by Carole Bellacera, contemporary (2000)
Forge, $6.99, ISBN 0-812-57573-3
What's a good book? Me, I always think a good book is one where I am allowed to form my own judgment and perspectives while savoring the author's point of view. In short, I am given free rein to form my decisions while respecting the author's point of view. Border Crossings doesn't do that - it hammers me repeatedly with its anti-war message with all the clumsiness of pregnant camels doing ballet. Ergo, not a good book.
The story starts with a standard storytelling cliché - the perfect family of O'Faolain. Kate is the American Carol Brady, and her husband Pearse is the Pampers Family Dad. They live a perfect idyllic life of Enlightenment and Harmony with their perfect, prodigal son. This means, no doubt, that Disaster Looms Nigh.
Disaster is in the form of Pearse's brother getting killed in his IRA shenanigans. Pearse takes his place in the name of duty, and the entire family is soon torn apart by Pearse's increasing zeal to the Sinn Fein manifesto.
Thing is, ugh. Throughout the whole story I am hit again and again with Kate's point of view. War is wrong! Killing babies is so wrong! Yeah, yeah, but when it comes to war, is everything ever stark black or white? Poor Pearse is given no opportunity to grow. From Pampers Family Daddy, he instantaneously morphs into some bigoted Irish redneck. Most unconvincing is the handling of his characterization, which only drives home my suspicion that maybe Border Crossings is some sort of preachy pamphlet.
And the ending is ridiculously convenient. Pearse sees the light in a brief discussion with sis-in-law, and chases after wife. Repentant, he goes back to being Pampers Family Daddy. There is little evidence that the family is affected by the events in the last few hundred pages beyond the cursory "Oh, ain't war bad?" manner.
Family obligations, duties, affections, hatred - all this can't be boxed in neat little cartons labeled Good or Evil. I am never given a chance to form my own opinions or perspective. No matter how much I respect the author's allegiance, I can't help wishing she'd given me the chance to make up my own mind. This is what differentiates a great story like the movie The Boxer from armchair reads like BC.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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