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A Home at the End of the World    by Michael Cunningham order for
Home at the End of the World
by Michael Cunningham
Order:  USA  Can
Picador, 2004 (1990)
Hardcover, Softcover, Audio, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Shannon Bigham

This is one of those books, in which the blurb on the back tells you the majority of what will happen in the story. Typically, I enjoy a bit of suspense and prefer to know less than these tell-all blurbs impart. But A Home at the End of the World is the sort of story, where the reader enjoys the journey even more than the destination.

Having thoroughly enjoyed Cunningham's highly successful, award winning novel, The Hours, I did not dwell on the extent of the blurb's disclosure. Instead, I cracked this earlier book open and started reading about Jonathan and Bobby, childhood friends from Cleveland. They embark on a tenuous friendship when they meet in the school cafeteria in seventh grade. Initially, they make an odd pair. Jonathan is a lonely and introspective boy who lacks confidence. Bobby is darker and more hip than Jonathan, although his inarticulate attempts to communicate lead Jonathan's mother to initially wonder if Bobby is retarded. Bobby's passions are drugs and music, and Jonathan immediately begins to share these pastimes with him. Bobby spends inordinate amounts of time at Jonathan's home, where he enjoys home cooked meals and a family atmosphere that is lacking in his own family.

Years later, Jonathan says goodbye to Bobby and leaves Cleveland to attend college. New York City is now home to Jonathan, who is gay and living with a female roommate. Clare is an artist with a trust fund and a vibrant personality. She is quirky, eccentric and funny in a wry, sarcastic way. Claire is in her late thirties and longs to have a baby although she has no husband, lover or boyfriend. Jonathan and Clare have a deep platonic love for each other and they plan to have a child together. But when Bobby comes to New York, he moves in with Jonathan and Clare, and things change quickly. Bobby and Clare fall in love and they have the planned baby, rather than Clare and Jonathan. The threesome eventually moves into a home in upstate New York in the country to raise their child together.

The author does an extraordinary job of portraying the complex relationships amongst Jonathan, Bobby and Clare. Cunningham is a gifted writer and he is able to draw out the characters so that the reader feels like he or she knows them personally. This excellent novel surpassed my hopes that it would hold a candle to The Hours. As much as I appreciated the latter, I enjoyed A Home at the End of the World more, and highly recommend it to fans of literary or contemporary fiction. I anticipate that this wonderful, heartfelt novel will be one of my favorite books this year.

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