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Wish You Were Here (Emily Maxwell #1)

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3.31 of 5 stars 3.31  ·  rating details  ·  1,556 ratings  ·  301 reviews
Award-winning writer Stewart O'Nan has been acclaimed by critics as one of the most accomplished novelists writing today. Now comes his finest and most complete novel to date. A year after the death of her husband, Henry, Emily Maxwell gathers her family by Lake Chautauqua in western New York for what will be a last vacation at their summer cottage. Joining is her sister-i ...more
ebook, 528 pages
Published December 1st 2007 by Grove Press (first published 2002)
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Alexandra
Time and time again I have heard people state their disappointment with this book. On some level I can understand where they are coming from. One of the first things I was taught about writing stories was that there were two necessary elements: some sort of conflict followed by a resolution or redemption. This novel never reaches a point of climax, and rather than ending in some sort of resolution it merely drops off, almost as if the author grew tired of narrating the story. I think that in ord ...more
Lynne Spreen
I'm on page 221 out of 517 and I can't finish this book.

I loved Emily, Alone, but this book is not grabbing me, and I can't spend any more time on it. Let me illustrate some of my concerns:

I couldn't follow the writer's thoughts at times. Here's an example, of an adult son (Ken) thinking about his childhood and his now-deceased father:

"Ken had never heard him seriously complain about anything...as if a Zenlike acceptance was proof of his wisdom. But to a child his self-possession could seem an
...more
Lindsay
I read this book after reading EMILY, ALONE (255 pages), a much shorter novel that is actually the sequel to WISH YOU WERE HERE (516 pages). I Liked EMILY, ALONE and didn't like WISH YOU WERE HERE. How could this be?

O'Nan's minutely detailed descriptions (which are the substance of both books) are absorbing. However, there is no plot -- something that is more burdensome in a long novel than a short one. There IS a major red herring that O'Nan abandons after stringing the reader along for a few
...more
Erin Malone
Folks, I've gotta be honest here: this book is 528 pages of being stuck at a lake house with family members you don't really like. All of the characters are whiny and utterly unsympathetic. As for the plot, it goes like this--Emily's husband has died, and her kids, grandkids, and sister-in-law join her at their lake house for one last vacation before she sells it. There's a lot of rain and sitting around. There's a lot of talk about dinner and what's on the mostly empty shelves of the refrigerat ...more
T. Greenwood
I am O'Nan fan through and through. After reading "Last Night at the Lobster," I knew I would read anything he wrote.

Warning: this is a big fat book in which almost nothing happens. A lot of readers will put it down when it becomes clear that the plot is little more than what happens when a family convenes at a summer cabin for one final week before it is sold. For some readers, the details will be cumbersome, the pace sluggish, the characters frustrating. But for me, I just didn't want to end.
...more
Sue
It is August, and the cicadas are my Muzak for reading on warm and lazy evenings. I don’t need a beach novel (never go there), but I do welcome something easy and a little nostalgic for this time of year.

A perfect time to read about a lakeside family vacation, replete with hamburgers, water fun, unwelcome rain, and family tensions. This three-generation event is especially poignant, because the Maxwell vacation cottage on New York’s Lake Chautauqua is about to be sold. Grandfather has died, and
...more
Bess
Sep 09, 2008 Bess is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: given-up
I've tried to pick this back up to finish -- well, to start, really -- at least three or four times over the past six months, but every single time my eyes just glaze over and I either very soon nod off or end up reading the same page over and over again in a loop without being able to advance, like running in place in a dream or something. It's not that it's boring; it's just not ABOUT anything -- which is fine, since apparently (according to my boyfriend, who read it and didn't completely hate ...more
Marsha
Most of the time, I hated reading this book. I recognize the author's brilliant wordsmithery (some of his turns of phrase are like little poems unto themselves), and occasionally he offers an insight that rings disconcertingly true. Aside from those highlights, though, this book is yet another example of late-20th-century American literature that features a dysfunctional family with sometimes sympathetic but mostly dislikable characters. These sorts of books are a dime a dozen these days, and ev ...more
Jennifer
I have longed dreamed of writing a novel about an extended family returning to their childhood home for a reunion, from the point of view of each member of the family and highlighting the different expectations, hopes, fears, and dreams each individual had. Well, it seems i am too late now. Wish you were Here is a great story of a family who is doing exactly that and honestly, I felt like Mr. O'Nan was writing about my family, I saw so much of myself and the rest of my family in his complex, imp ...more
Gerard Tarpey
I purchased this book after reading a good review of the author's following publication - Emily Alone. Since as I understand it both books highlight the same family I thought it'd be worthwhile to read the first then the second. After finishing this one I'm not sure I'll pick up the second.

