In 2004, when middle-aged Walker Maguire is called to the deathbed of his estranged father, his thoughts return to 1974. He'd worked that summer at the auto factory where his dad, an unhappily retired Air Force colonel, was employed as plant physician. Witness to a bloody fight falsely blamed on a Mexican immigrant, Walker kept quiet, fearing his white co-workers and tyrannical father. Lies snowball into betrayals, leading to a life-long rift between father and son that can only be mended by the past coming back to life and revealing its long-held secrets. You Can See More From Up Here is a coming-of-age tale about the illusion of privilege and the power of the past to inform and possibly heal the present.
Mark Guerin is a 2014 graduate of Grub Street’s Novel Incubator program in Boston. He also has an MFA from Brandeis University and is a winner of an Illinois Arts Council Grant, the Mimi Steinberg Award for Playwriting and Sigma Tau Delta's Eleanor B. North Poetry Award. A contributor to the novelist’s blog, Dead Darlings, he is also a playwright, copywriter and journalist. He currently resides in Harpswell, Maine, with his wife, Carol, and two Brittany Spaniels.
In You Can See More From Up Here Walker returns to his small hometown in IL when his father is hospitalized. He has a lot of pent up emotions resulting from years of disagreement and tension with his father. Walker reflects on his life and the summer that shifted everything for him many years ago. Now, a middle-aged writer, he seeks answers to his remaining questions.
While home from college one summer, Walker worked at the AMC automotive plant, where his father, a former army general, was the on-site doctor at AMC. He was not well-liked by many of the factory men, particularly when they were denied worker’s comp. for their various injuries. The atmosphere is strained between the American men and the Hispanic immigrants. One day, a violent fight breaks out in the factory and Walker is the only witness. His recounting of the incident affects everyone. When he comes forward changing his original statement, mistrust, fear, anger, and betrayal surface among several of the characters involved.
I felt for Walker - I thought he was a genuine, well-intentioned young adult, trying to do the right thing while fighting his own internal battles and dealing with family issues. However, at times I also thought “gahhh, this guy doesn’t know when to quit! Stop already!”
For a book set in the 1970s and 2004, it’s disappointing how some of these issues unfortunately remain timely: The relevance of racial tension and resentment, the struggle of many in America’s “middle” class, etc. This was an interesting story though admittedly slow at first — It took me awhile to get engaged but once I did, the story was good.
Thank you to NetGalley and Golden Antelope Press for providing an advance copy of You Can See More From Up Here in exchange for an honest review.
Mark Guerin's "You Can See More From Up Here" is a first-rate work, especially for a debut novel. The novel is absorbing and engaging. The critical elements of the story are skillfuly revealed as the suspense is ratcheted up. You want to find out what happened and will happen to characters with whom you have established a tight bond. All the characters are superbly drawn. The writing is excellent with many creative and visually clear metaphors and similes. The themes and issues resonate in today's world. Highly recommended.
As Mark Guerin shows in YOU CAN SEE MORE FROM UP HERE (Golden Antelope Press, 2019), our past—the secrets we keep, the lies we tell, the hurtful words that escape our mouths during moments of anger, and our social behavior—has the power to haunt us in the present, even when the present takes place decades later. This effect can especially affect our relationships with family and friends. Indeed, Guerin seamlessly weaves past (most of which takes place during the summer of 1974) and present (2004) into a moving narrative about one man’s perceptions of his relationships with his family, best friend, co-workers, and the girl he loved and lost.
Walker Maguire, an experienced journalist in 2004, recreates one week from the past on his laptop while he sits by his dying father’s hospital bed. As he writes about his first week working a summer job at an automotive plant in Belford, Illinois, he begins to perceive the past in a different light. Physically moving about the hospital—to the maternity ward, where he bumps into a woman from his past, and to the emergency room, where a critical encounter had occurred thirty years before—and talking with his sister and his best friend, who are now married as a result of the relationship they formed that same summer, helps Walker to understand that he was only one of many actors during that week. Though the effects of his actions continue to reverberate through time, so do the other characters’ past actions. Walker finally begins to heal with his awareness of these other actions that took place outside of his knowledge and control.
