Background Reading for My Novel: A Home at the End of the World

A Home at the End of the World

One of my favorite movies from the new millennium has been the 2002 film The Hours starring Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Ed Harris, Allison Janney and John C. Reilly. While I have not as yet read the 1999 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Michael Cunningham upon which it was based I have seen the film twice and loved it both times. In the event that you have neither read the book nor seen the movie the plot centers around three different stories each taking place in a different era, 1923, 1951 and 2001. Not wanting to reveal too much, the three stories are inter-connected and it is only at the very end that the viewer fully appreciates the connection. Each story in itself is fascinating and the acting is nothing short of superb. The movie was nominated for 9 Academy Awards including Best Picture; Nicole Kidman deservingly won the award for Best Actress. I have the book on my To Read list and hope before years’ end to get around to reading it.

Having enjoyed this movie so much, I was thrilled to learn that Cunningham had written an earlier novel A Home at the End of the World in 1990 that fit into my queer fiction genre that I am pursuing as part of my research for the novel I am writing. This book is told entirely in the first person, although the narrator changes from chapter to chapter. Most of the narration is told by two of the main characters, Jonathan Glover and Bobby Morrow, but two additional characters also add their perspective, Jonathan’s mother Alice and a woman named Clare who is introduced about one-third of the way into the book.

Jonathan and Bobby meet as thirteen-year olds in suburban Cleveland in the 1970’s. Both have had troubled childhoods in the 1960’s although their experiences were quite different. Jonathan is introspective and not quite sure of himself. Bobby has had more than his share of tragedy growing up and is very hip, rebellious and somewhat strange. The two boys quickly become best of friends and Bobby soon becomes a part of the Glover family. As time passes the two boys begin to experiment sexually with each other. After graduating from high school Jonathan moves to NYC to start college while Bobby remains with Jonathan’s parents. Jonathan’s roommate in New York is Clare, a woman in her 30’s, who becomes his soul mate although their relationship is strictly platonic. Jonathan by now is openly gay and develops a very sexually fulfilling but emotionally unsatisfactory long-term relationship with a bartender named Erich. Complicating matters Bobby comes to New York, moves in with Jonathan and Clare and is soon seduced by her. Not wanting to reveal any more of the storyline (hopefully I’ve enticed you enough that you may want to read the book) I will simply say that the plot thickens and before story’s end the three main characters have built a very unconventional but loving relationship.

This was an exquisitely well written and enjoyable read, unlike the book I had read prior to this. I loved the way the perspective of the story changed from chapter to chapter; it definitely got me thinking about the way I am writing my own novel which I have been writing strictly in the third person. I found all the characters interesting and believable. While the book has an undeniable sadness to it, at the same time it is very heartwarming. I’ve learned that the book was adapted into a 2004 film starring Colin Farrell as Bobby, Dallas Roberts as Jonathan, Robin Wright Penn as Clare and Sissy Spacek as Alice. I have seen a trailer of the movie and a friend of mine told me how enjoyable it was which does not surprise me. I certainly plan to see it sometime soon.

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