Wish You Were Here: Book summary and reviews of Wish You Were Here by Stewart O'Nan

Wish You Were Here

By Stewart O'Nan

Wish You Were Here
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  • Published in USA  May 2002,
    517 pages.

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Book Summary

Award-winning writer Stewart O'Nan has been acclaimed by critics as one of today's most accomplished novelists and hailed by The New York Times as "a master of voices and the place they resonate from, of human rhythms and the universal rhythms they cut across." Now, with Wish You Were Here, he reaches a new level of achievement, weaving together the lives and desires of three generations of an American family gathered together for one final summer week at their summer cottage.

A year after the death of her husband, Henry, Emily Maxwell summons her family to their vacation house on Lake Chautauqua, in western New York, one last time before selling the place. Joining her is her sister-in-law Arlene, a retired schoolteacher who silently mourns the passing of the lake house from her family's hands and is still wounded from a love lost long ago. Emily's firebrand daughter, Meg, a recovering alcoholic recently separated from her husband, brings her children from Detroit -- the blossoming Sarah and the timid Justin. Emily's son, Ken, a struggling photographer who quit his job and mortgaged his future to pursue his art, brings his wife, Lisa, who is secretly heartened to be visiting the house for the last time -- and not-so-secretly cool to her prickly mother-in-law -- and their children, the bookish Ella and the troubled Sam.

With honesty and generosity, O'Nan inhabits each character during the course of their week together, illuminating the many lives of the Maxwell family as memories of past summers resurface, old rivalries flare up, and love is rekindled and born anew. Poignant and resonant, Wish You Were Here is a magical book whose beauties are as moving as a summer storm and as brilliant as the glint of sun on water.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"At times the story is smothered by its own accumulative logic; yet in clinging so relentlessly to the surface of his world, O'Nan slowly pulls the reader into it." - Publishers Weekly

"A well-written but ultimately unsatisfying book that is arguably O'Nan's least successful to date." - Library Journal

"Fine prose and lovely strokes of portraiture throughout, but overall a bit of a disappointment from so ambitious and gifted a writer." - Kirkus Reviews

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Author Information

Stewart O'Nan Author Biography

Stewart O'Nan's award-winning fiction includes Snow Angels, The Speed Queen, A Prayer for the Dying, and Last Night at the Lobster. Granta named him one of America’s Best Young Novelists. He lives in Pittsburgh.

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