An award-winning author has created his most expansive work to date–a captivating family epic, a novel that moves effortlessly from past to present on its journey to the truth of how we grow out of, away from, and into our parents.
“Are we there yet?” It’s the time-honored question of kids on a long family car trip–and Emil Czabek’s children are no exception. Yet Em asks himself the same thing as the family travels to celebrate his parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary, and he wonders if he has escaped their wonderfully bad example.
The midwestern drive is Em’s occasion to recall the Czabek clan’s amazing odyssey, one that sprawls through the second half of the twentieth century. It begins with his parents’ wedding on the TV show It’s Your Marriage, and careens from a suburban house built sideways by a drunken contractor to a farm meant to shelter the Czabeks from a country coming apart. It is the story of Em’s father, Wally–diligent, distant, hard-drinking–and his attempts to please, protect, or simply placate his nervous, restless, and sensual wife, Susan, all in plain sight of the children they can’t seem to stop having.
As the tumultuous decades merge in his mind like the cars on the highway, Em must decide whether he should take away his parents’ autonomy and place them in the Heartland Home for the Elders. Beside him, his wife, Dorie, a woman who has run both a triathlon and for public office, makes him question what he’s inherited and whether he himself has become the responsible spouse of a drifting partner–especially since she’s packing a diaphragm and he’s had a vasectomy.
Wildly comic and wrenchingly poignant, The Company Car is a special achievement, a book that drives through territory John Irving and Jonathan Franzen have made popular to arrive at a stunning destination all its own.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of eBook: The Company Car|
|Release Date: 05-17-2005|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Random House Publishing Group|
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The Company Car
1. A Day Late and a Dollar Short
There are times on this drive when I have been tempted to turn to Dorie and shout, “Our parents have been dead for years! Our father died while piloting a La-Z-Boy into oblivion, the remote still warm in his fingers! Our mother died in her bedroom; her last whispered words being ‘More! More!’ That’s what happened to our parents! Not this! Not this!”
But it’s Dorie’s parents who have been dead for years. Mine are about to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary, hence the drive up from Milwaukee with our kids. (I say “ours” although Dorie had already had Woolie and was pregnant with Henry when we met—a complicated story I needn’t go into here.)
I don’t shout out my denials, though, because (a) Dorie would point out my pronoun error, as well as the insensitivity of my having made it; and (b) Dorie, in her infinite wisdom, would simply shake her head and say, “Get a grip, Ace. What’s the real issue here?”
In defense of the pronoun thing: because our parents beat it into our heads when we were younger, I have always thought of my siblings and myself as one unit, however scattered we’ve become. And it’s not as though Dorie doesn’t appreciate my referring to our three kids as “our three kids.” But she’s right about the other. The real issue here is that it has become increasingly evident to my siblings and myself that our parents may no longer be able to care for themselves. Besides celebrating our parents’ fifty years together, my six sibs and I are going to be talking about the disposition of o