but at least he let me stay for three days, and I got to spend some nice time with my mom."

And for me, that's not transcendent or cathartic - that's just life.

So, The Homecoming was a total miss with me. No zeppelins for you.

I'm totally honest about the fact that I'm projecting. After all, we all interpret stories from our own points of view.

That said - I think you missed my point. There was no indication that Phillip's decision was made as an escape... except for the fact that his dad was an unceasing font douchebaggery with a half-assed redemption. That's what bothered me. With a dad who behaves that badly, with a set of choices that took him that far away, I just can't buy that Phillip's childhood was as blandly pleasant and Jordan was remembering it.

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Reply #23 on: May 24, 2012, 04:03:40 PM
I don't often post here, but this story really drove me to the discussion page.  I'm glad I'm not the only one who saw this as a not-so-subtle metaphor for a queer child coming out to parents.  It sounded like that from the get-go, but the real giveaway for me was when Jordan made a comment about how he'd never have any grandkids.

At the risk of sounding soapbox-ish, Electric Paladin's perception of an abusive home fits this pretty well.  Full disclosure: I'm not queer, and I've never gone through anything like this at all.  But several of my queer friends have mentioned to me that their parents were supportive and loving - until they came out.  I think that's what resonated with me.

The reconciliation seemed too simplistic at the end.  Here's a father who's full of bitterness and anger at his son - blaming his son for not visiting when he's the one who didn't send word that his wife was sick.  And then, his dying-and-suffering-from-dementia wife says, "Make peace," and all his hatred melts away?  Sorry, I don't buy it.

Full props to the narrator, who did an awesome job with the story.  But in her intro, I think Mur missed the mark on this one.  This isn't a feel-good story to make you love your parents.  This is a story about a bigoted father who condemns his son's choice of lifestyle, and then gets angry at him for never coming home.



childoftyranny

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Reply #24 on: May 25, 2012, 05:35:17 PM
I can't disagree with peoples readings of this story, what I did do was wonder if this story had been written 10 years ago if everyone would have seen the same things. This story could easily have been written 10-20 years ago, I even felt like it really did feel more like the 70s-80s feel than something quite modern. Voice locks and holograms, we've imagined those sorts of things for many years.

With that feel comes the thought of coming of age stories, as well as the adventure ethos in America. The idea that children must move out and make it on their own, the idea setting out and going west. All of these tie together in similar ways.

Despite all the different emotional elements I don't think this story hit me as hard as it could have if it wasn't trying to be so many things at once. The broken family, the dying mother, the dementia suffering mother, the possibly abusive father, the longing for family love, by the point all the elements were together I was just getting weary of being poke with a stick. I think this story would have been better if it had been simpler, ah well.