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5.0 out of 5 stars What A Fantastic Story
If you like character driven stories, then you will enjoy this book. Stewart O'Nan brings such life and personality to the characters in this story that you will feel like you are part of their family and sitting right there with them before you finish the book. If you like books that are action packed and suspenseful, then this is NOT a book for you. On the other...
Published on Aug. 27 2003 by Ruth E. Moore

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3.0 out of 5 stars Slow
A family of three generations spends a week at a cabin that has been the scene of summer vacations for many years. This will be their last visit because the cabin is to be sold.
If you like a book without plot and a lot of emphasis on character this book is for you. It was interesting enough to finish because the author makes the characters seem realisitc, with...
Published on Aug. 19 2002 by Barbara Gray


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2.0 out of 5 stars Character driven novel about ongoing dysfunction, June 30 2004
By 
This review is from: Wish You Were Here: A Novel (Paperback)
I can not speak for anyone but myself when I say that I found this book missing something. I checked it out of the library solely on the level of seeing different generations interact. I did see that in this book, but found most of them, save maybe Arlene, amazingly dull and shallow. I wonder if the writer would have been better off to focus on a smaller group, really getting to their deepest levels.
I found myself becoming infuriated by the characters inability to say how they really feel. The dysfunction continues in this family because no one is willing to say what is bothering them, from the mother, to the alcoholic daughter, to the bitter wife. There is no conclusion in this book....just stories hanging in the wind.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Rufus speaks, May 25 2004
By 
Benjamin (Morristown, NJ) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Wish You Were Here: A Novel (Paperback)
The book captured me -- primarily because of the shifting points of view. Alone with Emily in her thoughts, I liked her and felt compassion for her. From Lise's point of view, I saw only a bitter mother-in-law. Which only made me feel compassion for BOTH of them, and the huge space between them neither seemed emotionally skilled enough to cross.
So rather than finding flat, dull, unlikable characters, as some other reviewers have, I found multidimensional characters with main themes they couldn't -- despite themselves -- shake. Is there love in this family? More on Friday and Saturday of the long week, even more in the recollections. Life is like that. I mean c'mon -- Aunt Arlene pitching the wiffle ball to Sammy "Whammy Bammy" Maxwell like his grandfather once did? O'Nan gives you many, many moments such as this that resonate.
Should the kidnapped gas attendant have been found? Should a character have careened through a wild arc of growth and self-discovery? While some readers may want that, O'Nan doesn't give it -- and that's his perogative. It left me feeling as I often do in life -- searching.
I found the climax of the book to be release -- the open bathroom door one reviewer wrote about. Maybe loss filters through us physically. Finishing the book, I was reminded of the quote (by Thoreau, I believe) that most of us live lives of "quiet desperation."
Lots more to say, but I'll end with this -- didn't anyone else appreciate the short chapter written from the dog Rufus' point of view? I found the dog one of the most touching characters, oddly. How much easier it is to be our true selves with a nonjudgmental pet rather than those we love and fear at the same time.
Anyway -- four stars. Had to write a review to boost the ratings. O'Nan is too talented a stylist.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Half as Long, Twice as Good?, Dec 5 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Wish You Were Here: A Novel (Paperback)
O'Nan displays real talent in exploring relationships between the novel's characters as the Maxwell family spends a week in the summer at their cottage in Chautauqua, New York. The week takes on a special significance for family members because it might be the last vacation they will be able to spend together at the cottage. Citing reasons such as the difficulty and expense of upkeep, matriarch Emily Maxwell has decided to sell the cottage following the death of her husband. Although her son Kenneth and daughter Margaret (Meg) initially voice no objections to her plans, they become more ambivalent after they arrive at Chautauqua with their families. Emily's sister-in-law Arlene harbors a secret resentment against Emily for her decision to dispose of the family's summer home, since Emily married into the Maxwell family rather than being born into it. Both Kenneth and Meg face financial problems. Meg seems to be headed for a divorce, while Kenneth's decision to quit his job to take a low-paying job at a photography lab has placed financial burdens on his family. Each of the characters, from the oldest to the youngest, speaks in turn, recounting their private concerns and internal conflicts while dealing with other family members.
