Sunday, March 15, 2009

Revolutionary Road

Revolutionary Road
(Read an excerpt)
By Richard Yates
Publisher: Vintage Books
Published in 2009
ISBN-13: 9780307454782
463 pages

Page 11: “Wouldn’t you like to be loved by me?” she was saying.

From the beginning when I read this book, it gave me a foreboding that things will be going downhill for the couple Frank and April Wheeler. The married couple with two children seems to be leading a good life with a nice house in a nice neighbourhood on a street called Revolutionary Road. But inside that house – in its privacy – lies emotionally charged moments.

The book carries mainly the voice of the male protagonist, Frank, and quite a bit of his internal dialogues such as what he would say to April about something or his anticipations of what April would say in response to something that they would discuss.

In most instances, I felt for Frank because of the treatment he receives from his wife. From my readings, I think Frank is trying his best to be a good husband but April deliberately puts up barriers resulting in tongue lashings with each other. I think, too, being Frank, he does not deserve what he is getting in those trying moments.

“You’re always so wonderfully definite, aren’t you,” she said, “on the subject of what you do and don’t deserve.” She swept past him and walked back to the car.

wait a minute!” He was stumbling after her in the weeds. Other cars were rushing past now, but he’d stopped caring. […]

“You listen to me. This is one time you’re not getting away twisting everything I say. This just happens to be
one damn time I know I’m not in the wrong. You know what you are when you’re like this?”

And the argument just gets hotter from there. It is hard trying to figure April out. In that example, her husband tries to comfort her after a bad play where she plays the leading female role but the play has gone terribly wrong thanks to the replacement leading man. For offering comfort, her husband gets verbal bashing from her. And then April would ‘recover’ and behaves like a good wife again.

Yates also explores the other dynamics of relationship (not just of husband and wife), such as parent-child, employer-employee, friends, colleagues, neighbours, and adulterers. It is complex but in that complexity is something that is very real, and I believe is something that we are able to relate to.

To fill a certain emptiness in his life, Frank gets into an affair with his office administrative staff, Maureen Grube. Frank's job is the dull, dead-end kind where he, like everybody else, just turns up at work and waits for the day to end. There are positive moments in the story where both Frank and April try to patch up their marriage. Frank tries his best to be a good father by spending time with his children.

I have more or less guessed the ending of the story, and it is a heartbreaking one. At last, April reveals HER shocking truth that would explain her behaviour towards Frank. (At this point, I was crying as I write this review.) I believe she tries her very best to be a good wife and mother, but when the truth in her sub-consciousness takes over, the real her emerges. There are issues to be dealt with, but sometimes they just seem so bleak that to the person experiencing them sees no hope. Trapped. So how do we break free without breaking apart?

The book is beautifully written for a story that is sad and moving. There are sexual content, mild violence, profanity, use of drugs and alcohol, and readers would be able to see that life is not a bed of roses. I think this book makes us dig deeper into ourselves and challenges us to value the relationships that we have. What happened to Frank and April Wheeler can happen to anyone of us if we are not careful.

NOTE: I read Revolutionary Road together with Melody and it has been a great fun! Thanks, Melody! I look forward to our next joint-reading!