“After the sudden death of his wife, Maida, Gene is haunted by the fear that their marriage was not all it appeared to be. Alongside Ed and Gayle Donnelly, friends since college days, he tries to resurrect happy memories of the times the two couples shared, raising their children in a small New Hampshire town and vacationing together at a lake house every summer. Meanwhile, his daughter, Dary, challenges not only his happy version of the past but also his view of Maida. As a long-standing rift between them deepens, Gene starts to understand how unknown his daughter is to him–and how enigmatic his wife was as well. And a lingering suspicion seizes his mind that could upend everything he thought he knew.
Katharine Dion’s assured debut moves seamlessly between Gene’s present-day journey and the long history of a marriage and friendship. Rich and wonderfully alive, The Dependents is the most moving kind of drama, an intimate glance into the expanse of family life and the way we must all eventually bridge the chasm between what we want to believe and what we know to be true.”
My Thoughts: The Dependents is one of those novels I want to love. The writing is exquisite. The premise sounds interesting with plenty of potential skeletons waiting for their reveal. Plus, I do love a good story that explores marriage and identity when done seriously and not as sappy, “and they all lived happily ever after” women’s fiction.
Except, no matter how excellent the writing, it cannot disguise the fact that nothing happens in The Dependents. There are no secrets. The exploration of marriage and identity proves to be nothing more than one elderly widow questioning his memories upon his wife’s passing, and he never comes to any satisfactory conclusion other than to trust his heart. It is all so frustrating because it could have been (should have been) so much better than it was.
On the one hand, I do not mind that I seemingly wasted my time on a story that went nowhere because Ms. Dion knows how to pen a sentence. Her writing is fluid as well as vivid with an ability to make a sentence bring to life a scene as well as play like music on the ear. This is a wonderful thing to experience and kept me coming back to the book time and again. And yet.
Let’s face it. Even the most beautiful sentences in the world mean nothing if they do not move forward a story. There is only so much you can take of Gene’s grief and reminiscing before you begin to wonder what the point of it all is. I never stopped hoping that one of these gorgeous sentences would result in a bombshell that would shake the story from its ennui. I kept that hope alive until the last sentence of the last paragraph of the last chapter, only to have my hopes dashed and for me to let out a rare cry of frustration at the pointlessness of it all.
The Dependents is a cobbling together of the same old ideas albeit with better-than-average sentence structure and effectiveness. Ms. Dion gives us nothing new when it comes to relationships, nor does she provide any stellar insight into marriage or the idea of identity. Because of her writing skills, I feel like it should have been a profound story, but I finished the novel feeling little to no emotion whatsoever. The wasted potential almost angers me I wanted more than I got and feel that Ms. Dion is capable of so much more than she gave. Hopefully, her next novel proves I am right.