The book could have been more interesting, but the author soon bogs us down with minutiae as he recounts so many routine events and chores in excrutiating detail. I wish the novel were half as long but twice as good. There is no plot to speak of, since nothing really extraordinary happens during the family's week at the cottage. The only real tension lies in the characters' inner thoughts and their relationships. I guess O'Nan's wants us to realize that Chautauqua and its neighboring areas are falling victim to the changes that time and encroaching suburbia have brought. I wish a good editor had curbed O'Nan's tendency to provide such a detailed, sometimes intricate, account of events. This 500+ page novel does become boring after a few chapters, but I persisted in reading it mainly so I could write a review panning the book. I didn't think it would be fair to critique it without reading it in its entirety and kept hoping it would get more exciting.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Where's the STORY?, Sept. 13 2003
By 
neffie from northport (Northport, NY United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Wish You Were Here: A Novel (Paperback)
As others have mentioned, wonderful characterizations, the writing is good, but there is no story. I love good character development and detail to surroundings, but these elements should be integrated into some kind of story-line, and THERE ISN'T ONE! What a waste of my time (and money!).
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5.0 out of 5 stars What A Fantastic Story, Aug. 27 2003
By 
Ruth E. Moore (Stilwell, KS USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
If you like character driven stories, then you will enjoy this book. Stewart O'Nan brings such life and personality to the characters in this story that you will feel like you are part of their family and sitting right there with them before you finish the book. If you like books that are action packed and suspenseful, then this is NOT a book for you. On the other hand, if you want to read something with substance that you can really sink your teeth into, then this is a MUST read. A very enjoyable story of family, difficult situations and real life.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Big Disappointing Yawn........, July 27 2003
By 
Toby J. Galinkin (chapel hill, n.c. United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Wish You Were Here: A Novel (Paperback)
I was looking so forward to reading this BIG book by Stewart O'Nan..I think he is a wonderful story teller. However, I prefer his slim, elegant and minimalistic novels (almost novellas) to this big old book about nothing going on...just goes on and on and on and on and I am simply bored with it. I am disappointed...I think he bit off more than he could chew. The characters are lackluster, one dimensional and inspired nothing but apathy from me. Another one bites the dust....I am not finishing this one.
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2.0 out of 5 stars back to the library - unfinished, June 23 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Wish You Were Here: A Novel (Paperback)
Doubt I will finish this one. Two many pages without enough story.
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1.0 out of 5 stars how to list chores, May 6 2003
This review is from: Wish You Were Here: A Novel (Paperback)
wash windows, sweep floors, make beds, clean out closets, get bored with a visit to niagra, change gears, buy hamburgers, find lost screws (who ever lost a screw?)...
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2.0 out of 5 stars Depends what you're looking for, March 31 2003
By 
mikemeg "mikemeg5" (Arlington, VA United States) - See all my reviews
Look, I'm willing to concede that it's very well done for what it is... an detailed exploration of the minds of the family members, and an examination of complex family dynamics.
However, this was 500 pages of pretty much the same thing, over and over. I felt like I pretty much knew each character within 5 pages of their introduction, and there's almost no character evolution. The author (whose other books I've greatly enjoyed) lavishes them with detail, but I don't feel the least bit enriched by the experience.
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1.0 out of 5 stars so bad i didn't even finish it - which I NEVER do, March 26 2003
By A Customer
Just couldn't get through it. Being from and living in Buffalo I thought I would enjoy it, aside from references to certain things Buffalo or Western New York, I didn't enjoy anything about the half of the book that I read. It was so dull, day to day to boring endless day of each characters actions and nothing really exciting happens to anyone. It just went on and on..............
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Wish You Were Here: A Novel
Wish You Were Here: A Novel by Stewart O'Nan (Paperback - April 10 2003)
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