Reading Along I-94: The Pull of Gravity, Part 4

Jen: We’re back! Last week we let off after discussing our impressions of Nick’s Dad from The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner. Now we can continue our discussion by getting back to Nick’s mom’s role in the situation.

Back to moms…the poor mom! I would be curious to see what happens with Nick and his mom and brother when he gets home. That’s where the 31-year-old mom in me comes out because I can imagine how I would react if it was me and hope she would be strong.

GAE: What would “strong” entail for you? Would Colby’s answer be different? Colby? And more importantly, would Nick’s? Would my kids’?

JEN: Well, the mom is all supportive of the dad but he’s not being honest with her. I would hope she would give him a piece of her mind. I feel like Nick is the kind of kid would side with his mom. I feel like the dad not being honest with them whether he’s sleeping with MaeLynn, in love with MaeLynn, or just needing MaeLynn as support. Once you aren’t truthful, don’t you lose people’s trust?

COLBY: I’m all about “till death do us part”, and now that I don’t know what the mom knew and what she didn’t know, I’m all confused. I like thinking about what Gae said about kids not being privy to everything that has to do with parents’ relationships.

JEN: I thought the mom thought the dad was really in New York and really doing his article. But I could be inferring. So if the dad totally betrays the mom and is off sleeping with someone else or in love with someone else, doesn’t it kind of suggest that has has given up on the “til death do us part” of marriage? And then if he wants to come back it would just be lots of time spent patching up his relationship with his wife then and getting her trust back, right? I’ve never been in that situation but I don’t know if I could give my trust again. It would be really really really really hard.

It’s true that we are adults talking through this and with our adult brains analyzing the situation but I think kids would realize how Nick is a nice kid and hopefully see that the parents’ relationship, however they interpret it, is not healthy.

GAE: This is not a non-sequitur (and no Googling/cheating): Do either of you know what I do for a living (I mean, a real living, when my books aren’t making me millions *coughs*)?

COLBY: Are you an Olympic swimmer?

GAE: *shakes head NO*

JEN: I was going to say swimming in frigid waters!

Now I’m thinking a divorce lawyer…

GAE: *touches nose* But moreso, a divorce MEDIATOR. And I don’t know much, but what I do know are these two things: 1. When parents come to me to get divorced and one parent has cheated, the kids don’t care in terms of it affecting whether they want their parents to stay together. It’s almost primal (or something) that that’s what they want. So whatever we as adults think of what happened with Nick’s parents and MaeLynn, I assume that what Nick would want most is for his parents to stay together IF they could and could be at all happy. 2. The second thing I know from all my years of mediation training, is that grown up kids, looking back, would rather have had their parents separate or divorce than stay together and be unhappy. Look at how complicated and competing those two things are. I just find it all so fascinating and layered. I’m not sure what my point is exactly except that I think that whatever happens when Nick gets home, his first hope will be that even if his dad effed up, his mother and father my try hard to repair things. Does that then compete with Jen’s hope that his mother will be “strong?” Can strength come instead from understanding, rebuilding, forgiving, etc.? I’m interested that it hasn’t come up how much Nick’s father sacrificed early on by giving up the work and city he loved to move for the mom… although Colby sort of alluded to it at some point. Phew! Done.

JEN: I just hope the mom is “strong” in the sense that she is true to herself and expresses herself and how she feels. It is so interesting to hear how your experiences in real life become part of the story you wrote as an author. Here’s another question, should the parents then try to stay together knowing the kids are just going to rather them be separate later, or should they separate knowing it’ll be hard now but the kids would rather that when they are older.

And I have to say that the dad is part of the decision-making so if he did sacrifice living in the city it must have been for good reasons and he chose to go along with it, right?

Okay, I can stop complaining about the dad in the book now. I just hope readers and Nick learn from the parents’ relationship.

COLBY: Well, I think we know how Jen feels about the dad:) I think that the dad probably went along with it because he loves his family. I’m guessing that he had no idea that it would end up turning him into FatMan2.

GAE: So would it be a stretch to say you felt any sympathy toward him? Be honest. Either way. (LOL, I like that Jen is answering even though we already know HER answer!) Oh wait, Jen is now surprising me… :))

JEN: Sometimes it is so hard for me to have sympathy when I have never been in a situation like that. I have no idea how I would respond but I hope I would be able to talk to my family and make things work.That’s another thing I like about books, it helps me develop empathy. If I encounter someone who is in this situation in real life, I know I’ll think back to this book and try to be understanding.

COLBY: Jen, you are making me defend someone that I don’t agree with. That makes me laugh. As a man, I think that FatMan2 (I like calling him that) doesn’t feel like a man. He is fat and not really working. Nothing wrong with being a little fat, but he was pretty much on top of the world, and now the things that once defined him he now feels like a loser (I need to clean that sentence). I’m not trying to defend him, but I think that when lives get turned upside down people sometimes have to look somewhere else to fill a void that they are not getting somewhere else. He should have turned somewhere else.