The story is about a family visiting their summer house in upstate NY for the final time. Emily, the mother, recently lost her husband and is there for the final week with her 2 grown children, her sister-in
...more
Christine Rebbert
A friend recently gave me her copy of "Emily, Alone" by the same author, and when I read the jacket, I saw it was a sequel to this book, so wanted to read this first. It is the story of Emily, a long-time Pittsburg-ian, recently widowed, spending what will be the last summer vacation with her children, grandchildren and sister-in-law at the family beach home in Chautauqua, NY. She has already contracted to sell the house after this vacation, which is spent reminiscing about a lifetime of visits ...more
Judy
Family ties bind us close together even as they have the power to tear us apart. And this book is a good example of the power--both positive and negative--of family bonds. Emily Maxwell's husband, Henry, has been dead for a year and Emily has decided to sell the family's cottage at Lake Chautauqua in upstate New York. She gathers the family together for one last vacation at the cottage before it is sold. Joining Emily are Arlene, her sister-in-law, who is grieving over the loss of the cottage th ...more
Kathleen
How could I have not read anything by Stewart O’Nan until Nancy Pearl’s recent recommendations? So skillful is his storytelling, his sparse writing style despite rich details about the every day moments of our lives, the tension he creates, the sense of foreboding, I alternately devoured pages and then had to leave the book for a short time.
A year after Henry Maxwell’s death his family returns to their summer home on Lake Chautauqua in western New York. His widow, Emily, and his sister, Arlene,
...more
Trin
After the death of the family patriarch, a large clan gathers for the last time at their soon-to-be-sold lake house. The POV shifts around between the various characters, each of whom has assorted issues: the recovering alcoholic daughter, the kleptomaniac grandson, the maybe-a-lesbian granddaughter, the shiftless son, the judgmental and demanding mother. They all struggle with themselves as they simultaneously struggle to find ways to fill up the week, over the course of which, as with many vac ...more
Joan Colby
This is just the sort of detailed precise book that focuses on characterization which I love. One becomes immersed in the family happenings and tribulations of the Maxwells as they vacation for a week at their Chautaqua cottage that is to be sold following the death of Henry, Emily's husband. Henry's sister Arlene regrets the sale but won't protest. Emily's children Kenneth, a prospective photographer who has quit his well-paying job to concentrate on his art and his supportive but possessive wi ...more
Midge
Don't waste your time. This is the longest book about absolutely nothing. It seems like the characters spend more time in the bathroom than doing anything else and the author likes to describe those visits in detail, including one totally unnecessary description of an episode of diarrhea. The author seems to be suffering from verbal diarrhea herself. Things happen but nothing gets solved. A young girl disappears from the local convenience store. You keep turning the pages waiting to find out her ...more
Savannah
I really loved Emily, Alone, and hoped I would also love this one. One thing that bothered about this book is that none of the characters grow or change at all. The tension remains the same throughout and it's never resolved and never even really comes to a head. I would be okay with that, but all of the characters felt flat because they never really address the real issues. There are also a lot of characters' perspectives covered in the novel, and that could be what caused the disjointedness. I ...more
Susan
Perhaps I missed my calling as an editor; I have no idea what the job involves but I found myself continually thinking "Who edited this?" I hate stepping on toes and calling people out but this could have been such a better book if more attention had been paid to the details. The most glaring error was a miniature golf course that had been demolished in the first part of the book but then was still standing at the end of the book. Additionally, all the characters in the book spend entirely too m ...more
Molly Voorheis
One week with a family, saying good-bye to a father and the family's summer cottage. Each chapter told from the perspective of the wife, the sister, the son, the daughter, the in-law, the grandchildren. Interesting possibilities--the child who steals, the daughter-in-law who resents her mother-in-law, the sister whose work as a teacher doesn't quite make up for living alone. These are the ingredients of a good book--so why didn't I like this more?

