It's been about a year since I finished writing and editing this book--and from the look of it I should have done at least one more edit. I figured that would be enough time to get a little perspective on the story since it wouldn't be so fresh in my mind. It's good to see that after a year I still like t. Maybe after five years that will be different, though I doubt it.
I set out to write something in the style of John Irving novels like The World According to Garp and The Cider House Rules and generally I think I succeeded, though not as well as though books of course. If you're so inclined you can also compare it to Great Expectations, The Adventures of Augie March, or Forrest Gump.
Like those, Where You Belong is the story of a man's epic journey through life--much of it unwillingly. Frost Devereaux never had anything like a normal upbringing. His parents conceived him in a one-night stand during a blizzard and then were wed in a shotgun wedding sans an actual shotgun. Frost's mother hates the man who knocked her up enough that she forces him to live in a barn on her property, from which he is essentially a stranger to his own son. It's not much of a surprise then that when Frost's mother dies in a traffic accident and Frost's face is badly burned, his father takes off to leave him in the care of an inattentive aunt.
From there Frost might have grown up as an isolated lunatic if not for the arrival of redheaded twins from Boston: Frankie and Frank Maguire. They establish the pecking order early on where Frankie is the boss, her brother plotting behind the scenes, and Frost the loyal sidekick to them both. This pecking order remains for the next thirty years of Frost's life.
Much as Frost would like a nice, normal life, it remains tantalizingly out of reach. Or if he does find a moment of happiness it's soon pulled away. His friendship with Frankie lasts through elementary school, but the forces of puberty soon prompt Frankie to leave him behind. He turns to Frank and they head off to an elite private school in upstate New York, but Frank soon has other plans that don't involve Frost. In college, Frost finds a new friend in his roommate Peter, a Trekkie who searches the skies for signs of extraterrestrial life. This budding friendship is soon brought to an end in tragic fashion.
From there Frost ends up in an artist's colony in New Mexico before Frankie returns to his life. Again he thinks he has happiness in his grasp only for it to be snatched away. Heartbroken, Frost finds comfort with Frank only to find he's not that different from his twin.
Maybe this description makes the story sound depressing, but really it's not. Through it all Frost, like most of us, maintains a sense of optimism that someday things are going to work out. And maybe they will. You'll just have to read to find out.
What I like most about the book in reading it a year later is that Frost remains consistent throughout. Some people have described him as passive and he is, with good cause. Never having a stable existence, not to mention a facial deformity, he is an outcast. So it really makes sense--at least to me--that he takes on the sidekick role in order not to alienate those willing to be his friends. Not to mention characters like Frankie and Frank are naturally overpowering and domineering. For the most part these characters and Fate in general move Frost around like the feather in Forrest Gump. It's only near the end where he maybe starts to take control of his own destiny. Still, he remains consistent throughout the book.
For that matter, so do Frankie and Frank. As I said earlier, their pecking order remains in place throughout the thirty years covered by the book. Frankie remains passionate, with her heart on her sleeve while Frank remains a calculating schemer. Because love is blind, Frost never understands that the Maguire twins are more alike than he thinks and generally not good for him until it's much too late. Not to say they're bad people so much as just bad for him.
The downside of writing a book like this that goes from pre-conception to early middle age is that you have a lot of ground to cover. Unless you make the book 2000 pages long, inevitably things get skipped or glossed over. In the first draft I had trouble with dwelling too long on Frost's early years, so that things had to be sped up a little. I think not too much has been lost and so it's still an effective portrait of a man who like many of us is searching for a home.
That is all.
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