Of course, Walker is not the only character whose control tactics go awry. His father, in pushing him into a blue-collar summer job, is confident that the experience will encourage Walker to work harder in his college science courses. He is confounded, then, when Walker not only fails to perceive himself as above his co-workers but also comes to care deeply about one of these co-worker’s struggle to support a family.
A good read about coming to terms with the past, YOU CAN SEE MORE FROM UP HERE is an exploration of how the past is always present in the present. I was able to relate to the characters and the situations in this novel, because it is not only a narrative of an individual’s experiences. It is a collective story—a story about community, family, and love. It is a story about all of us.
Memories of the summer of 1974, when Walker McGuire was 19, still haunt him into middle age as he visits his elderly father now in a coma after a car accident. He’s looking for answers. That summer, his father, who had once enjoyed a prestigious medical military career, is now the company doctor for a car company in Belford, IL, and Walker is working the line at his father’s insistence. As the only witness, Walker becomes embroiled in the aftermath of a serious physical encounter between Norm, his ex-girlfriend’s father, and Manny, a Mexican immigrant, who has been promised a promotion that Norm covets. Walker believes Manny was wronged and has more to lose. Complicating matters is Walker’s crush on Manny’s daughter, who slowly warms to him but only if he can persuade his difficult father to help Manny. How this scenario plays out and what he believes to be the truth, especially about his father, will help to determine the choices Walker makes as he moves forward in his life.Toggling between 1974 and 2005, this heartfelt, haunting, and beautifully told coming-of-age story explores the complexities and long-lasting residues of an unresolved father-son relationship scarred by secrets, lies, misunderstandings, unspoken feelings, and abuse. I was with Walker as he struggled on his line job, fumbled in love, cowered in the face of his father’s wrath, and eventually spoke up for justice. I rooted for him, even as I wanted to slap him occasionally. He’s flawed, yet righteous without being self-righteous. Yet, Guerin even manages to bring a sense of humanity to Walker’s father. In fact, all the characters in this story appear as fully rounded, believable individuals.
Although set primarily in another decade, the challenges posed in this novel of class and race differences still resonate in today’s America, and doing the right thing isn’t necessarily rewarded. You Can See More from Here will stay with you, prodding you to consider how your own path has been shaped by your perceptions of reality and how complicated the truth can be, even from a good vantage point. (Note: I was given an advance review copy of this book.)
I was totally caught up by this sharply observed and moving novel about a son’s quest to understand his difficult father and the long ago summer that changed both of their lives.
Alternating between present and past it vividly evokes what family life (or a certain kind of family life) was like in the seventies -- the lawn mowing, the chores, the cold inflexible father, the passive mother, and the deep generational divides that become fault lines stretching through entire lives.
This is a coming of age novel, but for Walker, the novel's main character, as with many of us, it's a lifelong journey to get at truths that aren't always easy to accept. You Can See More From Up Here unflinchingly reveals the violence, racism, and emotional abuse lurking beneath the surface of a seemingly normal family, in what some might consider a happier time. But ultimately this is not a dark novel as Walker's difficult realizations lead to unexpected reconciliations and hope.
This heartfelt and thought-provoking novel will resonate with readers, especially men who grew up in the sixties or seventies, as well as with anyone interested in how the seeds of many of the issues we face today were planted in a not so distant or happy past. Highly recommended!
I was captured by Mark Guerin's You Can See More From Up Here from the first sentence. The relationships in reporter Walker McGuire’s life are gradually amped up in an engaging way as is the suspense. The reader has ample opportunity to bond with each character as they are well-delineated. The prose is superbly written. In 1974, when Walker was 19, he returned home from his first year of college for the summer to work in the assembly line of an automobile manufacturing plant. The events of that summer haunt him until he returns to Belford, Illinois, thirty years later. Because of that summer, he’s been in self-imposed exile, only rarely visiting his family. Now, his father is in a coma after having had an automobile accident. Walker is looking for answers that his father never gave in the past and is now unable to give. This book shows the long-lasting fall-out from toxic relationships, alcoholism, and child abuse, yet the villains are as finely drawn as the protagonist, Walker. Guerin unreels the American psyche like an onion, exposing race relations, immigration (legal and illegal), class and socioeconomic differences that, unfortunately, still exist. He also weaves together the past and the present seamlessly with an astonishing twist that ties everything together.
