In Between Days
by Andrew Porter
Alfred A. Knopf
The Harding family in Andrew Porter’s novel In Between Days is a flawed, dysfunctional bunch.
There are the parents, Elson and Cadence (a name that kind of bothered me) who have recently divorced after 30 years of marriage. Their grown children are Richard, an aimless poet who is struggling with his identity, and Chloe, who has just been expelled (sort of) from her private college after some entanglements with the law that involved herself and her boyfriend.
During the first few pages of the novel, Elson gets lost in a thunderstorm in Houston – the same city where the Hardings live. That – and his once-promising career as an architect – is an apt metaphor for the seemingly never ending stormy drama in their lives.
Porter unravels the backstory of each of the Harding family members incredibly well. He’s exceptionally good at his pacing and plot.
But there’s an irksome quality to the narration that bothered me throughout the entire book: the repetition of phrases in the same sentences.
“This is not how he planned for things to go, but at this moment he cannot bring himself to capitulate, cannot bring himself to give in….On the way over, Elson had promised himself he wouldn’t do this, that he wouldn’t let it come to this, that he wouldn’t even bring it up. He knew that he was driving her away, just as he had driven away Cadence and just as he had driven away almost every woman he had ever dated.” (pg. 70)
Oh my gah! This wordiness damn near DROVE ME away as a reader. Need more?
“It was the first time he’d seen them together since his father moved out, and it suddenly struck him how normal it seemed, how much it seemed like normal life. They’d come under false pretenses, of course, to see if Chloe was now staying with him, if she was now living there, though they’d claimed that they’d simply come by to take him to lunch.” (pg. 113)
“He’d initially chosen the Brunswick Hotel because he considered it a neutral location. A neutral location, but not too neutral.” (pg. 184)
At this point, I started wondering if Porter was being paid by the word. How many times in one sentence can one say the same thing?
Apparently, a few more.
“What they never talked about afterward, even in the days that followed, even as the world around them seemed to fall apart, what they never talked about was the guilt they both felt. The guilt they felt for what had happened.” (pg. 218)
I’ll be honest: this distracted me. A lot. But it also made for a fast read, which is good because creating tension and sustaining plot is something that Andrew Porter excels at – and which, surprisingly, kept me reading.
But just barely.
“He would have recognized, as he recognizes now, that her judgment had been clouded by love, just as his own judgment had been clouded by love, and just as his parents, back in the house, playing their old charade, just as his parents’ judgment had been clouded by love.” (pg. 264)
Okay, you get the point.
This is post #73 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project.