The Rockin’ Chair
By Steven Manchester
Genre: General Fiction
John McCarthy is losing his dear wife, Alice, to the horrors of Alzheimers. Her mind is slipping and her days are numbered. The crushing blow of loss motivates John to “finish his chores” and right the wrongs in his family. His son, Hank hasn’t been on speaking terms for years, though he lives just across the creek. His three grandchildren, George, Tara, and Evan, have left their Montana homestead to find their way in the world, and have lost their way. John must call them home to mourn Alice’s passing and re-forge his connection to his family.
If you love a story of love and sentiment, where all the men are tough and earnest and all the women are longsuffering, patient angels, then this is the story for you. The writing style is rich and full of loving description of scenery and memories that run deep. Stephen has written his tail in a stream-of-consciousness style without losing the continuity of the tale. Rabbit trails branch off with appropriate context and return quickly. The sentiment of the tale abounds. Several of the descriptions made me cringe, but I’m a cynical Seattleite, not a country girl at heart.
This story was an elderly man’s fantasy. Grandpa John had all the answers and could solve all his problems and his family’s problems with a word or gesture of goodwill. Putting his mind to it and taking the steps he already knew he should, he buttoned up all the messy loose ends of his life and ensured his family’s happiness and success before he died. And they all knew it and fully appreciated him for it.
For a cynical Seattleite like me, the story was too sentimental. I enjoyed the descriptions of times gone by and love for memories, but Stephen didn’t hold back with the embellishments. Sometimes it went too far.
Grandpa John seemed to have been holding out on his family for a very long time. All along he had the solutions to everyone’s problems, but hadn’t gotten around to helping them out. Also, their problems were so easily solved by returning to the land and hearing an apology or a truism that shed a perfect light on any situation. I didn’t buy it. The troubles of each character appeared deep and serious, but evaporated like mist under the sunshine of Grandpa John’s wisdom, giving them a sense of triviality. Faith, churchgoing, and prayer appeared to be a light garnish to their lives and not the glue that held it all together. Grandpa John took that role instead. Countless opportunities to show the transforming power of the Gospel appeared to be omitted or edited out.
The Rockin’ Chair is an entertaining tale of family love and redemption. Sentimentality, country sense, and good ol’ days fill the pages, with a healthy dollop of family loyalty, drowned in butter. If you long for the simple life, this book is for you.