It’s appropriate that I read You Can See More From Up Here just before the holidays, a time when many stress about strained family relationships and fret over how to move forward. It’s a powerful story because it comes from a place of truth, and it captures the reality of the complications of family ties.
You Can See More From Up Here is as much a story about family struggles as it is a lesson about communication and perspective — about how much strife could be avoided if we didn’t keep our feeling and justifications locked up and to ourselves. But if you look past the family ties that bind, it equally pays service to racial and class differences from its setting in a Midwestern factory town.
It’s hard to believe this fascinating tale about betrayal on all fronts is author Mark Geurin’s debut effort. He so expertly gives life — and flaws — to each character and makes readers hurt for each of them. He makes you think about who is right, who is wrong, and why the rifts are so profound.
You Can See More From Up Here is a contemplation, a rumination, and a revelation. In the end, it’s about power — the power of parentage; the power of money; the power of secrets; the power of race; the power of the past; and the power of healing. I hope you read it at a poignant time in your family life so you can decide To what are you giving your power?
A really fine debut novel, I enjoyed it. Difficult family dynamics, long kept secrets and a young first love are revealed in this well-written novel. A middle-aged man is going to see his estranged father for the first time in years, after the father is injured in a car wreck and hospitalized, and the memories of a tragic event from 1974 finally get aired. The story was believable and felt authentic, bittersweet. I liked this one.
You Can See More From Up Here by Mark Guerin is a highly recommended family drama and examination of a father/son relationship.
It is 2004 and Walker Maguire's father is dying so he returns to the small Illinois town he left behind years ago. His arrival brings to the forefront of his thoughts the summer in 1974. That summer he returned from college and went to work in the auto factory where his father, a retired Air Force colonel, was the company doctor. After he was forced out of the military, Walker's father was bitter and took out his anger on Walker. Walker rarely returned home after that summer. It was the summer he first noticed prejudice when he witnessed a fight between his ex-girlfriend's father and a Mexican immigrant. It was the summer he truly fell in love. It was the summer where his fear of his father came to the forefront. Now a successful journalist, Walker is certain that he needs to reexamine this summer in order to finally understand/come to some sort of understanding of his father.
This is a beautiful written examination of a life-long alienation between son and father and an exploration of the past events that led to it. The narrative alternates between Walker in 2004, at the hospital, sitting with his father, and events from the time his family moved to Belford, Illinois, when Walker was 14 and his younger sister Paige was 9. Paige was their father's favorite child and often was the impetus that caused their father's anger to be taken out on Walker. As he is sitting at the hospital, it becomes important for Walker to write his memoir, and reflect on the summer that pitted son against father and changed their relationship. Unflinchingly honest, father, daughter, and son are flawed characters, but the empathy will be with Walker.
The strained relationship between father and son is an enduring struggle that stretches across time and families, as does a favored child in a family. Walker is a sympathetic character and Paige, well, she just inspires anger as does their father. The alternating narratives from 2004 and 1974 stand in stark contrast to each other because it is actions of a young man juxtaposed with the recollections of a middle aged man. There are times when Walker does become repetitive and the novel would have benefited in places from a quicker pace.
You Can See More From Up Here by Mark Guerin is a family drama that seems simple at first: It's all his fathers fault. But as the hours, days and months go by, Walker Maguire realizes that things were not as simple and black and white as he had thought all these years. This novel seems at first to drag on slowly but then you realize that everything happens and is told for a reason in this story to help you understand the anxiety of having an abusive father, the fear of outing yourself as a liar and letting others down, the guilt that can eat at your for decades to come, and the lack of closure that can cripple you your whole life. This story had a twist that I did not see coming at all and I am very impressed with this being a debut novel by Mark Guerin.
