The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver
Sometimes you can tell a book by it’s cover – The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver has a picture of a clear blue sky over a pebble beach, a lone boat house in the distance. Idyllic one thinks, and that is how the Porter family felt about their summer home on Ashaunt Point. Many families know that the summer home – or cottage – is the one place does (or should not) not change, not substantially at least. It is the place we all return to year after year, as life changes this one place does not. We age, life happens, but the summer place where we all gather stays the same, providing a sense of security and solace.
Of course, sometimes change does happen. At Ashaunt Point change begins with the Second World War and the arrival of the army to establish a base on the point. The influx of soldiers disrupts the otherwise insular community, and the effects of their influence will filter through future generations of the Porter family.
The Porters are a family used to their inherited wealth and the privilege of household staff, the Scottish Bea who came to America after the death of her mother, hired to care for the children. Bea would care for all the Porter children into another generation well after the war is over, an integral part of the family for the rest of her life. The Porter children are for Bea the children she did not have herself, she cares for them when they are young and remains a confidant all of their lives.
The parents, young at the beginning of the novel, age and die. Like life. The children grow up, some more or less happy with their lives, some struggling. Like life. The summer home is constant, “to return here is always a reminder of times’ passage” writes one adult child almost 20 years after the end of the war. Returning to Ashaunt in the midst of marital problems she knows her husband loves her, but questions if he understands her. In spite of her life as a busy mother this young woman desires an academic life as well, and “conversations that I return from changed”.
More than fifty years after the novel begins, and the young mother at the beginning has become an elderly woman, she thinks how lucky she is “to have had the sky and the sea before her at any time of day or night”. She thinks of her husband, her brother who died so young, her son who worried her so but has recently married, and her other children and grandchildren. She realizes she “wasted a great deal of energy expecting too much from herself and everybody else”.
The End of the Point is a story about family, that messy, sometimes difficult, often miraculous thread connecting generations of parents, children, grandparents – the deaths and the new life, a constantly changing organism. We see ourselves in these characters, through the astute observations of the writer.