Friday, May 20, 2011

Review: The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore

As parents we raise our children to adulthood and launch them into the world hoping that they have learned to stand on their own two feet and will be happy. And once we send them out into the world, we want them to come home to visit, briefly filling the empty nest with life and noise and chaos, before heading back into their own grown-up existence. But as children, when things aren't going well and it's all we can do to hold it together, we turn first to our parents, even after we are grown. In Meg Mitchell Moore's debut novel, empty nest parents welcome their children and grandchildren home only to discover that the children are struggling and intend to stay for a while. Going from two quiet older people to a house packed with 6 adults and 2 small children, life changes very quickly and Moore captures it in all its messy reality in this well-written and charmingly perceptive novel.

First to come home to Ginny and William is oldest daughter Lillian. After discovering that her husband cheated on her, she packed her three year old daughter and new infant son into the car and headed home to her parents. To them and to the inquisitive Olivia, she's only said that she has come home for the summer for vacation, prefering to nurse her broken heart and to feed her anger in private but still within the comfort of her family circle. Next to descend on the home in Vermont is son Stephen and his very pregnant, workaholic wife Jane. Not wanting to be gone from home too long, they intend to only stay the weekend until Jane has a scare, is put on bed rest, and told to remain in Vermont at Ginny and William's, where Stephen will have to defend his desire to be a stay at home dad and Jane will be forced to scale back on her job even as she tries to head off a work crisis and to come to a better understanding of her mother-in-law all from the excruciatingly boring state of bedrest. Last to drift home the summer of the full house, is youngest daughter Rachel, the baby of the family who has lost her capacity for joy. She is on the verge of crumbling both emotionally and financially, not entirely knowing what she wants out of life but being too saddened and dissatisfied to think much into the future.

With all these disparate people living in tight proximity, even if it is a very loving proximity, tensions simmer and erupt as each person's needs and habits rub up against the others. Moore has captured beautifully the mixed emotions of such a situation. She has drawn characters who are are completely true to life facing everyday sorts of challenges and yet they are never mundane or boring. Their struggles are universal and completely relatable. As they all face the life they've chosen, each character is lucky enough to be cared for and loved by the others, allowed room to breathe even if they occasionally irritate and annoy each other. Precisely what families are best at.

Most of all, the summer of unexpectedly communal living allows each of the characters to grow, to come to an understanding or acceptance of his or her situation, and to decide where to go next. It allows them all to find contentment in the present and weather the bumps in the road as just what they are, merely bumps in the road of life. Moore has written a delightful, entertaining, and positive novel. She captures beautifully the tensions among a family where members really do love each other most of the time. The dynamics between parent and adult child are spot-on. And her ability to portray the mixed emotions of empty nesters who have happily welcomed grown children home only to find they miss their quiet and ordered life is fantastic. This is not so much a domestic drama as a skillful, accurate portrait of modern life.

For more information about Meg Mitchell Moore and the book visit her webpage, her Facebook page, and follow her on Twitter.

Thanks to Anna from Reagan Arthur Books for sending me a copy of the book for review.


  1. I think this bok sounds wonderful. I will definitely be picking it up. Being empty-nesters, I can relate to the joy of having children around, but missing the quiet of the two of you. Loved the review!

  2. Kristen,

    What a perceptive and beautiful review. Thank you so much, and I'm really glad that you enjoyed the book so much.

    Meg Mitchell Moore

  3. I think this happens more and more now, and it's not uncommon for people in their late twenties to still live at home. My parents are now empty-nesters, my dad loves the quiet but my mum definitely finds it strange. Great review!


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