At its core, this is a simple enough story: a Mexican-American worker injures an American colleague in self-defense and a teenage boy, son of the factory doctor, who witnessed everything and can confirm it was self-defense, does not say anything because he was not supposed to be up on the vantage point and is afraid of his abusive father. Simple enough - but all the side plots, background stories and layers of motivation for the individual characters (why was the American sneaking up on the Mexican in the first place? why does the Mexican not want to show his papers to confirm his rightfully legal citizenship status in this country? why does the factory doctor make the decisions he makes about workers compensation for the two injured men?) quickly makes everything much more complicated. It has to be said though that this still never gets unrealistic and out of hand. It remains human and real, far from soap opera levels of twisted motivations and stories.
This novel does a good job of revealing deep problems of class and race, as well as family structures and patriarchal power. Even though this is technically set in the past, it feels like a very timely and fitting novel for current society, as well. It is also about memories, wrong memories, forgiveness and apologies. And this is were the second time line plays an important role - the boy, all grown up, returns to his home town and his dying father with a wish to resolve this story and all the questions he has. At first, I did not get this story line, but towards the end, it dawned on me: you can indeed see more from this vantage point of the present looking back at the past, seeing the overview and the bigger picture over things you were then too emotionally entangled in. However, the look back also taints images and memories and flattens out what used to be more layered. This is a really important and impactful part of the novel, but because it unfolded to its true potential only at the end, anyway, I would have reserved it for a couple of chapters at the end, too. As it was, spread out and in between the flash backs, it made less sense. But that was my only complaint.
~ I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed this book and all opinions expressed above are my own.
Guerin’s narrative switches between the past and the present as his protagonist, Walker, attempts to reconcile his memory of his summer job when he was nineteen, and how far his father was involved in the disappearance of a Mexican family.
In the beginning, the pace immediately transports you to Walker’s summer job at AMC, a car manufacturing plant. Walker’s first days and subsequent stand-offs fill you with trepidation as Walker’s presence at AMC for the summer seems far more dangerous for him than beneficial. All of which is intermixed with silent snapshots of a middle-aged Walker beside his father’s hospital bed.
Although the pace begins to slow upon Walker meeting Connie, and the time line becomes less linear and how much time has passed is unclear, the desire to uncover the truth behind the family’s disappearance never wanes. Nor does the predictable plot twist matter. This is due to Guerin treating this revelation with a tone of acceptance rather than forgiveness.
Walker does not forget or forgive his father’s past actions but he approaches them with empathy; with the will to move on and let go.
Thus, You Can See More From Up Here actually felt like a coming-of-age story - Walker learns plenty about himself as well as his father - and despite this ‘coming-of-age’ arriving twenty years too late, Guerin’s description of Walker’s drive in the Cadillac is enough to reassure you the past has finally been left where it belongs.
Mark Guerin's debut novel is rich with vivid and poetic descriptions of the people and places that shape the protagonist Walker's life and journey to maturity. The characters are alive and nuanced; the descriptions of the factory workers, for example, are solid in a way that reminds me of the movie "Blue Collar."
The book is timely in its representation of the persistent hate-fueled discrimination against Latinos, and I think that Walker's relationship with Connie, especially over the years, is beautifully drawn over the wide arc of personal histories.
Walker's stubborn adherence to the grudge against his father is understandable to a degree, but I kept thinking "grow up, guy!"...which he eventually does, like many children who finally realize the human fallibility of their parents.
More and more people are in the position of caring for an ailing or dying parent, a situation that often stirs up deep emotional sediment. Guerin aptly describes this experience that would be hard to describe unless lived through
When you read a family drama, you want to be taken on a journey. Since there’s typically not a lot of action, you want to be sold on the plot, on the direction and the feel of the characters’ environment. You Can See up from Here does just that. It takes you on a journey through the life of Walker Maguire and his relationship with his father. It starts off with him going home due to his father being in the hospital. Throughout the story, he reminisces on the not-so-pleasant moments of his childhood and tries to pinpoint when his relationship with his dad not only went wrong but he never recovered from ;moments that drew him even further away from his father than he already was.
