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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Family Ties

My holidays were very low-key this season. Partially because a mild case of the flu prevented me from doing much more than hanging a few strands of multi-colored lights outside on a front bush and our stockings inside by the fire. But mostly they were very quiet because those whom I thought were close family disappointingly turned out to be distant, aloof relations and those whom I once considered casual friends surprisingly became bosom buddies.

Those whom we want to believe to be what they seem often turn out to be someone else altogether is one of the major themes of
At Home with the Templetons: A Novel1 by Monica McInerney. Having recently read and thoroughly enjoyed Lola's Secret by the same author, I was eager to delve into this one; an American edition of which, inscribed to me by Monica, arrived the week before Christmas. And so, I did, reading it while ensconced on my couch wrapped in a cozy blanket by the fire. My ailing physical body remained supine as my mind and imagination were transported to Victoria, Australia and the ersatz estate of Templeton Hall, where I met the Templeton family and their neighbors. These include young Grace Templeton, around whom McInerney weaves the bulk of her story, and Nina Donovan and her son, Tom, who become enmeshed in and by the Templeton clan. While a seemingly straightforward plot line, we come to slowly realize that the estate and those who inhabit it are not all what they seem.

As she has in her previous eight, McInerney2 fuels this novel with poignancy, humor, and uniquely intuitive insights into intimate family relationships that border on shear creative genius. Visiting the Templetons in Australia, I was the proverbial fly on the wall, if not the welcomed, yet silent, guest sitting unobtrusively in a parlor corner watching their lives unfold. Here is young, impressionable Grace, who wishes everything to be right with her world; everything to remain the same. Her sisters, Charlotte and Audrey, wish to eventually be far away and separate from what seems to be a loving, kind family. Brother Spencer alienates himself with careful, often rash conniving. Their parents, Henry and Eleanor, are not as loving or kind as they appear. Or are they? Then there's Hope, whose name belies her hopeless spiral descent into alcoholism. Or does it? And Nina and Tom are unwittingly and seemingly unwillingly in the midst of it all. What transpires between and amongst his cast of characters is the meaty stuff of great novels. Of which At Home with the Templetons is one.

What I like about McInerney's storytelling is that she masterfully combines a number of literary genres. She effectively mixes romance with intrigue, stirs in mystery with the intricate psychology of interwoven relationships, and melds history into current affairs. She even adds a bit of the travelogue as the Templeton family disperses and reconnects across three continents and two vast oceans. And with her straight-forward, lyrically astute writing style, the reader is easily and enjoyably transported into her world.

A world in which families are not what they seem to be, but where we discover who they really are. A world, very much like our own reality, in which families can and ought to be what they should.

1 © 2012 Monica McInerney. 471 pages; paperback American edition. Ballantine Books Trade Paperback/Random House, New York, NY. Compete with an interview with the author and a Reader's Guide for group discussion.
2 Monica and I are not related, although the name "McInerney" in Ireland is as common as "Smith" is here in the United States. While we have yet to discover our common ancestry, we have taken to calling each other "cousin".

1:17 pm est          Comments

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June J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is an author, poet, and librettist. Her currently published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations, two volumes of poetry, stories for children (of all ages) and a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
Miss Elmira's Secret Treasure: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
Colonial Theatre: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Roarin' 20s 
Phoenix Hose, Hook & Ladder: A Novel of Phoenixville during World War I
Columbia Hotel: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of Phoenixville in 1978
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World War II
Rainbow in the Sky
Meditations for New Members

Adventures of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Spinach Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A Collection of More Spiritual Poems

We Three Kings

Beauty and the Beast


Noah's Rainbow

Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding Hood



Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She is currently working on her sixth novel.

June's novels can be purchased at amazon.com, through Barnes and Noble,
at the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area,
the Gateway Pharmacy in Phoenixvile, PA

For more information about her musicals, which are also available on amazon.com,