Do you think the mom should have handled things differently?

JEN: Yes and no. I think the dad should have been able to talk to his wife and work on things together but even if the mom had tried and tried and tried it sounds like the dad wanted to do things in his own way. And if he was relying on MaeLynn I’m going to guess he might not have been open to working through things with his wife. It seems like he was closed off from her. The mom could have played a role in helping him but he would have had to have wanted her help.

GAE: I LOVE how my totally made up fictional story has you type-arguing with one another! I love all the stuff we all read into books. I love how in TPOG, we really have NO insight into what the mother knows or doesnt know but we’ve made assumptions that fit our understanding of the world, sometimes to a stereotyped degree. Like the assumption the mom doesn’t know vs. the mom gave her blessing and said, “you go do what you need to do and tell me when you figure it out”. We don’t know! but we view the world in a particular way – from years of anecdotes or whatever… and we bring that to the table. It makes you realize why none of us read a book the same way. Or view any art the same way. So much has to do with what we subjectively bring to it.

JEN: It is amazing what books can do. I love that we all interpret books in our own way based on our own experiences. They have the ability to justify or expand our lives and our understanding of people.

COLBY: The power of talking and sharing books is CRAZY AWESOME.

JEN: Gae, thank you so much for joining us AND, more importantly, for not telling us what really happened to the characters in your head. I have no idea how you restrain yourself from telling readers how you believe them to be and letting us work things our for ourselves. But I appreciate it.

GAE: This was pretty amazing for me! I think it’s not my job to tell readers how it is because how it is, is however it is FOR THEM. RIght?

JEN: Exactly! I just think it’s amazing that you are able to do that.

GAE: Thank you for letting me do this! Really. It was totally utterly awesome. And for reading and talking about my book. It means so much to me.

COLBY: Thanks for writing books for young adult readers that don’t suck (and for hanging out and chatting with a couple of teachers).

GAE: Well, I’m glad TPoG doesn’t suck. Let’s see how the next one is… ;) When there is a next one. Wish me luck. It’s written . . . :)

COLBY and JEN: We’ll be eagerly waiting! Thanks again!

 

7 Comments
  1. I loved seeing you guys discuss this book! More than anything, though, I love how these discussions revealed how SMART you all are. Just look at Gae’s comment: “I love how in TPOG, we really have NO insight into what the mother knows or doesnt know but we’ve made assumptions that fit our understanding of the world, sometimes to a stereotyped degree.” I guess it’d be tough to be a stupid divorce mediator. Or at least tough to be a stupid, WORKING divorce mediator. And the way Colby and Jen talk about the strength of the mom here and Nick’s point of view of it all. . .this is great stuff. Thanks for having the conversation, and thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks for reading, Brian. Would be curious as to whether your initial reaction to the dad and mom were closer to Colby’s or Jen’s. Is it a male/female thing? Ten years ago, I would have said absolutely yes, but the very nature of my mediation practice has changed drastically over the past 6 or 7 years: back then, 90% of the time, it was the husband’s coming into my practice, having affairs and wanting out of the marriage. Now, it’s a complete role reversal: most of my clients in the past 5 – 6 years have presented with the wife wanting out more — and the husband often being distraught, and feeling blindsided. A lot of my (stupidly yet-unpublished) women’s fiction focuses on this shift, because I find it FASCINATING.

      Colby, thanks SO much for having me, and giving TPoG this attention and amazing forum, for the past month+. Your support means so much to me.

      gae

      • I think I need to get my hands back on this book to really answer your question. Unfortunately (well, fortunately, actually), it’s been with my students since I read it about a month ago. I’m trying to remember the mom’s reaction to things, both before the dad was found, and after. In general, though, and maybe this is the Catholic in me, I am terribly opposed to divorce. I think it’s one of the worst things we do to each other and to ourselves. So though perhaps I can understand the dad’s reasoning, I can’t defend his actions. So in that sense, I guess I agree with Colby. However, I also am with Jen in that it seems as if the dad (I just can’t get into calling him FatMan2, sorry!) has given up without really putting in the expected effort.

        But you asked my initial reaction: I wanted to punch the dad in the face, right there in front of everyone at the diner. If Nick wasn’t going to do it, I was.

        Ultimately, though, part of what I loved about TPoG is that the characters all had reasons for their actions, and they were all very real. I hate the dad at the end, but I understand him. I hate the mom, too, for not caring more herself (or did she? This is where I need the book again), but I understand her, too. I think that’s a good character: one whose actions I can absolutely despise, but understand why they do what they do. You definitely provided that to us. Thanks :-)

  2. Pingback: SOL-Reading Along I-94: Same Sun Here « sharpread

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