This story kept my attention for the most part. There were times throughout the story that I was just ready to know the mystery behind the Camarasa family so it seemed like the story was dragging. Overall, I enjoyed the story and think others who enjoy a good family drama novel will enjoy it as well.
This is a very powerful read. Emotion drips from every page. Walter Mcguire’s Dad was once a formidable character. He was a successful, driven, accomplished doctor in the military before he was unceremoniously expelled which lead to him working in an automotive plant in Illinois after his from grace. He turned to alcohol for solace and is now in a coma, with the expectation of death after a car accident. His son Walter suffered greatly at the hands of his father. He has visited him in hospital and begins his journey of introspection as he strives to pen his memoir. Many memories were buried for a reason, such is the heart wrenching nature of so many incident in his life. As he continues memories surface and many are not pleasant. We see times when in order to do the right thing he had to stand up again his father, in an already strained relationship. This book is full if compassion and highlights excellently the struggles that can exist within families. It was a great read.
When Walker Maguire is called home to the deathbed of his ailing father, old memories and anger resurface.
While at the hospital, Walker writes of a fateful summer in 1974 when his entire life changed. Walker works at a manufacturing plant where his father is the doctor. When Walker witnesses a fight between two employees, one white and one Mexican, he doesn’t say anything because he is afraid of his abusive father’s reaction and incriminating himself.
When he comes forward later and changes his original recollection, events unfold that lead to betrayal, lies, and anger.
Can Walker reconcile what happened in the past and forgive his father?
You Can See More From Up Here by Mar Guerin is a powerful and engrossing book about power, racism, and love. The characters are the strength of the novel. They are well-developed and realistic. Their problems are universal and so very relatable.
In “You Can See More From Up Here”, Mark Guerin creates a gripping social drama that jumps back and forth between 2004 and the summer of 1974. The events at the auto manufacturing plant and home that summer, which dramatically changed Walker Maguire’s life, have led him to a self-imposed exile from his hometown and family for 30 years. Guerin keeps the reader on the edge of the seat as Walker treads on eggshells around his father who is the doctor at the plant, having been forced out of the military, and has turned to drink to mask his unhappiness. The novel also examines the issue of immigration, both legal and illegal, and the inherent racism that exists in far too much of our society, both then and today. What were the events that caused Walker Maguire to become estranged from his father? You will find it impossible to put the book down as he visits the deathbed of his father and tries to better understand the events of that fateful summer.
***Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me a free ARC in exchange for an honest review!***
I'm very very sorry. I tried as hard as I could to get through this book, but every day that I was going to sit down and read it, I just started absolutely dreading it. The pace was incredibly slow and it felt like the story was going nowhere.
I genuinely think that this book would be great for some people, (people who like character studies or more slowly paced books) but unfortunately, it was not for me.
Thank you @MarkGuerin for the advanced copy. The relationship between father and son was realistic and yet made me sad. This could have been anyone’s family at that time and I appreciate the rawness in which it was written.
Mark Guerin’s debut novel, YOU CAN SEE MORE FROM UP HERE, is a coming-of-age story dealing with themes of immigration, racism, socioeconomic disparity, and more. For the most part, the entire plot revolves around Walker Maguire’s summer when working at the car factory where his father also works as the plant physician. While at the factory, Walker witnesses an event between two employees that places him in an ethical dilemma, which comes to alter his perception of his father and impacts the course of his life, even into adulthood. Told in the form of flashbacks written by Walker himself, the novel bounces between the past and the present as it weaves the two time frames together.
Guerin’s prose is well done, and I enjoyed his writing style. With that said, the story itself fell short for me. The central conflict at the heart of the novel just didn’t feel weighty enough to support a 400 plus page novel, and there was also a sense of the plot circling around this crux without moving forward. Because of this, I felt the momentum of the story stalled quickly. If the novel were trimmed by at least 100 pages and the ante upped some when it comes to the central conflict, I think YOU CAN SEE MORE FROM UP HERE would move toward a 4-star read for me.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this eARC in exchange for an honest review.
I should have read and reviewed this book a long time ago, but we were moving around a bit and the uncertainty made me want to wait so that I could give it my full attention.
