Next to Love 6 – The End (Chapters 13 – end)



The book ends in 1964, and as the years pass, these three women go through some difficult times.

Babe doesn’t have it easy, and even when Claude leaves behind his problems, Babe is still struggling. She drinks too much and becomes obsessed with injustice in her world, especially when in connection with the black population. Claude encourages her to turn her ‘obsession’ into something useful, so she becomes a fundraiser for NAACP, and she starts fighting for justice for black people and then for women. At the end of the novel, Claude and Babe are content, and it is a conversation between them that closes the book. Babe asks him whether he would have married her if there hadn’t been a war, and Claude replies surprised, ‘if there hadn’t been a war!’, and I imagine that he means that if there hadn’t been a war, so many things would have been different.

Grace marries Morris, and from the outset, she realises that it is a mistake. Morris is a good and considerate man, but he isn’t interested in becoming intimate with her. Grace feels miserable and lonely with a man who is more like a housemate than a husband. Years pass, and as Mac frequents their house, Grace and Mac become close and they have an affair. This lasts for months even though they both feel terrible about it, and in the end after King’s funeral Grace realises that she can’t carry on deceiving her husband. Mac can’t imagine being without Grace, but when by mistake Grace calls Morris Charlie, he realises that Grace’s heart belongs to Charlie and will always do. I think Mac thinks that Morris and himself have both been poor substitutes for Charlie. At the end of the book Grace and Mac have a conversation, but we only know that because Babe sees them. What they talk about is not explained, and we don’t know what will happen to them, but I think that Grace and Mac make a good couple and I think Morris just wanted a family, and not a wife.

Amy, Grace’s daughter has her share of problems. We see her go through a relationship with a senior student in high school, and it is clear that even though she thinks she likes him, she doesn’t enjoy his touch, kisses or when they make love. Later we learn that Amy is engaged to be married to Roger, and three weeks before the wedding, she tells her mother she wants to call it off, but Grace convinces her that it is just wedding jitters. At the end of the novel Amy is divorced as she walked out on her marriage three months after the wedding. It is interesting the conversation in which Amy tried to explain to her mother why she couldn’t marry Roger and why she thought she could; Amy has the conviction that there is something wrong with her, but she shows the world a very different view of herself, but deep down she is not a good person. I don’t know where this came from, but I think that the way Grace raised her wasn’t healthy, with this obsession with her late husband, and then her mental problems, it is not wonder that adult Amy is struggling with her own identity.

As for Millie, her problem is with Jack. When they move house, Jack finds the box where Millie keeps Pete’s things. Jack becomes obsessed with his real father and wants to be like him. That causes problems in his school. At the end of the novel, Jack has a conversation with his mother, explaining that he wants to bring his father’s body home, just like Grace did all these years ago. Millie agrees and is even relieved, and I think that Millie has been scared of what she feels all these years. I find Millie too cold for my liking, but this is the way she grew up. Her parents died when she was a child, and she learnt to live without them without much trauma, and that is what happened when Peter was killed. She grieved for him, but life taught her to carry on living and make the best of what she had, and that was what she did. At the end of the book she, her family and friends are in the cemetery for Pete’s interment, and when Jack arrives, she is dismayed and heartbroken as he turns up wearing an army uniform. He has joined the army and as the book ends, Millie is inconsolable, crying for her child, and I think this is the first time we see Millie crumbling down, which in a way shows she has a heart too.

I really loved the book and the characters. It was a beautifully-written book, and I’ll definitely read more books by this author in the future.

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