Thursday, February 5, 2009

Forty Seven Roses

Forty-Seven Roses is a memoir with which I could connect because of what it has in common with my unfinished novel. In Forty Seven Roses, Peter Sheridan, in a very personal way, explores his parents' romance, which was dogged for forty seven years by another woman. In my novel, a teenager goes in search of his father whom he's never met. Ricardo's quest leads him to understand his parents (and the circumstances of his birth) in a way that liberates him from feelings of insecurity and the sense of having been abandoned by the two most important people in the world. Coincidentally, I've also recently read another novel- The Pursuit of Happiness by, Douglas Kennedy in which the protangonist comes face to face with the nature of the relationship between her parents.

Anyway, to the memoir at hand; the element of an adult snooping around (to me that's what Peter actually does) is interesting to me. He sometimes goes off (unbeknownst to his mother) to England to talk privately with Doris, to see what he could find out about what really went on with his now deceased father and this woman who travels across the sea to come lay forty seven roses on his father's grave. Why is it so important to Peter, a grown man with children of his own, to dredge up all this stuff that is in the past? Why not leave well enough alone, considering that his dad was with his mom all these years, not with Doris. And what difference does it make anyway?

Of course his father's life matters to him. He might have a half sister out there and that's got to be important. His mother's grief (and some guilt she's carrying around with it) is in some way related to forty seven years of competition with another woman. He shares his mom's grief, so it does help for him to understand it. And also tied up in all of this is his own grieving, and his ability to move on, to forgive where he must and forget where he should and be clear on the values he wants to shape his own life.

The novel is not at all centred around Peter Sheridan, as I have made it seem. It's just that it is Peter's story that caught my interest most. Strangely enough, the novel is not centred around his dad, nor his mom. The central focus of the novel as you can tell by the title, is the other woman, Doris. I know it's Doris' story because Sheridan allows her to tell large portions of the story herself. Something he does not allow Ma or Da; we only get their side of story through Peter.

Doris has the misfortune of falling in love with a man she cannot have- for two reasons, one, he's somebody else's and two, he is Irish (at a time when English and Irish did not blend). She further has the misfortune (or fortune?) of being so smitten, so obsessed, so possessed, that she cannot love another man. And so she remains faithful (in a manner of speaking) for a lifetime. I wouldn't say Forty Seven Roses is a novel I would read again, but it sure makes me want to read 44: A Dublin Memoir and Every Inch of Her by the same Dublin born author.