Hannah Pittard’s Reunion

You never truly grow up until your parents have passed. When they are gone, you are a child, biologically to none but the human species and the universe as a whole.  In fact, the death of both parents many a time plunges the child into the psychological realization of personal responsibility. This is so even if, long before they died, parents had become dependent, due to illness or old age, on the child. These are the thoughts that were uppermost in my mind as I read Hannah Pittard’s Reunion.

Sure, as the title suggests, the ‘reunion’ of siblings (and wives and half siblings) for a couple of days at the death of the father, Stan, is the core event. However, Stan’s death is less about him and his indiscretions brought on by senility and loneliness, than it is about the stock take each of the siblings, Nell, Elliot and Kate have to make about the roadblocks and the new detours they must take to get around them in their own lives.

In many ways their reunion forces these three principal siblings to realise that they have outgrown who they once were at various prior stages. Definitely, they have to step aside from the refractions of themselves and each other that hark back to the images they thought they once knew. Perceptions of siblings we felt we knew based on memory of childhood or growing incidents may have been incomplete and may need to be revised or modified. The person we once knew twenty years ago is not the same person in the present, however intimate our relationship with that person had been in the past. Circumstances change; life gets altered.

It’s a view Kate, Nell and Elliot have to accept of their father as well, the man who married four times after his first wife, Mimi, their mother,  died  – the man who ended up senile and alone, blowing his brains out with a shotgun. Hannah Pittard’s Reunion eschews maudlin despair. Rather, the book, through the main character, Kate, fields the chatter about life, stability, responsibility and success, rooting firmly for resilience and for charting new courses if they become necessary. Death simply means that the living, though they pause to reflect and moan a while, must eventually, until their own death, get on with their lives.

 © Cynthia James – July 2016

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