This is a long book, and O'Nan gives us tantalizi
...more
rachel hallaran
disappointing. i could not wait for this vacation to end!
Sunday
STEWART O'NAN. I live for Stew, I worship Stew.
Vivian Valvano
I read it for my Night Owls Library Reading Group. It reminded me of the old-fashioned stories in GOOD HOUSEKEEPING magazine that I used to read when my mother's monthly issue would arrive to our home in Jackson Heights. It is a story of one week in the lives of a very pedestrian family; they are at their summer cottage on the lake in Chautauqua, NY, and the cottage is being sold because the paterfamilias has recently died. I do not mean to sound like a snob, but I thought this book was simply b ...more
Jeannie Turicik
How does the dynamics of a family change when a member is lost through death? What emotions are felt when life continues with the ghost of a missing loved one lingering in your midst? That's what this book is about. The lake cottage had been part of their lives as long as they all could remember-parents were now Grandparents, Children now adults and parents with children and spouses--lifes road has taken it's twists and turns for everyone. But this is the summer that they all come together for t ...more
Marvin
This is a fine novel set at a family's lakeside cottage near Chautauqua, New York. Emily, recently widowed, is spending a week at the cottage with her family for the last time (she sold the cottage after her husband died). The narrative is all in third person, but the perspective shifts from short chapter to chapter among the various members of the family: her husband's never-married sister, a retired elementary schoolteacher and empathetic aunt; her two children, the recently divorced, alcoholi ...more
Maureen
I wish I could say I was finished with this book, but unless totally skimming the last 200 pages is finishing, then I truthfully just gave up. I wouldn't have minded that there basically isn't any plot, nor any climax or even any closure.....if this book wasn't about 350 pages too long. I put up with it for the first 200 pages but it was just soooo dull. I found the characters to be fairly well developed and though most of them seemed quite miserable, they actually were believable as written. An ...more
Patricia
Whew, I just finished Wish You Were Here. I had been interested in reading this as the story is set in a cottage on Chautauqua Lake, which is within an hour’s drive from my home and the setting for many of my happiest memories. A family has been vacationing is this cottage for at least 3 generations. This book is about final week, however, the cottage has been sold. Each chapter is a day of the week. Each chapter is divided into numbered sections. At this point, I don’t get what changes as the n ...more
Virginia Durksen
I'm reading Emily, Alone becuase I really liked the characters O'Nan created in Wish You Were Here. The story is one of those that takes place in the middle of life, in the middle of a story that might end well or badly, but that depends on where it stops. It's rare to see old age in such detail, and with such a fine blend of looking back and living forward. I liked the central dilemma of the story, whether and when to sell the family cottage. It's story I have seen played out in friends' lives, ...more
Leslie
That was the longest week of my life.... Let alone for all the novels characters! Little did I know when I started reading this book it would take me about two months to finish. this was a chore for me to read. When I started I was thinking the characters were very similar to another book I read this year...Emily Alone by O'Nan, and low and behold that's because they are the same characters only he wrote this in 2003 and Emily alone in 2011. What do ya know! Anyway...I love his writing, his desc ...more
Barbara
The basic story line is this: a recently widowed woman gathers her family at their summer cottage in Chautauqua, a last vacation before the place is sold. The cast of characters includes an aging sister-in-law, recovering (and soon-to-be divorced) alcoholic daughter, struggling photographer son and his wife, and four grandchildren. As expected, dysfunction runs wild.

It felt like I was reading the script for a "reality" show. This interminable novel covered a week's events (the length of their st
...more
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Stewart O'Nan is the author of eleven novels, including Snow Angels and A Prayer for the Dying, a story collection, and two works of nonfiction. His previous novel, Last Night at the Lobster, was a national bestseller, was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was named one of the New York Public Library Books to Remember. Additionally, Granta named him one of the 20 Best Young Ameri ...more
More about Stewart O'Nan...
Last Night at the Lobster Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season Emily, Alone Songs for the Missing The Odds: A Love Story

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