Homesick by Guy Vanderhaeghe

Homesick by Guy Vanderhaeghe

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Exposing the relationships between the various characters
Homesick is a novel that exposes many different relationships, the strength of relationships, and how they can endure tremendous pain. The various relationships between Alec and Vera, Alec and Daniel, and Vera and Daniel are considerably different because of the variation in generation represented by each character. Each relationship in this family has its strengths and weaknesses depending on the past of the relationships. The relationships in the novel Homesick are seen through all of the character's eyes, so we can see how each character felt about the other characters. These characters do not tend to say what they think, we can see this many times throughout the novel. These relationships can be observed by seeing how they act, speak, and treat one another.
The old cliché Money doesn't buy happiness is especially true for Alec because even though he has a great sum of money, he has no one to share it with. He greatly regrets the decisions he made that led to the unfortunate consequence of the separation with his daughter and is ashamed of the choices he made in his life, mostly of them regarding Vera and Earl. The novel begins with Alec's dreams about falling through the water and being trapped underneath the ice. To be abandoned, he thought, felt worse than the ice cold water. (Vanderhaeghe, p.2).
Vera, on the other hand, believes all of the decisions she has made were the right ones. Vera thinks the way she raised Daniel was the correct approach to doing it and that it could not have been any better. She thought it was better to raise Daniel without a male influence in his life so he would not be corrupt and ruined like her father. Vera also believes that running away was the right choice and the only choice she had, because if she had stayed with her father, her life would be a wreck.

From the beginning of the novel, we can note a conflict between Alec and Vera. Their relationship is not what an average father daughter relationship looked like. Vera greatly regretted moving back to Connaught, but seeing as how it was her only option if she wanted a future for Daniel, she had to take it. Even though they were separated for seventeen years, their memories and impressions of each other were still the same as they were in the past.

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Vera, with her forceful personality, immediately tried setting down ground rules for their relationship as well as hers and Daniels accommodations, but as usual, only resulted in more conflict. Both of them were still stuck in the past and could not find the means to move on. Alec still saw Vera as a little girl and Vera still saw Alec as a domineering figure. For instance, when Vera came home from a seventeen year absence, she noticed that the house had not been changed at all (p.36). This was a symbol of their relationship because their relationship did not change either. They did not even talk to each other about old times, or ask how each other felt, they got right to the point. The reason for this is because Vera's personality would not allow her to digress and Alec could not move on and wanted to keep their relationship as it was in the past, him belittling her. After his wife died, Alec took up gardening as a way to keep her memories with him (p.30). He even wore his hat in the house because it brought back memories of the quarrels he had with his wife. Vera had a hard time moving past the memories she had of Alec because she did not think that a thick skulled individual like her dad had the ability to change. She was wrong. When she found out that her father saw to her mother's grave, she became furious. Vera could not accept the thought of her father changing so drastically, becoming a person that she did not know. It did not please her to know that she was wrong about this and that she could be wrong about other things.

A big issue holding back Alec and Vera's relationship was Earl. When Alec's demons awoke and he started to drink, he often forced Earl to go with him on a drive through the country side to wash away the pain of losing his wife. This was troubling to Vera because it was putting Earl in danger, whom she was overly protective of, and because she secretly wanted to be the one by her dad's side. Vera wanted to be first in Alec's eyes but instead she was second. She usually came first in everything she did like her schooling. The reason Alec took those drives was to run away from his life in Connaught and to leave it all behind. Vera, taking after her father, emulated his actions, but she took it one step further and actually left Connaught. This was a breaking point in their relationship which lasted seventeen years.
Another big issue preventing Vera and Alec's relationship from moving forward was the fact that Vera believed Alec was stealing her loved ones away from her. Vera thought that Alec could not be supportive and loving to anyone because that was how he was with her. Again, she was wrong. During a conversation with Earl, Vera said, "You know, sometimes I wish he'd run that truck of his into a telephone pole and end the suspense." (p.66). After this remark, Earl crazily ran at her with flailing, bitter arms. We can see that this upsets Earl which shows us that Earl is not like his sister in that he cares for his father Alec. Another instance is when Alec and Daniel are talking and Daniel realizes that he loves Alec (p. 295). Daniel starts to disobey his mom's orders of staying away from Alec and begins to spend more time with him then he does with his mom (p. 258). We can see that Vera had a hard time controlling the boys' and that she could not be the barrier between the boys and Alec.