But when I did give it my attention, I must say, it bored me to no end. Every 5%, I would zone out and think, "Why is this book like this?"
The characters are unlikable - not that liking characters is a prerogative, but the point is, you need at least one character that you sympathize with in any book. And there's none in here! Every character, at some point or the other, makes you want to stomp your foot and scream at them. What's more, they fluctuate between wanting to be good people and being complete jerks so much that it gave me a throbbing headache because of how I vacillated between being angry at them and being neutral about them. Is that a good thing? I don't think so.
The story is too roundabout as well. It feels like, and I don't know why, pages were being filled in just for the heck of it.
Plus, there were a lot of loose ends by the time the story ended, issues that just weren't resolved. And that made me uncomfortable for some strange reason. By the time the book ended - and I feel bad for saying this because I know what goes into writing a book, especially one based off of one's life - I was relieved.
I went in with a lot of expectations, but the book just didn't work for me mainly because of these three reasons.
This book was a very pleasant surprise for me. I admit that I was interested by the description, but not exactly excited to read it. Once I got started, I was completely engaged and enjoyed it so much.
The writing is very good—hard to believe this is Guerin’s debut novel—and the story is well structured. You Can See More From Up Here is dual-timeline story: Walker’s coming of age tale in the 1970s, and then a coming-home reckoning tale in 2004. The story unfolds beautifully in both.
Walker is a sympathetic character and his struggles with his father make for some achingly poignant reading. In 2004, he sits at his father’s deathbed, having been estranged from him for 30 years, and begins to to write the story of the summer of 1974 and the years of his childhood leading up to it.
The book deals with class, race, immigrant workers, working class struggles, violence and abuse, and family division, all while illustrating the hold that past mistakes and betrayals can have on our present. All of these issues are handled gracefully and in a realistic manner. All of the characters are flawed and very human.
I highly recommend You Can See More From Up Here to those who enjoy well-written literary fiction that makes you feel and doesn’t shy away from difficult issues.
Thanks to Nervous Breakdown Bookclub for sending this novel my way. Shifting between 1974 and 2004, the main character, Walker Maguire, witnesses a violent encounter at the AMC Plant he's working at in suburban Illinois. Walker's father, ex-Air Force, is the plant's doctor and gets Walker the job to hopefully straighten him out and get him focused. Walker and his father have a troubled relationship and this incident makes it worse - a fight between his girlfriend's father and a Mexican American worker. There's obvious racist implications, family dysfunction, teenage romance and small town angst, along with some political discord all wrapped up in this dense novel. The plot was compelling, though the ending left me a little disappointed.
I struggled to finish this book. Even though set in the 1970s, the topics of immigration and racism felt timely which was what drew me to the book initially and is really the only reason I gave this book as many stars as I did. Overall, I found the plot boring and the characters unlikeable, never a good combination. There were parts of this book that were good where I found myself reinvesting in Walker's story, but would then be followed with drawn-out details and dialogue that felt unnecessary causing the book to be much longer than it should have been. At times the author seemed to be chasing rabbits, veering off course only to suddenly six paragraphs later to get back on track. Halfway through the book, I became so frustrated with Walker's internal dialogue and Walker himself that I found myself speed reading in order to finish. I sadly cannot recommend this book.
Thank you, NetGalley and Golden Antelope Press for the advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Personally the writing style took some getting used to, but it portrayed how personal the story was to Walker Maguire and how fundamentally different it was to all the other pieces he had written over the years. The reader follows the story step by step with him, retrospectively figuring out the motives and reasoning for the characters' actions in that short but impactful period of his life that led to this story needing to be written in the first place. It was a joy to read the personal growth Walker and his family went through, especially Piper despite her growth being offpage. Once I got into the meat of it I couldn't put the book down without calculating how long until I could pick it back up again.
In You Can See More from Up Here, Walker Maguire returns to Belford, Illinois, a factory town surrounding by farmland, when his eighty-nine-year-old estranged father lapses into a coma after an automobile accident. By his bedside, Walker’s thoughts return to the summer of 1974, the year he worked at the American Motor Company loading docks, the same company where his father, a retired military corporal, was employed as the factory physician.
