The Tender Land: A Family Love Story

Kathleen Finneran, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $24 (320p) ISBN 978-0-395-98495-6
Unforgettable in its restraint and quiet beauty, Finneran's debut memoir lovingly reveals her family's tragic history and her own painful coming of age. Born in the late 1950s into an Irish Catholic family, she and her four siblings had a comfortable life in suburban St. Louis, thanks to her mother's thrifty management and her father's success as a salesman. But depression and suicide ran in the family and the question of what caused her youngest brother Sean's suicide when he was 15 permeates the book as much as it has haunted the Finnerans--Kathleen was also disposed to depression and another sister tried to overdose at age 28. As a self-conscious, overweight child, the author at times felt ignored by her parents. Nonetheless, at a young age she understood the need to protect her mother from sorrow, so she ""made up stories."" Sadly for the author, her first sexual experience coincided with the night Sean died, making sex and death forever inextricable for her. She found comfort with a woman lover who was her best friend, despite her mother's cautious warning about being ""different."" Readers will relish Finneran's skill in capturing her characters. ""My mother,"" she writes, ""ends each day this way, dusting in the dark, and in the morning, as soon as she wakes, she dusts again, in daylight."" To Sean's suicide note, which disclosed teenage loneliness and disappointments, Finneran offers an exquisite counterpoint in the form of this love letter. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/05/2000
Release date: 06/01/2000
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-618-34074-3
Open Ebook - 304 pages - 978-0-547-34928-2
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