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October Light
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Past Reads > October Light by John Gardner, pages 239 to end

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George (georgejazz) | 504 comments Mod
Please comment here on October Light by John Gardner, pages 239 to end.

Irene | 560 comments Finished this one last night. I kept nodding off as I was pushing to the end. I just wanted to have it done. So, do we ever learn Richard's secret? I nodded off and went back to reread, but could not find exactly what he did not want revealed, what was the issue that prompted his suicide. Did I miss it?

George (georgejazz) | 504 comments Mod
I don't think we do. The Smugglers story goes nowhere. None of the trashy story characters are developed.

message 4: by Irene (last edited Jun 14, 2018 08:16AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Irene | 560 comments Yes, that internal novel line had no real point, except for some philosophical thing apparently that I did not get. But, we are told something about some illness of Richard, something of 5 years prior. My first thought was "is it HIV?", but then I remembered the time of this novel. So why does the son kill himself? That seems to be at the center of everything between Sally and James.

George (georgejazz) | 504 comments Mod
From what I recall Richard was depressed and bored with his life. His girlfriend married another man and had children. Richard is not happy with his lot in life and didn't get on with James. James made some negative comment to Richard on the day Richard committed suicide.

I do not think we know the full story about why Richard suicided. Maybe that's done on purpose as we never fully know why someone suicides. The issue of suicide is commented on at the start of the 'trashy novel'. The reason for why Peter Wagner attempted suicide is not explored other than that at 33, he was bored with life. Like Richard, the reason isn't linked to financial ruin.

Irene | 560 comments James slaps Richard over the face in that final day/conflict. I got the impression that James's constant criticism of and disappointment with James stripped away his self esteem. Richard was too weak, too cowardly, for James. He wanted to toughen him up. I kept wondering if it was going to come out that Richard was gay.

George (georgejazz) | 504 comments Mod
Thanks for jolting my memory. I'd forgotten about James's criticism and disappointment. Yes, I too gained the impression that James's confidence had been stripped away by James.

I thought James was a mean old guy who certainly had some hard knocks, with two sons and his wife dying. Still I could empathise with where he was coming from in relation to his house no longer being his. I also thought that his bark was worse than his bite. I think he was resigned to no one taking over his farm duties. A dairy farmer's life is a hard one. So whilst he was disappointed, I think he was accepting of his fate. He got on with doing the best he could, not drinking to excess (apart from the truck crash scene) or wallowing in self pity.

Both James and Sally got a little carried away with their vindictiveness.
Sally was an odd sort. I thought her friends coming over was a lovely way of placating her but she wouldn't have a bar of them which made her too stubborn in my book!

I liked Lewis, the doer, and smiled when he finally made a stand on something and told Virginia she wasn't smoking no more.

Irene | 560 comments I agree, James had a bark worse than his bite. We saw the tender side of James when he responds to his daughter. He recalls how he could comfort her when she was sick as a child, but could not show the same tenderness to his son. He does not seem to understand why there is that block with his son. It apparently has something to do with James' uncle (was his name Ivan?). But we never are told exactly what happened with that uncle that traumatized James. I got the impression that the uncle had killed himself in the woods.

James and Sally are so different on the surface, but so similar down deep. Both are resourceful, pig headed, unable to see how their stubborn actions are hurting others or to care that they are. They deserved each other. Had she brought that TV straight to her bedroom upon moving in, he would have looked the other way. But, once he took a stand on it in his living room, he had to maintain that stance on principle in any room of the house. Neither can sympathize with how the other one is struggling: Sally has lost everything and is forced to accept a room in another's house, James has lost his privacy and independence.

Yes, Lewis was so likable. His calm strength kept surfacing at every turn.

George (georgejazz) | 504 comments Mod
Thanks for those added comments. Helps clarify a few things about James and Sally. Overall I enjoyed reading James and Sally's story and the first 10% of the Smugglers story.

James and Sally's story reminded me of Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver which includes is a nicely told tale of two old feuding neighbours. A very good read.

Irene | 560 comments Thanks for all your comments. It actually feels like a book group when we have this sort of interaction. I rarely get this in GR groups. I hope others in this group may get to the book before the end of the month and add their thoughts.

Julia Jones | 11 comments I finally finished today. Overall, I really liked the book. But, I could have done without the smugglers story. (However, I liked it at the beginning, but I liked it less and less as it went on.)

As for Richard's reason for suicide, I thought James suspected Richard had scared his Uncle badly and caused his heart attack. Sally said that she was always wondering what had actually happened, because the door had been open when she found Horace on that Halloween night. When Sally said this, James immediately started yelling at Sally for not telling him about the door being open. After that, it seemed that James thought that was what had happened to cause Richard to become a drunkard (and at the time, Richard had been too scared to do anything but run away- leaving the door open). Earlier in the book, there were also a couple recollections by James and Ginny about a really good Halloween costume that Richard had created years back. However, all that aside, it is never directly stated why Richard committed suicide that I saw, this was just the impression I had. I liked thinking that James would end his days suspecting that that had been the reason though.

What did you guys think of the bear scene at the end? Had that happened in the past, or was it the evening of the day Ginny came home from the hospital?

Julia Jones | 11 comments George wrote: "Thanks for those added comments. Helps clarify a few things about James and Sally. Overall I enjoyed reading James and Sally's story and the first 10% of the Smugglers story.

James and Sally's sto..."

I loved Prodigal Summer!

George (georgejazz) | 504 comments Mod
I think it was in the past. On page 455 of my Arena publication, Ed states, "I member one year at election time there was a man came to town had a white bear." I thought it was just that Ed was reminiscing with James. When horses were the means of transport.

Julia Jones | 11 comments Oh, sorry. I meant the black bear that came up to James when he was at the hives. At the very end. He was going to shoot it, but something made him change his mind- he thought he heard "Oh James, James."

George (georgejazz) | 504 comments Mod
Thanks for your thoughts Julia. I went back and read the last chapter and I am glad I did.

I obviously don't have much of a memory for detail. When you mentioned the 'bear scene' I couldn't recall any bear scene and flipped through the last part of the book to find reference to a bear scene, not thinking it was on the last two pages!

I think the last chapter occurs in the evening after Ginny came back from hospital. In the last chapter James fondly recalls his wife and admits that their spats were due to "his refusal to stop and simply look". The last line, "Oh James, James!" for me is James recalling his wife and her moderating influence. The memory of his wife may have made him change his mind to shoot the bear.
James is a doer and maybe he is finally working out that he doesn't have to be so pro-active. Also the feud with Sally has probably taught him that he needs to ease up a little.

Irene | 560 comments That is how I read that final scene. I also thought it was taking place on the night Ginny came home from hospital.

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