Vera always had to prove herself to her father. We can see this many times in the novel, for instance, when she ate the undertaker berry. She wanted her dad to see that she was fearless and she could eat a whole pie made of undertaker berries (p.256). When she was writing her letters to Earl, she was secretly trying to show her dad that she could be independent and that he was wrong about her. Vera wanted to demonstrate to her father that she could handle anything that came her way and that she could have balanced school, taking care of Earl, and the house chores if she was given the chance. Later in the novel, she continues to follow the trend by buying the Blue Bird Café. It was situated right in front of the hotel which Alec owned to show that she was willing to compete with him face to face. This way, when he surveyed the streets, the only thing he would see was Vera's success.
The relationship between Alec and Daniel was so pure and true because it was not affected by the past. They held no past grudges against each other and had no feelings of resentment towards one another and this was what let their relationship develop. To Alec, Daniel was like another Earl, but without all the complications; he had a chance at redemption. Alec had a fresh start and he did not want to take Daniel down the same path he took Earl. In Daniel, Alec saw someone he could talk to and someone he could trust. To Daniel, Alec was the grandfather he never had. Daniel never experienced this kind of love before, and he enjoyed the time spent together. It becomes apparent that they have a strong grandpa-grandson relationship as they watch television together, specifically baseball and the Olympics, and also during their car rides together. Because of these reasons, their relationship was allowed to grow so easily and naturally.

Alec was a very bright business man. When he saw someone with an attribute that stood out, he made sure the person knew about it and he tried to build on those skills. This is what he had done with Earl. When Alec found out that Earl was a good gardener, Alec decided to give him the important job of being a farmer. As he had done with Earl, Alec decided to give Daniel an important job. Alec saw an intelligent young boy when he looked at Daniel. Through Daniel, Alec could bring Vera out of the light in terms of information on Earl and so Alec gave Daniel the responsibility of telling his mother about his uncle's situation. This was a huge responsibility that Alec presented to Daniel, and that helps to show how strong of a relationship they shared.
Alec was the laidback kind of person that Daniel was missing in his life. Alec was the person that Daniel could turn to when he needed help with a problem or needed advice. They talked about simple things like baseball and the Olympics but they also talked about more serious things like "the birds and the bees". These were some of the many things that Daniel and Alec did together and the time spent together was very precious to both of them. That is one major reason why Daniel decided to disobey his mother's orders of keeping his distance with his grandfather. Daniel could not grow up with just his mother, he needed a male authority in his life, and that role was taken by Alec.
The relationship that Vera and Daniel had in the beginning of the book was a text book relationship of a parent and their child. She belittled him and made him to do all the things that she could not do as a child. Vera forced the childhood she never had onto Daniel so she could relive her earlier years with him. The same effect happened to Daniel as it did to Vera when she was younger; he began to rebel. Daniel tried to solve some of his problems by doing as Vera had done when she was young; Daniel dyed his hair red, but to no resolve. Vera controlled every aspect of his life; she never let him play with his friends after school. Instead, she forced him to memorize literature and the multiplication table.
As the novel progressed, we could see that their relationship slowly began separating. Daniel started following his grandfather's actions and began to disobey his mother's orders. Vera's past overshadowed their relationship. Vera did not like how Daniel liked Alec more and more because Vera herself did not like Alec. Vera could not accept the fact that the formation of the relationship between Alec and Daniel was inevitable. This eclipse over their relationship was of great importance because this was when they started to form a family, one that Vera did not want. Now, Vera would not only have to share Daniel' love with Alec, she had to compete with it. We can see this when she purchases the television set (p. 276).
A relationship is a deep force that ties people together, even through the most painful of situations. By the end of the novel, Vera and Alec had resolved their differences even though they were still distant from each other. This demonstrates how the worst conflicts can be forgotten and overcome when love is the binding force that holds the two people together. The relationships in the novel Homesick were distant because they were built on a lack trust and understanding. This reason was the key force that held these characters lives apart and prevented them from growing any further. The relationships were all unique in their own way depending on the viewpoint of the character, some had negative feelings towards each other whereas others had positive feelings towards each other.
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