Walker, home from his first year in college, has never been around a group of blue-collar workers before, much less one divided by racial tensions. After years of living under his father’s physical and emotional abuse, he is terrified of the consequences of disappointing him, so when he witnesses a fight falsely blamed on a Mexican immigrant, Walker fails to come forward because in doing so, he would have to reveal his own wrongdoing and face the wrath of his father. Yet, his silence becomes a yoke that drives him into the orbit of the immigrant’s family and compels him to confront his father, creating a wedge between them lasting thirty years. Despite his efforts, the immigrant’s family disappears, and Walker fears that he is to blame for whatever might have happened to them.
Though Walker, his father, and Manny, the falsely accused combatant have the largest roles in the narrative, Norm, the father of Walker’s ex-girlfriend, Connie, Manny’s daughter, Paige, Walker’s younger sister, and Kurt, Walker’s best friend also drive the plot. Walker’s mother while present remains rather undeveloped, and his brother, Frazier, a rather interesting figure who lost an unhealthy amount of weight to fail his physical instead of being enlisted, doesn’t appear nearly as much as I would like.
The younger Paige, fourteen, is favored by Dr. Maguire, even as she is isolated at school, and she is a constant source of grief for Walker in childhood, deliberately causing him to be punished, bribing him for favors, or breaking confidences. The adult Paige is represented as a different, redeemed woman but because that transformation is captured in a paragraph, it has little effect. Instead, I found her presence throughout the book repellent, almost as much as the cruel Dr. Maguire and the manipulative and drunk Norm. While Manny was an understanding ally, and certainly a sympathetic figure, I wondered if he would actually be so passive and empty of anger, especially when Walker seemed to develop feelings for Connie.
Depicting an immigrant community and the prejudice against it in a Northern city in the 1970s, You Can See More from Up Here presents a rarely told story which informs today’s racial animus. Within the larger context, the conflict between father and son, based on misunderstanding and miscommunication always seems timeless and at times brought tears to my eyes.
At times, though, I didn’t like the writing style of the book. The dual timelines were presented as Walker’s current life and his past which he was writing about to make sense of it. That device didn’t always work for me since it was unlikely he would remember in such detail and it required awkward framing to achieve. Additionally, Walker’s inner monologue became repetitive at times, and his obsession with Connie and her family was rather alarming and in today’s terms would be perhaps even classified as stalkerish.
Thanks to NetGalley and Golden Antelope Press for providing an advance review copy in exchange for an honest review.
The book is narrated by Walker Mcguire, the protagonist of the story that alternates between teenager self and a middle-aged man. Walker is a thoroughly mediocre man in every aspect. He is not a man of conviction and his decision making is based on not wanting to get in trouble. When he takes actions, whether it is backtracking the lie or pursuing a woman he loves, he ends up implicate the others in ways he never considered. His inner voice is always going off “oh shit”. Even when he takes a stand to do the right thing, it is little too late and everyone around him is touched by his untimeliness.
Walker Mcguire is a man of mediocrity and so are others around him. I think this is the reason why I had such a hard time keeping my interest until I was about 60% done reading. Up to the point, I felt like screaming “do something you shithead!” every time I opened a new chapter. I am ok with stupidity but my God, mediocrity is a hard thing to endure. And that is why I think Mark Guerin is such a good writer. Never mind the plot. How do you find a desire to build a character who is so thoroughly weak, so afraid, so terribly mediocre?
Guerin is a good writer without trying to be a one. The plot is nothing out of ordinary and neither are the characters. Dysfunctional family, bully father, annoying siblings – the run of the mill story. But he has an honest and diligent approach to give space to characters to be their own. I must say I didn't like the book but ended up changing my mind, to my surprise. The author won me over. His storytelling is remarkably unsentimental and unbiased. At the end of the book, I still found Walker Mcguire to be unbearably mediocre but I liked the book. It is a remarkable thing in itself.
If I hadn't know ahead of time I would have never guessed it was a debut book. It kept my interest throughout the entire book. There were some very moving, emotional parts -- even suspense. I could easily relate to the family issues and life events. I really enjoyed reading it.