Top positive review
Complex and accurate family portrait
on June 15, 2002
Stewart O'Nan has done here--successfully--what one of the members of the family he portrays longs to do as a photographic work: he captures the summer world of Lake Chautauqua, where time moves slowly and every change seems a betrayal of memory, rather than a step in progress. But this only the setting; the true stars of this drama are the family. O'Nan examines its web of relationships, politics and attitudes with an uncannily accurate eye. He assumes each character's point of view lovingly; he knows them all, young and old, male and female. And so do we, because we've been there ourselves--the recognition is half the fun of the reading. The detail, too, is marvelous: whose workbench, for example, has never been graced with a Chock-Full-O-Nuts can crammed with dead paintbrushes? Wish You Were Here reminds us what a flawed species we are, so eager to turn away from each other to search for that Something that must, by nature, elude us--the perfect light, the impossible love, the exquisite memory, the undiluted attention of our parents. There are no jarring plot twists, no car chases, no fights-to-the-death, no special effects--just fine writing, arresting characters, right-on dialogue (spoken and internal) and a week's crash course in what makes us bizarre creatures tick. Read; recognize; enjoy.