recently read: So Long, See You Tomorrow, William Maxwell.
When I was interviewing for college, my dean got up in the middle of my interview, left, and then came back with this book. He gave it to me and said, “You need to read this book. You’re going to be amazed.” And I was. I was really impressed by this book; it was gorgeous.
It’s about this man looking back on his childhood in Illinois. He’s riddled with guilt because he wasn’t there for his friend, Cletus, after Cletus’s father shot his best friend. The relationship between Cletus and the narrator is interesting; they never really became real friends, they just played together some afternoons. After the murder, Cletus relocates to Chicago, and the narrator’s family moves there shortly after. In school, the narrator sees his old friend in passing, says nothing, and then never sees him again.
The book is basically a speculation on what was going on in Cletus’s life. It’s such an interesting position: the narrator is now an old man looking back on an event that he was completely outside of, but it’s consequences really affected him.
We come to know Cletus in the story: how he milks the cows, how he feels about his father, what it’s like for him after his family is split apart. What I love best, though, is that the Cletus the reader meets is not the real Cletus; it is the fictionalized, child Cletus, trapped in the imperfect memory of an old, guilty man. We don’t ever actually know Cletus, we know what we, and the narrator, hope he is.